Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Decline and Fall

My leaving date at work is now official and people seem more shocked than I thought they would be. Everyone has been very kind, but I could have done without the two colleagues who asked me if I was retiring.

Do I really look that old?

Admitedly it's been a hard year, but I didn't think I looked that bad. I have a good 20 years left before I retire (probably longer, if the Government have their way) and can't say I feel like someone who's about to draw their pension.

Perhaps I'm fooling myself. In the spirit of objectivity, I took this 'warts and all' photo of myself an hour ago:

It's a sad contrast to the photo in my last post. I am a shadow of my former self: hair has been lost and weight has been gained, but does this really look like someone who is about to retire?

I only hope that they meant early retirement. Very early retirement.

Things didn't get any better today. I had an appointment at the optician's and was pleased to see that my eye test was being done by a very attractive woman. She had long blonde hair, a strange tattoo on her leg and a breathy voice that sounded as if she was acting very badly. For a moment I thought I'd been transported into a porn film and waited patiently for her to complain how hot the room was and start loosening her clothing. But instead she began telling me that I had reached the age where I should consider getting varifocal lenses.

Varifocal lenses? Great! While I'm at it, I might as well order some Werther's Originals, a waterproof mattress cover and a boxed DVD set of 'Last of the Summer Wine'.

I need a holiday. But not here:

Preferably somewhere warm and exotic, like these photos from 1979:

I found these pictures in an old Selfix photo album that turned up at work last week. Sadly, they weren't actual photographs, but pictures that someone had cut out of a holiday brochure - a whole album's worth. Why would someone go to so much effort?

Why not relax with a complimentary glass of Dubonet and a cigarette, while Jacques plays 'Misty' for you, before boogieing the night away to the latest Patrick Juvet smash hit...

And in the morning you can sample the local crafts and historical buildings...

After lunch, why not not take advantage of our exclusive 'Members Only' club facilities? If tennis isn't your scene, you can relax with the latest Harold Robbins in our new library room...

It looks like the sort of place where you'd bump into Roger Moore.

Anyway, I must go now before the cocoa boils over.

(Now where did I put my slippers?)

N.B - Since writing this post, I have been out for curry with a lovely person 41 years older than me. She drank me under the table. I need to listen to Dale Carnegie: 'Stop Worrying and Start Living'!


Little Nell said...

You are a mere youngster, and look it. Speaking as an early (but not very early) retiree, I think you have some misconceptions about us. Slippers and cocoa indeed!

I think you have stumbled in someone’s ‘ideas’ book, rather than an album. It represenst their wishes about where they’d like to go, not a souvenir scrapbook of where they’ve just been. Don’t people do similar things nowadays with interior designs cut out of magazines?

Bob said...

Mate, there are mid life crises and mid life crises - depends what you make of them. Just get out and paint that 'Steerforth Books' sign and move on. When my wife and I come to the UK next year we'll drop in, buy a book or three, and bring a cup of coffee (is there good coffee in that village of yours?).
Onwards and upwards in good ol' cliche language!
cheers Bob

Kid said...

What a difference hair makes, eh? In your previous photo you look a bit like David Tennant. In your recent one, you don't. Never mind - your wife loves you regardless. (Better not let her read that you were eyeing up the female optician 'though.)

lucy joy said...

My mother has always told me by 40 you get the face you deserve. Her life has been terrible, so I suppose she deserves her youthful glow at 62. I dread to think what I deserve.
You look very healthy, a tiny bit tired, and shockingly, much younger than my my mum in law's 40 year old partner!
Of course your colleagues thought it was early retirement, they probably think you want to live like the brochure pictures, holding tennis balls over young ladies heads.
I suppose the glasses thing is inevitable for someone who has been reading so avidly since youth. Very few people go through life without needing vari-focals, they're all the rage.
When you're about to leave a job you do go through a reflective phase. The Steerforth in the previous post is the same as the one here. Full of dreams, hopes and wanting more from life. So many sit in mock contentment for years, never changing anything.
They are cowards.

Steerforth said...

Little Nell - I was being tongue-in-cheek about the slippers and cocoa. The only retired people I know all lead far more interesting lives than me and having a great time spending their children's inheritance, jetting off to exotic locations!

Bob - Sadly my shop will only be a 'virtual bookshop' on the internet, not a real one. But if you're in the area, I'd be delighted to show you around Lewes - for a small town there's a lot to see.

Kid - Hair loss is a terrible thing. Some people react by shaving it all off, but I have a very round head and would look like a tenpin bowling ball.

David Tennant? Well, he regenerated. I degenerated.

My wife doesn't mind me fancying the optician. Her attitude is that there would be something wrong with me if I didn't.

Lucewoman - Thanks. I'm glad that your mother-in-law's partner looks much older. That always cheers me up.

You're right, I do look tired. I don't think we age gradually. We tick along looking more or less the same, then something bad happens - an illness or stressful time - and it shows. I have a picture of me taken just before I became a parent. If you put it next to a photo taken a 12 months later, you'd probably guess that they were at least five years apart!

I'm going to set myself a challenge and see whether more exercise and less alcohol makes any difference - a sort of mini '10 Years Younger' - over the next few months.

Martin said...

You don't look a day over 45, Steerforth. I opted for early retirement in 2006 and, although it may sound a tad cheesy, retirement really should be regarded as a journey, not a destination.

Jim Murdoch said...

