A man can be aged by many parameters…
His amount of hair and how much of it is grey. The size of his eyebrows. His girth/paunch. His politics? Eye sight, the sound he makes when bending down…
There are other more oblique indicators too, like birds for example.
If he used the term ‘birds’ to denote the girls he fancied in his youth (almost entirely unreciprocated in my experience) and if he obsesses over feeding birds now…
Then it is safe to assume that this is a man of advancing years.
This week, a landmark birthday, for me anyway if not conventionally – entering my 54th year.
A number that has played on my mind for some years now and I will explain why shortly.
Obviously, I don’t do birthday celebrations anymore. There is no cake. I don’t make announcements and I don’t encourage public celebrations that I am getting older. Presents too are unnecessary although my family did insist again this year.
Tom, cunningly killed two birds with one stone – opting for a present for our beloved dog but giving it to me first. The very astute readers or close followers of this blog might guess already that his present to me was a new pair of slippers.
Harry also managed to create mixed emotions with his gift – buying me 3 dozen very expensive Titleist ProV1 golf balls. Which is generous and probably wasted on a man of my ability but also gives pause for thought because…
There are grave implications to gifting such a big number and why my gratitude was tempered by my hurt.
But to happier and sadder elements of my birthday this week.
We had dinner at a local pub which was very welcome – but blighted for having to sit outside in the freezing cold because our politicians are demented. Sad also because Sam was absent. But then glorious for this interloper who joined us throughout the meal and very welcome he was too.
Given my earlier reference, I could now do a joke about birds and attractive breasts but I won’t, obviously.
But I will explain though the poignancy of my 54th year.
A show I did in Edinburgh 2018 – but feels more recent given that I have not gigged now for over a year.
The show was important for many reasons. Just returning to the Edinburgh festival felt huge and a breakthrough. That Sam and Nikki worked the room for me – seating audiences and doing the tech each night – sorry, late afternoon/teatime! That Tom and Harry came up to see the show. That we snuck Paddy in to the last night and so many friends and family from all over also managed to see it.
But mostly because the show hinged on my friend, Gavin Style. A man who I loved and who lived The Glory Year every day of his life.
But why 54?
Because Gavin was 53 when he died and why this number has fixed me ever since. Because Gav only got 53 years and I have already had more time than he was granted. And I hope with more years ahead. More Christmases, marriages, grandchildren…
Gavin is frequently on my mind. Most days in fact, buried as he is in a cemetery that runs alongside a road where I walk Tess most evenings and as I pass, I always think of him and the paltry time he was given. It reminds me of my good fortune and how insignificant my problems really are.
Of course, our lives are finite.
From the day we are born, we are dying but none of us know when and what lies ahead. And so we must remind ourselves to live as well as we can. Just as my mate did.
He was a great man. He was easy to admire, perhaps the cleverest man I ever knew. Married, four kids, hugely successful, wealthy, with loads of friends. He made an indelible impression on me and for which I am continually grateful.
Life is ever complicated. We all have many responsibilities – but one responsibility that we often lose sight of – is to cherish what we have. To use a cliche – to count our blessings.
I think we are all prone to self-pity but we must be mindful of this habit because it means that we live less well – and this is something none of us can afford.
Let Gavin have the same impact on you then as he has on me each evening. He would certainly approve of this.
Live well. Live like he did.
Every year of Gav’s life was his Glory Year – even his untimely last.