Fourth blog. Stuart Hill

Fourth blog

I’m feeling my age at the moment. No, I’m feeling more than my age. I have shingles and though I’m not exactly in the first flush of youth (I’m 53) I’ve always associated this particular nasty with old ladies. Silly I know. Anyone who’s had chicken pox can get shingles at any age, but even so, it makes me feel positively ancient. I itch, I feel foul and I also feel profoundly reminded of my mortality.

This is further compounded by the fact that I’ve decided to grow my beard again and it’s coming through as grey as a badger’s arse! In fact it’s as grey as a badger’s arse would probably look after a decade of using that hard, supposedly medicated toilet paper of the deep and dismal past. Does anybody else remember that stuff? As a kid I discovered it made great tracing paper – before it was used for the purpose for which it was designed I might add – and at school we’d use it as the final veneer on our papier mache creations in art class. Weird stuff. It was about as absorbent as broken glass. What a wondrous revelation soft toilet tissue was!!! Though I must admit, it took a long period of adjustment on my part before I could employ it properly; I soon discovered it wasn’t as robust as the old hard stuff, and the subsequent disintegration could be a messy affair.

Anyway, I digress. I’m feeling old, or at least my body is. That’s one of the oddities of the ageing process; the body drops to pieces, but the spirit remains forever young. Internally I feel exactly the same as I did when I started my first job as a car trimmer at the age of sixteen. Then I could sink gallons of best bitter of an evening and wake up the next day as fresh as the proverbial. Now if I have more then three pints, the following day is lost to a dragging exhaustion and deep abiding pessimism.

In fact it’s probably this immortality of the spirit that makes the first view in the bathroom mirror such a shock every morning. Just who is that old, miserable git staring back at me? If the eyes are the window of the soul, then my face is definitely a set of dirty worn out curtains!

This also applies to photographs. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m an artist as well as a writer, and I’ve been painting a series of pictures called ‘In Our Hands’, which as the title implies, includes several studies of hands holding different creatures. Anyway, after struggling to make preliminary drawings using a mirror, I decided to use my digital camera and took several shots of my hands in different poses. What I hadn’t realised until I checked through the results was the fact that I’d also captured my face in some of the shots. What a shock! I hadn’t composed my features as I think we all subconsciously do if any other sort of pic is being taken, and there was the mug of a man undeniably in his fifties! I wasn’t smiling; I hadn’t positioned my face in slight profile to minimise the effect of my crooked nose; I hadn’t raised my head to smooth out the double chins. And worst of all I looked like my dad. Not that there was anything wrong with the way my dad looked, bless him, it’s just that he was always an old man to me when I was growing up, and as I’ve already said, my subconscious is still convinced I’m a teenager.

Even so, I think he had exactly the same ideas as me about ageing. I recall talking to him once just before he had to go into care. He was sitting in his favourite chair and leaning forward to rest his chin on his stick. “I remember training to get on and off landing craft in the Bay of Bengal.” He said quietly. “We were preparing for the invasion of Japan, and nobody was happier than me when the buggers finally surrendered after they slung the bomb at ‘em. Years ago now, of course, but you know, in my head, I’m still that young soldier hanging over the side of a ship while the swell rose and fell under me, and the sharks swam around the landing craft waiting for dinner.”

Anyway, I’ve had time to think about it now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the eternal youth of the spirit/psyche/soul/personality is a wondrous thing. If there is life after death – and yes Sue, if you’re reading this, of course I believe there’s life after death– then perhaps we can all hope to be eternally young once we’ve sloughed off what remains of our bodies.

Right I’ll shut up now. See you next month, health and computers allowing…


Susan Price said…
Yes, I am reading this, Stuart and, Lord, I hope there isn't another life after this one!
Susan Price said…
I meant to add - much sympathy for the shingles. It's naarsty.
stuart said…
Thanks. Not that I'm wallowing or anything, but now I've got a cold as well!
Susan Price said…
Me again. I have given the blog one of the five Liebster Blog Awards which it is mine to give - for being lively, funny, informative and always worth giving a look.
This means that the blog now has five Liebster Awards to hand on to great blogs with fewer than 200 followers. Don't know how we're going to work that!
madwippitt said…
Sympathies re: the shingles ... horrid ... hope you are soon recovered ...
I had much the same shock as you when I accidentally fired off a shot while taking pics of the wippitties the other day. Take my adivce and get rid of the mirrors. If you've given up shaving you don't need it anyway. Only one in our house, and that one too high for me to see anything much in.
Lee said…
When I get discouraged about ageing - and I'm older than you - I google Alice Herz-Sommer and listen to her thoughts on survival, old age, and death. Here's a sample:


'Only when we are so old are we aware of the beauty of life.'
Lee said…
And here's the link to the BBC broadcast about Herz-Sommer I listened to just this morning:
Stuart said…
Sorry about the tardy reply. My carers decided to take the diseased old git (I.E. me) out for the day.
Anyway, thanks for the comments and advice. Good idea about the mirrors, and I loved the Alice Herz-Sommer's stuff. Something to think about while I scratch.
Lee said…
Stuart, is your doctor prescribing painkillers? My husband had a bad case of shingles not so long ago, and our internist insisted on the painkillers for an extended period of time. He said they were necessary to prevent laying down pain memory, traces of which in the brain (frontal cortex? not sure) can then plague you for a very long time indeed, if not forever.
Stuart said…
Hi Lee. The doc hasn't prescribed painkillers, but things are being kept under control by over-the-counter stuff so far. It sounds as though your husband had a far worse case than me, in which case he has my very deepest sympathy.
Enid Richemont said…
Ageing is shit - we shouldn't have to do it. Once you reach a certain age and maturity, it should all be frozen - you know who you are at this stage, and have accepted what you look like, so you can get on with life, without the vanity or self-absorption of youth. Instead, that non-existant deity zaps you with shingles and stuff. You/we should sue.
I would love having a second life in the hereafter, but don't suppose I'll get one.

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