Birthdays make you reflect on life. At least that is the case for me. For most of my adult life, I never expected to live until I was 60, let alone 71. Now I have reached that age, I wonder if I will see 80. But I very much doubt that.


Well, I was a smoker for over 40 years. And a hardened smoker. Strong cigarettes, up to two packs a day. I gave up in 2012, but that was almost certainly too late to do much good.

I worked shifts in stressful jobs. Irregular hours, bad diet, difficult jobs that required putting yourself second.

Since I turned 30, I have liked to drink. Mostly red wine, but at one time, a lot of red wine. I might be down to one glass a day now, but the damage has undoubtedly been done, as it was with the cigarettes.

Two divorces, the loss of savings and equity, the emotional carnage that comes with broken marriages. Starting again from scratch. More stress.

So it is March 2023, and a time for reflection.

Would I have changed anything? If I went back in a time machine, would I do it all differently?


I enjoyed every cigarette I ever smoked. I knew they were bad for me, but I didn’t care.

I enjoyed every glass of wine that I ever drank. I knew it wasn’t that good for me, but I didn’t care.

I enjoyed those stressful jobs. They did some good for society, and made me think I was making a difference.

The divorces had to happen. The marriages could not have endured.

Whatever finally does for me, it will have been my decision.

And there will be no blame, no regrets.

In-Car Entertainment?

When we went out looking to buy a different car recently, it soon became clear that very few cars made after 2017 came with a CD player built in. During the test drive of the one we eventually bought, I asked the young salesman if it had a CD player incorporated into the impressive ‘Entertainment System’.

He smiled.

Then looking at me as if I had asked if it came with an Edison Phonograph fixed to the dashboard, he told me, “No, nobody uses those anymore. Nobody wants them in a car. They use their phones, or memory sticks. You know, Spotify, streaming, stuff like that”.

As far as I am concerned, he was wrong to say ‘Nobody’.

I have no interest in Spotify, or messing about compiling playlists from online sources onto memory sticks. I make no criticism of those who do, but I enjoy listening to my favourite CDs on a long journey. I already have those CDs, a large collection of them accumulated over many years, and stored in a special cabinet. Before any long-distance journey, I would select some favourites (including some of Julie’s choice) and we would play them as we drove along.

Now car manufacturers have decided that I should no longer be able to do that. They have predicted that none of their buyers will use one in the car, so they can save themselves the incredibly small amount of money it cost them to include a small slot in the ‘Entertainment System’ to play them.

Before you tell me about ‘Progress’, I know. Young people do not buy CDs. They do not buy DVD films. Most of them no longer watch conventional TV shows when they are broadcast, preferring to stream and binge-watch.

But many of them do not buy expensive cars. Some of them don’t even bother to learn to drive. Those that do usually have to buy an old model because of the cost of motoring and insurance. Their old car (like my previous car) will have a CD player fitted. Yes they will never use it, but it does no harm just sitting there, waiting to be used.

For the benefit of this rant, let’s assume that ‘young people’ are those under 65 years of age. So what about us oldies, those over 65? There are over 11,000,000 people in England and Wales over the age of 65. And that number is growing. By 2026, it will almost certainly reach a total of 20% of the population, if not more.

‘The population of England and Wales has continued to age, with Census 2021 results confirming there are more people than ever before in older age groups. Over 11 million people – 18.6% of the total population – were aged 65 years or older, compared with 16.4% at the time of the previous census in 2011’

According to the salesman who sold us the car, “The majority of our customers are elderly people, most of them are retired. They are the people with the money or savings to buy cars”. From the horse’s mouth.

But God forbid we should be able to play our CDs in them.

Thoughts On The Month Of March

Today is the 1st of March. It is my birthday on the 16th, so this month always has meaning for me. We are also collecting a car today, so fingers crossed that it all goes well. I had to insure it yesterday, and the telephone renewal went very smoothly indeed.

I take heart from that. These days, I take heart from anything remotely positive.

On my birthday, Julie has to work. So not much chance of a day out, especially with the possibility of snow that is predicted now. (Though that might not happen.) But in the evening we are going to a local Turkish restaurant to celebrate, and I am very much looking forward to the food there.

71 is not a ‘celebratory’ year, as it does not end in a 0. But I am celebrating living this long, something I never expected to happen after a life in very stressful jobs, a bad diet, and heavy smoking until I was 60.

