Sunday, 17 April 2016

Time, the devourer of all things. Easy to say, more difficult to experience

Life is full of rites of passage, isn’t it?

I remember clearly the first time a bank showed eagerness to lend me money, rather than eagerness for me to pay it some back. The birth of my first child, marking with absolute finality my departure from the younger generation (it didn’t happen until I was thirty, so I did OK). The first time a policeman called me “sir”, marking my transition from likely suspect to citizen to protect (I have the good fortune of being what we call “white”, or I would in all likelihood still be waiting for that transition).

Why, I even remember the moment on a bus in Kyoto, Japan, when a woman walked half the length of the vehicle to point me at the seat she’d just vacated before arriving at her stop, having identified me clearly and, I suspect, accurately, as the oldest of the standing passengers and therefore the most entitled to take over her place. Even more amazing, the seat was still vacant when I’d walked half the length of the bus back to it – in London someone, probably someone much younger, would long since have occupied it.

So today I had another of those important experiences. As I went to climb onto a train, a young (well, younger) man offered to lift my case into the carriage.

As it happens, I’d packed for only two nights away so my case weighed, as the French so prettily put it, three times nothing. On the other hand, had it weighed as much as it does when I’m away for a week or more, I like to think I’d still have managed to lift it onto the train.

Time’s catching up with us all
Even if, like me, you think you’re keeping it at bay
Now, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the offer of help, which at least reveals better attitudes in society than many of us might have come to expect these days. In much the same way as I appreciate being offered a seat on a bus or being treated with courtesy by the cops.

But it worries me that there are those out there who already regard me as so obviously decrepit. I was out playing badminton this morning, and acquitted myself reasonably well. The notion that I can’t lift a case doesn’t really fit with the self-image I like to cultivate.

However, no self-image is proof to the ravages of the years. Time, said the Latin poet, is the devourer of all things. It devours me as it devours everyone. The only way not to grow old is to die young. That was never a pretty prospect, and I’ve left it too late already anyway.

I suppose I should be grateful that today’s reminder of all those truths was delivered to me in such a gentle, and kindly, way.

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