50 and not out!

by John Darvall

It’s a landmark in life being fifty, so we are told or sold. I have just hit that day of fifty circles around the sun and I’m not quite sure it really means anything though I don’t go for the “it’s only a number”.

I grew up, probably much like you, watching the “grown ups” celebrate being fifty with parties, “having a bit of a do” seeming to mark what appeared to be an achievement. To get to the big “5 O” was an achievement. Wars, the reality of a much less easy life a generation or two ago and the physical nature of work, real labour all took their toll. To get to fifty was something to really celebrate, a milestone in spite of everything before. To be well and fifty was something to celebrate. Now, being fifty means what? I haven’t done a days manual labour in my life. I have worked hard and I have worked long hours. Until last year spent over 15 years holding down at least two jobs, often with just 4 hours sleep between them. I have built a number of businesses in my time and I have been self-employed for over 20 years but that’s either been wearing a suit or a floral shirt, surviving on my wits and sheer tenacity but I have been sitting on my arse doing it.

So what is being fifty? I probably have more days behind me than in front of me but that does not mean the days ahead will be any the less productive or adventurous. Being fifty is not about getting a red sports car, a gold chain round me neck and a young, blonde “popsie” on my arm. I had my mid-life crisis over five years ago with catastrophic consequences. I will live with that arrogance, self-indulgence and stupidity for the rest of my life. It did give me one incredible lesson. There is NOTHING more powerful on this earth than the truth. Truth beats Love, which is fickle little sod in all its forms. The Truth can’t be beaten or contained. If you are stupid enough or arrogant enough to think you can beat the truth then it will beat you, without mercy and when you least except it. So my mid-life “crisis’’ wasn’t all bad.

Back to being fifty. The increasing medicalisation of old age means I could go on for decades popping pills and having bits replaced as and when. By doing this I will add to the real cause of the painful, financial reality facing the future of the NHS; the National HEALTH Service not cure service. The NHS not a church, doctors are not gods and the NHS doesn’t need politicians to save it. The NHS needs us to look after us, and for us take responsibility for our health. If I take care of me then most of my years to come could be healthy and productive. One of the realities of those who are self-employed or freelance is they don’t get as sick as those who are employed. If I can talk I can work and if I can talk I will always work. It’s my responsibility to make sure the arse I sit to do it on doesn’t get bigger.

There is a another reason that celebrating being 50 is a bit off. This time last year my eldest daughter was preparing to go traveling, to have an adventure before coming back and, I have no doubt, forging a brilliant career when she came home. But that was not to be. Polly, my eldest bright, cleaver, funny, beautiful, player of daughter was killed in her car early in the morning on 31st October 2015. She had celebrated her 22 birthday on 17th October at my sisters home, where she was living and working while she saving up to go travelling. October is month that will never be, can never be the same again starting with me, ending with Polly.

As I pass 50 not out, I will look after myself better, I will do my best by those who deserve it, I will be there for my children and I will look up at the sun more than I look down at the ground. I urge you to do the same too.

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