79. Three things I am too old for

My dad was captain of the village cricket club for many years. On his fortieth birthday he gave up the game, claiming he was too old. When I was forty I broke my ankle playing footy and apparently my dad’s comment was, ‘What’s he doing still playing football at his age?’ Or words to that effect.

I’m well into my sixties now and although I still play football once a week with the mighty ALAC, ( Artificial Limbs and Appliances Centre), I am wondering if it is time to call it a day. Until now my attitude has been that I will continue to turn out for as long as the other guys want me to play with them, or at least give the impression that they want me to play.

ALAC goes on tour once a year, usually to an attractive European city where we find another veterans team to play. Last year it was Biarritz, this year it was Bilbao. No matter where it is, this is always a fantastic couple of days – hardly surprising as you are away with a lot of old mates, the beer flows and the usual rules don’t apply. And somebody else organises it all. What’s not to like? Well, we usually get beaten, that’s what.

Before kick off we are all pretty confident in our retro Bilbao tour shirts . . .
. . . but invariably it’s their captain who lifts the trophy . . .

Our tour badge includes an artificial leg to represent each tour victory. After thirty years we have amassed just the two legs. Those were the matches in Amsterdam and Bratislava, the only two tours I have missed. Draw your own conclusions.

. . . and it’s one of their players who picks up the Man of the Match award – one of our retro tour shirts

Technically anyone over the age of 35 is a veteran but I only started playing regularly at that age and it was only as I approached my sixties that I even gave consideration to the age factor. (Which gives an indication of the level we are talking here.) The first thing to go was my ability to run. It slowly dawned on me that I was no longer capable of ever beating an opponent for pace. That means that unless you pass the ball quickly, someone will take it off you like taking candy from a baby. But what’s even worse is that when you’re old your reflexes slow down dramatically. That means you never win a 50:50 challenge because your opponent knows what’s happening a split second before you do.

Back in the club house we put a brave face on but are consoled only by large quantities of beer

I have recently taken the mantle of oldest player in our team. Until recently this honour was held by a guy who is currently in his seventies, tour name ‘Senilio’, who has a long term knee injury and may have played his last game. He was always a far better player than me but even he became pretty peripheral towards the end and that’s the problem I have now. My role is little more than receiving the ball and passing it on, quickly, to someone wearing the same shirt as me. I’m also expected to get in the way of opponents when they have the ball but once they’re past me it’s goodnight Vienna.

So it’s not the aching bones, or even the lack of fitness that’s forcing me to pack it in, it’s the lack of involvement in the game. When I play tennis I hit the ball as much as any of the other players so I always feel involved, and I will continue playing for that reason. But my footy days are over. Next year I will be a non-playing tourist, my role will be to have a beer and shout encouragement from the sidelines.

Bilbao is a lively, friendly city and here a passerby grabs the trophy before we’ve even had chance to lose it to our opposition

I have also recently taken an age related decision about the Sick Bay. You hear lots of blokes saying that they are going to sell up because they are too old for a bay. At a certain age you get yourself a more comfortable camper like a T5. It has air conditioning, power steering, etc and even room in the back for a toilet. Some go even further and get a caravan, start reading the Daily Mail . . . (I’ll stop there before the rant gets going). I’m not doing any of that but I have decided that I will no longer do any work on the Sick Bay that involves getting under it. I’m definitely too old for all that. No more will I crawl underneath to apply waxoil, (what a filthy chore that was), and I won’t do any job that involves taking the wheels off. So in future, maintenance on brakes, steering etc will all be handled by paid professionals. I won’t miss any of that, least of all the aching limbs, (everything is so much harder when you’re on your back) and I won’t miss the oil and grit in my hair and under my finger nails. And I will miss least of all the sense of failure as experienced after most of the jobs I have done this year. There is no way I would contemplate changing the Sick Bay for any other vehicle but the decision to cease being an enthusiastic but hamfisted mechanic is a great weight off my shoulders. The VW purists will not be happy. Not only have I blasphemed by converting to a Subaru engine I am now going to commit an even worse sin by not doing my own maintenance. I will just have to try and live with myself.

And the third thing that I am going to stop doing as I indulge my nearly 65 year old self? Flying.

When I retired I vowed that never again would I put myself through the unique combination of terror and boredom that is flying.  As I’ve got older I have found that the stresses and strains have increased to almost intolerable levels. That said, I flew to Bilbao for the football trip and I have taken other essential flights. However, next year I will drive the Sick Bay to wherever the footy trip is. The word on the street is that it will be Croatia – a long way but what a great road trip. That’s no problem.

Where the problem arises is that there are two countries Joy and I  are determined to visit and both are hard to reach without taking a flight. One is Cuba, a fantastic country with a fascinating history. (And I understand Trump is going to renege on the Obama deal so it won’t be overrun with American tourists just yet!) The other is Colombia which is not only a beautiful country but it is also the birthplace of my daughter in law and we are going there with her and will meet up with members of her family.  Given I can’t get there in the Sick Bay how do I resolve that one? I’ve got until next year to work it out. Maybe, just maybe, the answer might involve a cruise – we loved the recent Med cruise and we would certainly not be averse to the possibility of a Caribbean cruise. Especially if it took in those two countries and gave us sufficient time in them.

Having spent most of my adult life feeling that my dad was premature in giving up a game that he loved so early in his life, I can see now that things move on and sometimes it’s best not to fight it. It’s not a fight you can win. But to take the positive view – as one door closes another door opens . . .


About Basil John Mandy

A sixty odd year old born in Ladysmith, South Africa. Manchester United supporter and a great fan of the city in general. I worked for Kelloggs since 1982, apart from a year's sabbatical that I took to ride a bicycle to South Africa. I retired at the end of 2015 and have 2 grandsons, Lenny and Ellis. And now I've got a granddaughter as well - Dottie Joy!!


  1. Croatia next year sounds like a great trip … as for maintenance from what I’ve read you’re best leaving it to someone else. Long live the Subaru engined buses.

  2. Barry True – all the jobs I have attempted on the Sick Bay this year have ended in tears. And a sore back. The Subaru is a life saver for me – means I don’t have to consider changing to a more age friendly bus!

  3. As long as you find a knowledgeable reliable and honest mechanic then I think letting someone else grovel around under the van getting filthy is a very good idea.
    On a scale of 1-10 how much more useable has the Subaru engine made your van?

      1. Agreed at least 9 or 10. Also makes sure that I can keep it rather than getting something more modern.

    1. I agree about grovelling underneath – particularly if you don’t really know what you are doing. Scale of 1 to 10? I would have to say 9 or 10 and in fact I would probably be considering another vehicle if it wasn’t for the Subaru to be honest.

  4. 4 legs Baz . Dublin ,Amsterdam ,Prague ( though they were even worse for drink than us ),and Budapest ( wasn’t that the one that you masterminded ? ) .
    After sober reflection you may now have realised that immediately passing the ball to someone in the same coloured shirt is what Barcelona do ,and now that you’ve realised that ; you can look forward to another decade of international football at the zenith of your career .

    1. Thanks Ade You are right – so long as there is always someone a yard or so behind me I should be able to make a pass. See you in Toulouse! Bas

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *