Day 6 – Rollright Stones

Already Arrived

A great gathering… old friends and new: one is Christopher Turner, 90 years old and very distinguished past Stowe headmaster.

A perfect day for walking through some of merrie old England’s finest Cotswold countryside. When such flawless beauty is right here, why does anyone want to crawl off in a muzzle in a crowded shuttle to the likes of Ibiza or Mallorca? They are furnace hot and packed with the well-padded and tattoed at this time of year: and squatting on a beach and getting sand where the blistering sun don’t shine fills me with gloom after ten minutes. So I am pleased the crowds have left our paradise walks for us to give God thanks for.

I recall the ancient Venetian Doge’s saying: “Why travel when you’ve already arrived.”

Public Grouse

Some publicans are funny – I mean in the peculiar sense, not funny haha! You would think in the midst of COVID they would be gagging for any business. But when we asked gently if lunch was being served, indignantly she snapped, “no”: when asked if we could eat sandwiches in the bar and order drinks she still refused.

Anthony and Clare Wells, walking with us – heroes both – kindly laid on a feast as generous as Ratty’s in Wind in the Willows in their house.

Coded Message?

I have just received a greeting from a buddy who said that Jane and my walking long distances once again was “very noble and courageous!”

Remembering “Yes Minister”, what he really meant was, “ you are barmy to be walking these distances at your ages!”

Interesting to note that both the US Presidential candidates are more or less the same age as I am.

Rage, Rage at the Dying of the Light 

Ageism is the last tolerated prejudice.

When you are old you lose interest in sex, your children ignore you and your friends drift away – these are some of the most obvious advantages.

When US President Reagan was fighting Democratic candidate Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential election, he said, “I do not propose to make age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s relative youth and inexperience.”

Well said, Mr President – who was by then a very “senior citizen” at 73.

Who Are You Calling Old?

The description “senior citizen” is often heard today but it’s one I hate. It’s patronising, and nearly as irritating as the road sign of an aged crone, curved like a hockey stick, who serves as a warning to cars that an aged person may try to stagger across the road at any given moment. Then there’s that ghastly term “over seventies”, or what about “the vulnerable”, an even more dreadful slur? I feel no more vulnerable than the Pennine Way!

“Oldies” – the very word conjures up laxatives, false teeth and incontinence pads. And what about nasal hair, invalid scooters, daytime TV, reused tea bags, bowls and bingo! Oldies are grouped officially under the HMG’s heading of “the retired”: in other words, yesterday’s folk, clapped-out and finished. All this twaddle bolsters the existing belief amongst the general public that the old should suck their toothless gums out of everyone’s way. 

I am in the over seventies group but neither Jane nor I have ever defined ourselves by age and we have no intention of starting now. Our doctors check us out as fine and we are a great deal fitter – and better looking, too – than many younger people who smoke, eat and drink to excess. We hiked from Edinburgh to London – covering 16 miles a day – when I was in my seventieth year and Jane wasn’t far behind. Since then, we have walked at least 2,500 miles round the UK for ZANE, and the only one in our party who ever gets over-tired is the dog.

Of course, we know we are lucky to possess great energy and enthusiasm for life, and a zest for new ideas and adventure. There are hundreds of thousands of others like us who feel the same way, and although we’ll all contract the galloping ab dabs and fall over one day, till then we intend to zip along like the bullets God cast us to be. Look at Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Judie Dench and HM the Queen. And look at the US presidents or presidential hopefuls – so many of them are well into their seventies but they’re still in their prime.

It is monstrous that ageism is a tolerated prejudice. But you can’t say a word against the obese! When we walk for ZANE, I am warned not to even mention that our blessed island is crowded with fatties waddling along pavements and barrelling us skinnies into the road. It has been proved that being obese – and that includes over a third of the UK population – is one of the major contributing factors to Covid-19 deaths. So, Fatso Boris, that’s why you nearly died of Covid-19 – get on a crash diet now! However, if HMG spokesmen had mentioned this ironclad fact, there would have been a chorus of denial and indignation.

We refuse to be thrown on the scrap heap of life because of ageism and neither will many of our friends.

Long live the silver hares!


Recently, our little tabby, Kariba, went missing for three days and I missed her dreadfully. Kariba and I have a routine: each night, when I am just in bed, she jumps lightly onto my chest, sticks her nose an inch from mine, and stares unwinking and relentlessly into my eyes. She waits until I have tickled her ears and stroked her throat, and then, when she has had enough, with a flick of her tail, boom! She’s away.

The routine is, of course, wholly on her terms. A random movement and she’s off in a huff. The real reason I treasure these sacred few minutes is because she ignores Jane completely. I like that. Jane says she only jumps on my chest because it’s bigger then hers. She claims cats don’t form attachments anyway, and she’s only ours because we feed her – but I know that’s a lie. Kariba loves me more than Jane, so there! Anyway, Jane gets all the affection and love from that darn stupid dog Moses. Of course, I pretend not to care – but deep down, I do. Quite a lot, actually. So Kariba is my favourite animal by a country mile and I love her unconditionally.

Anyway, when Kariba went missing, I was wholly distraught. We wrote a notice to be posted everywhere we could think of and were just about to smother the district when Kariba crawled through the back door. It was clear she’d been savaged by some damned dog: she was covered in cuts and her tail was bent. She must have been recovering in a ditch somewhere until she recovered her strength sufficiently to come home to me. I was overjoyed. Kariba is alive, and after a couple of hundred quid’s worth of ointment and pills – note to my grandchildren, become a vet! – she has recovered her bounce, is back squatting on my chest, and once again staring deeply into my eyes.

Kariba still loves me.


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    • Dale Sumner on September 14, 2020 at 7:13 pm
    • Reply

    In my 90th decade, I like the (now politically incorrect) Spanish word ‘anciano’, the natural collocation in English being ‘monument’.

    • Jennifer Carter on September 14, 2020 at 8:01 pm
    • Reply

    The question is, Tom, who feeds Kariba? 🙂 But I am sure she loves you.

    My calico cat, Cleocatra, also climbs on my chest in the night. Trouble is, sometimes it is the middle of the night and she is soaking wet! I keep kitchen towel close by to dry her.

    As a Zimbo, with friends who are helped by ZANE, I am very grateful to you.

    • David Roberts on September 14, 2020 at 8:57 pm
    • Reply

    Well done Tom you have qualified to join the Irrelevants. We can say, think and do exactly what we want and nobody takes the slightest notice. Freedom at last! Following your progress from sunny Cornwall. David R

    • Anne Robinson on September 14, 2020 at 9:56 pm
    • Reply

    2 thoughts on age.
    Can the Oldies be renamed as those who have reached Late Middle Age – sounds much more dignified?
    Second thought is to spend time with someone in their seventies who is wildly enthusiastic about a new project (Tom and Jane being one example). I recently spent time with a widow of 74 who has a 20 year plan!

    • Ralph Fergusson-Kelly on September 14, 2020 at 11:41 pm
    • Reply

    Never question a cats motives! One of our cats gave purrs and bites in equal measures. I like to think he enjoyed his time with us..its the purrs I remember!!

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