Now I am Fifty
There used to be an A A Milne book, didn’t there, called ‘ Now We Are Young.’ Well, I am now writing one called, ‘Now We Are Old.’
Fifty. Whatever way you shimmy up to it – sideways, full frontal, cautious approach from the rear – it is bloomin’ old, isn’t it? When I was growing up fifty meant twinset and pearls, waist-high knickers and flat lace-up brogues. Dr Scholl shoes so comfy for your bunions, little tight curly purple perms and half-moon specs.
I am not that woman! And yet here I am, fifty. It beggars belief. I turned fifty and celebrated not with a bang, but a very small whimper. My elder sister came up to commiserate with me here in Scotland. But instead of sitting and knitting or planting begonias or watering our curly perms, instead we did something very non-fiftyish. I got the two of us old birds onto bikes and we cycled round the Isle of Mull.
I’ll tell you something for nothing – Mull is a big island. Cycling round it in a day was a plan bordering on insanity. It fact it was impossible. We wheeled our bikes off the Cal Mac ferry and looked at each other in a stupefied manner. Tobermory, it said, 21 miles. Tobermory was to be our first stop of the day, not our ultimate destination. ‘We may have bitten off more than we can chew,’ Kate ruminated. ‘You think?’ I replied.
Anyway, we gamely swung our wrinkly old legs over our trusty bikes and set off. It started to rain. Neither of us were looking at our sexy best in slightly skew-wiff bicycle helmets, rain glistening on our furry upper lips and cycling shorts drooping in the rain. I am quite a regular cyclist which Kate is not, and I soon left her behind. Then I would wait, to see her come panting round the corner, bless, her kagoul flapping in the wind, rain-splashed specs glinting and helmet at a jaunty angle. ‘I’ll kill you for this,’ I could hear, wafting towards me on the wind.
We stopped for coffee in Salen, a very nice coffee shop and we had to have a bit of cake. Well, it was my birthday. Then we set off again. At least I did. I waited at the top of the hill – no Kate. ‘Bother,’ I said to myself, and turned back down the hill. There was a small crowd around her. She had turned turtle off the bike, and was lying in a small pool of rainwater and dust. She still had her cycle helmet on, though.
‘How did you fall off,’ I enquired, ‘you silly bint?’ She did laugh. ‘No idea,’ she said. I dusted her off, shoo-ed away the concerned crowd and placed her back on her bike. Already, we had reverted to the age of ten and eight, in which I placed her in mortal danger with my harebrained schemes, and she was too good-natured to object. Then she’d hurt herself and I’d get cross. Now we were 50 and 52, and still at it.
Three hours later, we arrived in Tobermory. ‘We did it!’ We yelled as we free-wheeled down the hill. A long and delicious restorative lunch followed. We then wanted to cycle on to Calgary Bay but blimey, it was quite hilly. ‘Sod that for a game of soldiers,’ I said. We hired a minibus. It was expensive, but very comfortable and most important of all, required no pedalling.
Then the sun came out. We stripped off under towels, put on swimming costumes, and plunged into the sea. It was freezing, but fabulous and invigorating. The sun shone on the sandy beach, we laughed a lot and jumped up and down in the turquoise water. Then we dried off, tried to get the residual sand out of our knickers and walked up from the beach to another cafe to eat more cake. We were very happy.
We got home late and had a takeaway and some alcohol. Fifty, eh? It’s not so bad. Not if you can cycle 21 miles and eat cake and get sand in your knickers.