Annual Letter 2010

Does anyone read these any more?  I often wonder, maybe I need to inject more sex, drugs and rock and roll!  But since those are only memories these days and since Facebook has taken over as an arbiter of life events by the minute (if needed, and it's not!), there seems little point in writing simply what happened, as I have for the last 20 years (yes this is my 21st annual letter).  So I thought I would write about thoughts that don't make it to FB.  And an appropriate one is......


I began to think about writing on aging sometime during the year when it became obvious there were a lot of funny things about aging that I never realised.  Or at least I thought they were funny.  It's better than crying.  And to prove the point that one does age, I thought that if I didn't write down the funny bits, I would forget them.  Yep, guess what.  

But it all started with a horrible left hook 6 years ago in Orlando.  I was playing golf with the President of one of our customers, and after the terrible round (hence the left hook) we were all having lunch.  I noted that I was looking forward to being 50 the following year, or as I put it 'to being middle aged'.  Larry looked at me and asked how many people I knew who were 100?!  Which really ruins your day.  I didn't know it at the time, but I must have been channeling Woody Allen, who said to the Observer in 1996 that 'I recently turned 60, practically a third of my life is over'.  So if that wasn't enough, when I started to back calculate what age middle age actually was these days, I realised that it had sped past when I wasn't looking, many years prior.   (and for those of you reaching for your calculators as we speak, best get a stiff drink as well.  The answer isn't nice.)

So here I am still kicking and screaming against the sad laws of nature.  But if life events teach you anything, the main one would have to be not to take anything too seriously.  If you see the funny side of things, it hurts less.  You do get more facial lines, but hey that is why they invented facials, and botox.  

Oriel1  But it's not all about me, well not yet anyway.  So my Mum Helen in the red, and her 4 sisters and brothers celebrated Oriel's (bottom right) 90th birthday in Feb.  When you see them all so happy and still obviously friends you really think how wonderful it is to celebrate all those years of life, love and friendship together.  I am very pleased to say that tradition still continues in my family with my siblings.  I know that is not often the case these days so we are extra thankful for that.  It also shows that my bloodlines obviously contain a strain of long livers, so barring missing a sharp corner at 60 mph going down a mountain on a bike, you will have me in your lives for a long time yet.

P5020334  And then sometimes you get a crazy idea and think that retreating to the sorts of things that you should have done in your youth, but didn't, will in fact recapture some of that youth.  We ALL know that sure works mentally, but in the  case of riding across Florida, it didn't.  My friends Clint and his brother David convinced me that it was a good thing to ride the 170 miles (that is 280 kms in Euro language) from the East coast near Vero Beach, to the West coast near Tampa, to prove that we could.  Two things here that are important, (1) I should never listen to Clint again, and (2) if one actually attempts this, one should not do it against the prevailing wind, nor should one do it on the hottest day of the year to date (it was early May).  Granted it was only 95F for about 3 hours but now we all know what it is like to ride with a hair dryer blowing in your face.  Oh yes, and it was on one day.  It took me 11 hours (and in the interests of truth in Christmas letter writing, I did take a 20 mile break at mile 100) and anything that we did gain in terms of lost youth pretty much disappeared over the next few days in a litany of aches, pains, and wafts of Dencorub.  Picture shows us after we had finished.

DSC_0426  So they say you should stop and smell the roses occasionally, and I do.  Obviously.  Although I have never figured who 'they' are, it is a good idea.  It was an even better idea to do it in Rome with the Baths of Caraculla in the background.  Of course wen you do it, you never have a picture taken so this was extra special.  Doing an impersonation of a Qantas A380 just adds to the danger of putting one's nose near thorns, and the odd possible bee.

DSC_0455  But if life is about smelling the roses, death needs a good view.  Don't worry, I'm not planning anything that would seem like a Hollywood movie plot, but this view would have to be a pretty good place from where to watch the ever-after.  We took a villa in the hills above Siena for a cycling holiday in June, and these were the lights of the city that greeted us each night as we enjoyed our little pre-dinner libation.  It was just so spectacular, and so breathtaking, you had to keep pinching yourself to make sure it was real.  It also sure makes you realise that you wouldn't be dead for quids (for those who know what a quid is)!

