Matthew Parris - disgraceful ageing. Review by David Walker, Foreveryoung

Posted by David Walker 1.2.2019

On the death of Diana Anthill, Matthew, in a Times article, reflects on his feelings about his own age (70). I think he is saying that he was very correct in what he said in his younger life - about politics and sex and he welcomes the gradual freedom from this that comes with age. He summarises Scots philosopher David Hume - it is necessary to separate daily life as it must be lived and the world of our thoughts, though he doesn't say who decides how we must live. He celebrates a list of people who thrived well into old age: Monet, Rembrandt, Titian, Ronald Reagan, Darwin, Bertrand Russell, Diogenes, Marie Curie, Tolstoy.
  He explores the notion of 'not caring what you say' as you age; it's not clear whether the members of his list didn't care either, but his final example, Jenny Joseph, was certainly feisty. 'Bless them all, growing old disgracefully'.
  I have some concern with the consequences of this because it may overlap with grumpiness which may not be acceptable and hurt certain people. 'To hell with it' you might say. I need to make a conscious effort to stay the right side of the overlap and often fail.
  My favourite disgraceful ageing poem is from Roger McGough.

Let me die a youngman's death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death

When I'm 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party

Or when I'm 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber's chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides

Or when I'm 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a youngman's death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
'what a nice way to go' death

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