March this year is also when the clocks go forward, near the end of the month. When that happens, it starts to really feel like Spring is here, and Summer is around the corner. I begin to anticipate those longer evenings. Daylight until 9pm, and hopefully much warmer temperatures too.

For many years, I have seen my birthday as the start of the year, rather than January the first. It is when I become another year older, and potentially another year wiser. It is also another year closer to the end of my life of course. But that holds no fear for me, as everything must end eventually.

Welcome, March. ‘In like a lion, out like a lamb’, so legend has it.

Vertigo Strikes Again

As anyone who suffers from Vertigo will tell you, there are good days and bad days. I have had more good ones for a long time now, as long as I remember to not lie flat on my back in bed, or in the bath. Also to avoid ladders, and anything else that requires looking up for some time, like clearing gutters, or cutting hedges.

Whilst out walking with Ollie earlier, I felt really good. The sun was out, and a cool breeze made walking very pleasant. I decided to finish the walk by going through the woodland, and Ollie was trotting on ahead of me. Something caught my dog-walking stick, and it slipped from my hand into a pile of leaves behind a fallen tree. It seemed simple enough to just lean over the tree and pick it up.

But the next thing I knew, the leaves were in my face, and it felt as if the sky was below me, not above me. I managed to get up, grabbed the stick, and continued rather shakily. It was a classic ‘Vertigo moment’, and left me feeling rather old and silly. Fortunately, nobody else was in the woodland to see me stumble and fall.

As the old saying goes, “It’s not much fun getting old”.

Musings On A November Sunday

Is it just me, or has this year gone faster than 2021? Julie booked our Christmas Day meal with the restaurant yesterday, and not long after that it will be 2023. Each year I get older seems to pass by more quickly. Perhaps that is one of the curses of old age?


I was contaced by the NHS this week to let me know I am eligible for a Shingles vaccination because I am over 70. I will certainly have that, as I contracted Shingles twice in my 30s, and it is horrible. I was able to book an appointment on the 28th, so not long to wait.


Ollie has had a good week. He has been enjoying his walks, and relishing his dinners. He is still sleeping most of the rest of the time, but considering his age, that’s to be expected.


Today is Remembrance Sunday in Britain. I have posted separately about that.


The weather continues to be warmer than expected. We reached 17C (63F) on Saturday, with bright sunshine all day. The recent mud dried hard, and the dog-walking was remarkably pleasant for November. I know this is actually bad news for the planet though. It has been widely forecast that in 100 years, the entire East of England (where I live) will be under water as far as the edge of London. That will be someone else’s problem to deal with, unless I defy science and nature by living until I am 170.


Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I wish you a happy Sunday.


Musings On The Last Sunday In July

This has been a strange week. I have spent much of it contemplating that I am actually quite old. Before you rush to tell me that 70 is not that old these days, I agree with that widely-held theory. However, I hope you will also agree with me that 70 is not remotely young. And my body has been reminding me of that fact.


Despite a significant drop in temperature from the recent heatwave, we still saw a humid 32C (almost 90F) during the week, with warm uncomfortable nights into the bargain. And despite rain being forecast at least four times, we remained dry in Beetley. Perhaps the driest summer I have known since moving here in 2012.
Then this morning, I woke up to heavy rain.


By Wednesday, I continued to feel so ill that Julie insisted I take a Lateral-Flow test for Covid-19. That was negative, but it was agreed that I would see a doctor on Thursday. That resulted in blood tests, and having to provide stool samples and a urine sample. They were sent off to the hospital pathology department, and I await the results with interest.


I received a Colon Cancer test kit in the post on Friday, courtesy of being of a ‘certain age’, and free of charge on the NHS. Generally known as the ‘Poo Sticks’ test, this served as a reminder that I was old enough to be considered at risk from this serious illness. Not a cheerful post to open. And strangely coincidental, given the concerns of my own doctor…


My energy levels are at a lifetime low, with me considering ‘an early night’ by 9pm. (But holding out until 11pm, so I don’t wake up too early the next morning.) On the plus side, having some worry about what might be wrong with you makes you less concerned about the political circus going on in Britain currently. It is surprisingly comforting to consider that you may not live to see the mess the next Conservative Prime Minister will get us in. Until the next election, when hopefully the public will see sense, and get rid of them.


