When I was young, Religious Education was compulsory in school. I had a Bible at home, and read it more like a history book, than religious instruction. Parts of it were very dull, but others had action, adventure, even wars. I grew up not believing in any God or religion, but I did remember some of the quotes and catchphrases that I read. Two of them in particular stayed with me.
‘Mene, mene, Tekel Upharsin’.
Do you know what that is? It is the actual ‘Writing on the wall’ that gave us the phrase so often used today.
Then there was this one.
‘The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.’
So I was around eight years old, and could work out that they were talking about living until the age of seventy. Eighty at a push, if you had that ‘strength’ mentioned.
I spent the next twenty years expecting to die at seventy. Then I became an EMT in the London Ambulance Service. It wasn’t long before I realised that so many people die long before they are seventy. Especially people like me at the time who smoked cigarettes, worked shifts in stressful jobs, didn’t eat properly, and liked a drink on their days off.
Very soon, I started to think that fifty might be a good age for me to live to. When you do that job, you do become something of a fatalist.
Surprise surprise! I made it to 2022, and I am 70 years old today.
Maybe the Bible got it right?