My mother has recently started thinking about ageing. She tells me she would rather be dead than old. It’s a fair point. Having just written a book about ageing I know there aren’t many upsides. One is that the hair on your legs grows at a much slower rate. This is probably not much comfort if you’re a bloke. It also does not make up for no teeth, wrinkles, memory loss and a whole host of other irritating side-effects of age. What’s the point in having sleek legs if your face looks like W.H. Auden’s with a hangover?
I do not fear for my mother. She has always ignored the inevitable and will continue to do exactly as she always has done; that is live life as energetically and eccentrically as possible, until she is either arrested or immobile or possibly both. She is a great example.
Last night I saw another woman who has inspired me and made me less fearful of ageing. Rupert and I took the girls to see Marianne Faithfull in Beziers. She was absolutely brilliant. I am not a big concert-goer. I have been to about two in my life; David Bowie and Bananarama. I was reluctant to go, preferring to be tucked up in bed at 10pm, not singing along to rock songs.
But I am thrilled that we went. The girls loved it. Olivia rather sweetly kept waving at Marianne who sadly failed to spot her. She also didn’t hear Rupert’s response when she said “I hope you can understand me, I can’t speak French.” “Say it in broken English,” he suggested.
I had goose-bumps listening to her sing, thinking about her life and what a woman she must be. She really did “drive through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair” unlike her unfortunate heroine Lucy Jordan.
Marianne Faithfull is sixty-one, almost the same age as my mother. She has lived through drug addiction, Mick Jagger and breast cancer. She has an incredible presence. I felt I was looking at an an icon. There were times when she had to reach for her glasses to read the lyrics. She often took a sip from a mug of tea while the guitarist played a riff. She wasn’t prancing around the stage pretending to be sixteen. But she was having a great time, and so were we.
My point is this. Being over sixty is no excuse to stop doing what you love. My mother knows this and so do I, thanks to her and Marianne.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007