On another plus side, Ollie continues to respond well to his numerous medicines. His fur is starting to grow back where it had fallen out, and his appetite has increased to levels that make me feed him a little less. He is still slow on his walks, and barely managed an hour yesterday. Then again, neither did I, having to sit on a bench and stare at the river for a good ten minutes of that hour.


Wherever you live, and whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful Sunday.


Another Age Test

See if you are old enough to remember all this.

The ice cream lady in the cinema.

Ringing TIM.

Grannies who looked like grannies.

Wind up windows in cars.

Buttercup proof.

Listening to the sea in a shell.

Very uncomfortable swimwear.

Filing card systems.

The excitement of labelling everything using your Dymo machine.

Not having central heating or double-glazing.

Three Score And Ten

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?

Keeping An Old Car Alive

Regular readers may remember that I was concerned about a squeaking noise coming from my car as I drove along. I was going to get it checked, but it went away. I still needed to have it checked, but what with trips back and forth to the Vet with Ollie, and frenzied decluttering at home taking up so much time, I forgot about it.

On Monday, I was going to the supermarket in my car when a new noise appeared.

This time it was a scraping sound much worse than before, and sounded sinister.

By the time I got home with the shopping, the scraping sound had changed to a grinding noise. Time to phone the repair company.

Although my car is 14 years old in June, it has reasonably low mileage for that age, (78,000) is an economical diesel capable of 50 miles to the gallon, and drives very well still. I cannot afford to replace it with anything newer that is remotely similar, with it’s roomy interior, 7-seat option, and 6-speed automatic gearbox.

So I have to keep it alive, by choking back the cost of constant repairs.

I booked a ‘brake check’ at a local company for Wednesday morning. I was up early, and arrived ten minutes before they opened, so my car would be one of the first to be worked on. I sat and waited while they did the check, to save Julie getting up early to collect me and drive me home.

After 45 minutes, the brake specialist came and got me, and took me to where the car was up on a ramp, all 4 wheels off. He showed me the problems.

A failed brake caliper on the back wheel had caused the disc to warp, which would have made the squeaking sound.
The other back wheel was doing all the rear braking, so the disc on that wheel was worn thin.
One pad had worn away completely on one of the front wheels, causing scarring on the disc.
The pads on the other front wheel were still legal, but worn down low.

He offered me various options.

1) Just enough work to make the car legal for now.
2) Replacement of the warped disc, and broken caliper, leaving the other damaged disc for later attention.
3) He could put all the wheels back on and give me back my car with no work done, and no charge for his time.
4) Replace every worn part with a guarantee to replace any new parts he fitted, should they fail within 12 months.

I went with option 4, and returned to the waiting room to read the hardback book I had brought along.

Almost 4 hours later, I had read all but the last chapter of the book. The caliper was not in stock, so there was a delay until it was delivered by a local company.

Then, work completed, he reversed the car outside the reception room, ready to come in and talk to me. As he did so, the glass in the driver’s door mirror fell out onto the tarmac and smashed. I shook my head, but actually smiled.

You couldn’t make it up.

The price for almost 5 hours of work, new brakes all round, and that expensive caliper? £619. ($840)

Or about half of what I could get for it if I sold the car for cash.

As for the mirror glass, I bought one off Ebay for £5. It arrives next week.

Ollie: Treatment Complete

Yesterday, Ollie had the last of the medication for the current round of treatment.

He has had a lot of tablets, both antibiotics and steroids, as well as daily ear drops for some time now.

We finally managed to get him to swallow the tablets with no fuss, by concealing them in a small chunk of Brie. He lets me give him the ear drops without resistance, though he flinches every time I insert the tube deep into his ear.

I would flinch too.

His fur is slowly growing back, but some of the bald patches are still clearly visible. The head shaking has stopped, and he has been sleeping and eating well.

Once the steroids are out of his system by the weekend, I can start to give him his Arthritis tablets again. Despite being stiff-legged now, he still manages his walks.

Earlier this week, he even chased a Muntjac deer into some reeds by the river, and the animal escaped Ollie by running through the water and leaping out onto Hoe Rough.

On the 12th of February, Ollie will be 10 years old. Around 80 in human years, for his breed.

You can bet he will get a birthday tribute!