DSC_0472  It's funny though how you think of aging personally as not such a good thing,  but when it comes to wine it is bloody marvellous.  Which is why I think we should be more like wine.  This bottle was featured elsewhere in my 2010 travels, but the vineyard existed in 804.  Fortunately this bottle was only 11 years old, and for the price it was a steal.  

DSC_0791  And this lovely thought, on the wall of a restaurant in Milan, encapsulates the thoughts of the owner and what was important in his life as he got older.   Interestingly, he also thinks of people less well off than he.......

"Build yourself a very large cellar with a lot of air, enjoy there many wonderful bottles, some standing up and some lying down, and consider with a friendly eye in the night of spring, summer, autumn and winter, savoring the thought of a man without song, without dreams, without women and without wine, who is able to live 10 years more than you."

DSC_4747  I know it seems as if I am only speaking about events in Italy so far, but this was almost in Austria.  We rode the Dolomites up the Passo Mendola, here overlooking Bolzano, but just over the other side of the pass was Austria.  Again, to experience such an event makes you thankful for good health and the opportunity to be there to see such breathtaking views.  I don't exactly recall what the connection here is with my theme of this letter, but it doesn't really matter.  It was stunning so I wanted to share it.


I go every year for a medical check up at Mayo, a clinic here in Jacksonville that caters mainly to people who are very sick, very old, and usually both.  However it is close to me.  So the nurse checks your weight, pulse, blood pressure etc as you check in and she gets a blood pressure of 120/60 and exclaims, 'oh that's very good.  Are you a runner?'.  I said no, but that I was a cyclist, so she says ' yes you young ones usually are'.  Naturally I immediately thanked her for calling me a 'young' one.  She then proceeded to tell me that compared to the patients she normally sees, that "I was being treated by a pediatrician'!  Love that woman.

PB110627  I am fortunate to still be in touch with many friends from school days.  Usually one looses touch over time (and that has happened with us at times), especially when you are not living in the same city, let alone the same country.  But as all good friends know, when you do get together, it is just like continuing on from the next page, as if a momentary pause had occurred.  Here we are in Brisbane in Nov, having lunch together celebrating 43 years of friendship.  The group gets together every month or so, and for me it was a special event after so long.  The host revolves with each lunch, and then pays for that lunch.  Given my infrequent status, I need to start saving badly for my turn.

DSC_0195  Ta-daaa!  So that is my letter for this year.  As usual, it started 3-4 weeks ago and has gestated over time, to be born as this little missive.  I have often smiled during the year as I have found myself doing things that remind me of my parents.  Usually things that I thought in my youth that were funny, odd, silly, embarrassing, or annoying.  And now I do the same things.  Funny.  But I am comforted in seeing that happen, because if I can be in part like them, I am a happy man.  Thankyou Mum, and Dad (wherever you are, but I am pretty sure it is in a pub, somewhere fluffy!)

And that is why I like Aging.

One final comment on age however, and this is aimed at the younger readers.  Some words by Somerset Maugham;

'From the earliest times the old have rubbed it into the young that they are wiser than they, and before the young had discovered what nonsense this was they were old too, and it profited them to carry on the imposture'.  Take note!

So, last year I was listening to Diana Krall while writing this letter, this time I am listening to music from Glee.  The hit musical show on Fox (a strange hit for them, it should be MSNBC).  A show about a Glee club at a high school would seem to be at odds to the aging process described in this letter,  but why not?  One of the nice things about getting older is that you can act like a kid ocasisonally!  Yes, I am a Gleek.

It is expected to be 22F (-5C) tonight, the fire is burning, the tree is glowing, and the kits are taking turns kneading my leg while I type.  Life is beautiful.  Happy Christmas, and a safe and healthy 2011.

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