• Richard Lancaster

My OBE Syndrome


A few weeks ago, I hit the big eight zero. Eighty years of age, that is. An age that I didn’t think I would ever reach, as in an earlier life, I tended to push the boundaries a little. There were a few waggish comments. “So you’ve got your OBE then!” one smirked. “What’s this OBE thing?” I asked. “Over bloody eighty, of course”, he chortled.

But to tell you the truth, I rather like being this age. Now I pretty well do whatever I please – within the law that is! And most importantly, I couldn’t care less what people think of me! Now, I’m getting involved in activities that I never had time for in the past. I now have time to appreciate the soft call of a dove, the scent of a beautiful flower and the melodic sound of the waves or a Mozart Horn Concerto. My friends now cover the whole age spectrum. And by the way, I’ve noticed that the older they get, the happier they appear to be.

Incidentally, those dreaded statistics that appear every so often told me that the forties are the unhappiest time for most people. I endorse that wholeheartedly. I can well remember living in my forties. It seemed all about mortgages, children’s schooling and their future prospects, my job and my future prospects and keeping up with the Jones’, and when I finished worrying about those matters I always had rising interest rates, sickness, paying the car insurance etc. etc. to fall back on. We all know that worry makes stress and stress makes you sick! No wonder I hated being in my 40s!

Mind you, despite what the statistics say, I didn’t find my fifties much cop either. Health became an issue on the worry priority agenda, and despite regular visits to the gym and trying to cut out junk food, my waistline continued to expand. My receding hairline, wrinkles and joint pains also made their presence felt, and with all of those (plus a few more), I crept reluctantly into my sixties.

My sixties brought with it a new outlook. Suddenly the loss of head hair, the ever-increasing network of wrinkles and the creaking joints really didn’t seem very important anymore. The kids had all grown up quite successfully, but were no doubt experiencing the same worries that I had had a decade or so previously. My mortgage had somehow disappeared as had my boss at work, and the Jones’ had long since lost their appeal. A smoker, miraculously I was able to quit. This, after hundreds of failed attempts in my forties and fifties. To conquer my ever-expanding waistline, I bought a bike and found that by cycling around the neighbourhood a couple of days a week, my figure returned to the near Adonis like figure of a 20-year-old.

My seventies arrived almost too quickly, but they continued the good times (apart from a few persistent aches and pains which I fixed with more exercise). I sold my car, bought an electric trike, became a vegetarian and looked forward with gusto to getting my OBE.

Now with four score years under my belt – what challenges are left for me? Climb Mt Everest perhaps? Swim the English Channel or even trek the Gobi Desert? I think not – I have a cowardly fear of heights, lengthy swims hold little appeal and getting lost in endless sand dunes with little water is even less appealing. No, my next challenge is to enjoy reaching ninety.

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