I have always looked older than I am. At thirteen bus conductors would try and make me pay full fare. In fact I was once of the bus with a friend who was seventeen and he got on for half fare and I had to pay full fare. When my last wife’s younger sister was getting married my wife and I went along with her to look at wedding dresses. As it happens so did her fiancĂ©. The two little old ladies who ran the shop – it was in Troon as far as I can remember – got in a bit of a kerfuffle when she walked in with her entourage. They said, “It’s most unusual for the groom to be here, let alone the parents.” Of course my wife and I looked round to see who these old fogies were that had walked in with us but, no, they meant us. The thing is I was a couple of years younger than her sister. But wait, there is worse. I married my first wife when I was nineteen and someone once mistook her for my daughter and, again, she was older than me, albeit only six months. I have plenty of stories like that. But even now I’m all growed up nothing’s changed. The last job I had – a temp thing for a week – one of the girls there assumed that I was ages with her retired uncle in his sixties – I was forty-nine at the time. My current – and, hopefully, last – wife is also older than me but she says what with all my aches and pains she thinks of us as the same age. She’s sixty-four and I’m fifty-two.

As far as you go all I can say is: When did you stop looking like Mike Oldfield? That was a good look.

Steerforth said...

Jim - the Mike Oldfield look faded very gradually until one day, I had one of those awful moments where I didn't recognise my own reflection. In the USA, I was still getting asked for my ID at 29, so I think it happened in the late 30s.

I sympathise with you about looking older, but it must have been a bonus when you were a schoolboy and wanted to see X films!

Martin - I agree, I think at its best, retirement is a journey where you can explore interests that you've never had the time pursu. I wonder if the next generation will have the luxury of being able to do this.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Not ready for the glue factory by a long chalk indeed! ;- )

But where oh where, is the retro-gentleman's Victorian chic you have so oft-expressed a love for?

Or at least some funkier glasses? You have lovely eyes and those glasses I am afraid do not do them justice in my view. And if you need to buy a new pair anyway...

The Poet Laura-eate said...

PS: I can only assume that your colleague's comment about retirement was their idea of wit. Unless they thought you were wealthier than you are and could afford to retire at an unusually young age.

If I could wave a magic wand, I would banish all hair loss, having been a female sufferer following an auto-immune disorder. Luckily there are some amazing cosmetic solutions on the market these days eons removed from wigs and indistinguishable your natural hair (except for taking longer to wash and dry). The only drawback is they cost! They certainly make waiting for a medical cure (always a rolling 'ten years' away) a lot easier though.

Anonymous said...

You definitely don't look on the point of retirement; I would have put you early to mid 40s on the basis of the photo. Perhaps they thought you had a private income and had decided to live the life of Riley instead of slaving away any longer.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Little Nell that someone made that book out of a complete urge to escape. I was imagining a housebound person spending happy hours assembling it... it's nice to escape into a fantasy sometimes (even at the opticians).

Re. ageing: I think your face is very full of character and kindess, and is reflection of the kind of person you are, and a testament to how much love and care you've given your family. In my early forties, after two exceedingly stressful years of parenting, I developed a wide Cruella de Ville grey streak in my hair. I went from always having been told I looked a whole lot younger than my age, to looks that betrayed the thought that I really had better get the dye bottle out and pronto! (I never have.) I told my children that grey hairs are given to people when they've done good deeds. Now that I'm 50, I've been told I look younger than that. It must be because I'm less exhausted and happier and not so much to do with the grey/not grey.

So 'no' to declining and falling!

Steerforth said...

Laura - I hope that self-employment will give me the freedom to get back in touch with my inner Victorian.

Re: the glasses - what would you recommend? I tend to stick to the same frames for years because it seems frivolous to spend money on new frames. I don't want to look like some poncey designer from Hoxton though ;)

Alienne - I hope you're right. Both of the people who said this to me were quite a few years older, which made things even worse!

Christine - I'm encouraged that you have managed to once again be told that you look young. I was used to being told that I didn't look my age. It wasn't so great when I was 16, but it was a boon during the late 20s to early 40s.

Then a succession of things happened and I probably drank too much, didn't exercise enough and sought refuge in the healing power of biscuits. Suddenly no-one looks shocked when I tell them my age and I don't like it. I need to change my attitude, but also abandon the bad habits that have accelerated the ageing process.

Sorry for being so self-obsessed and boring about this subject, but I was shocked by the retirement comments.

Kid said...

You're NOT balding - you just have flesh-coloured hair. (That's the best way to look at it.)

The Poet Laura-eate said...

If a poncy designer from Hoxton is wearing glasses with the youthful factor, I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss them Steerforth! I do think the right glasses can make 10 years difference to the age at which one is perceived alone. I suppose contact lenses are the ideal when you have such nice eyes, but if you are too squeamish (and I know I would be), maybe you could persuade Mrs Steerforth to go with you to the opticians or experiment buying different frames on e-Bay and then get your lenses installed when you find the right ones.

When I was 17, a lad thought I was 25 and people carried on thinking I was about 8 years older than I was (probably owing to my height) until about 10 years ago when I suddenly started looking ok compared to my contemporaries and now actually, fingers crossed, slightly younger! I've discovered that enough sleep makes a significant difference to both my looks and functionality as does eating according to vitamin content rather than calories. The good news is that once you start eating super healthily, suddenly you can't look at convenience food with the same relish, bar my weakness for the odd pizza. I've also never smoked or got into alcohol, which probably helps, though my exercise quota could definitely be improved upon! Am currently experimenting with NLP and the power of positive thinking which is also said to improve one's looks and lessen the ageing process if one can stop the weight of the world descending on ones' shoulders.

Anonymous said...

Such a wonderful funny post. For a woman, I think the most appalling evidence that time is marching on and that perhaps the ship you thought you were on had sailed comes when some snippy little creep in a shop calls you Ma'am. Or the sad feeling of wearing your very best frock to meet a friend at a restaurant and realising you are no longer young enough to be of interest and are invisible to all and sundry. Aw well, better than being dead, I suppose!
Canadian Chickadee

Anonymous said...

There folks who retire early & happily: