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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . .