Sunday, 4 March 2012


I had lunch with Richard French the other day.

He’s just had a hip replacement. We were both on an alcohol free and Spartan calorie diet.
He reflected wistfully, although briefly, on advancing age but we concluded how lucky we were. The period between 1950 and 2012 has been rich in earth shaking events, in human drama, in amazing discoveries and huge improvements. Exmouth Market where we had our cheerfully meagre lunch has become the next Marylebone High Street. You need to know how awful it was until recently. (Here it is in summer.)

London is full of change with great architecture, improvements, diversity of race, talent and offerings.
If the 70s were the golden age of advertising the 2010s is the golden age of life…austerity and all.
In the 70s we had advertising we adored for instant mashed potatoes, cigarillos and piss poor lager.
Today we have dozens of potato varieties and recipes that make Smash seem like prison food, smoking is banned and we have all the real ale any man or woman could want.

And age? Harriet Walter, the actress, has self-published this brilliant book in which she quotes Cora Harvey Armstrong saying “inside every older person is a younger one wondering what the hell happened.”

The other line I recall was at 80 you felt like a 40 year old who really wasn’t very well at all.
Age is like a wide angled lens. It allows you to see things against a broader sweep of history.

Think of age as like a rather long book which leaves a literary canapé like “A Sense of an Ending” struggling somewhat although interestingly it is all about our ability to recall events in the past as they were.  And it may indeed be that we who lived through the Miners’ Strike and the Falklands Conflict see it less clearly than those who had no skin in those particular games.

But our long and rich book has reached its most optimistic passage.

Quality brands are burying inferior offerings. Medicine continues to win (no more polio in India – in my lifetime – amazing). We get cleaner streets and better designed homes. We are beginning to use technological developments intelligently.  And we are questioning everything.


Are windmills the answer to cheap energy – almost certainly not.
Are the Mormons going to rule the USA – excuse me?
Can money buy you anything – try telling that to Chelsea FC.
Will Facebook change our lives – is it still going that strong…well is it?

And when it comes to age Engelbert Humperdinck has the answer…Euro Vision Champion for Britain? We shall see but at least he could actually sing when I last checked his pulse.

I had lunch with Richard French the other day and like good claret he’s improving too.
Let’s hope Engebert is too come the end of May. This was taken a few days ago – he’s 76 and I want to know what he’s on because I want some too.

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