Dear Miss Sixty,

My partner wants us to go on holiday to Guernsey  this year, as we always do. I, however, would like to go somewhere different – I just don’t know where.  Where would you go? HY

Dear HY,

Good for you. Travel is nearly always good. But choosing a destination can be tricky. While there’s a lot to think about, the main consideration, in my view, should always be the temperature. I can see the temptation of sitting in the shade beside a deep blue swimming pool with a gently fizzing glass of lemonade beside you, and a copy of ‘Middlemarch’ open on your lap, but the point is that you do have to leave the swimming pool sometime. And when you do, things can go downhill very quickly. Hair plastered to head, perspiration running down nose, causing sunglasses to slide off, sarong clinging to legs, suntan lotion squidging between toes, freckles threatening to join up….It’s all best avoided.

This therefore rules out most of Europe, Africa and Asia. The United States is also extremely hot. It may be winter in Australia, but it’s currently recording the same temperature as Rome. We are left, I think, with a choice between Scandinavia and Scotland. And there are midges in Scotland.

Stockholm, HY.

 

Dear Miss Sixty,

I see that Madonna has made her contribution to peace in the Middle East by being photographed with two male dancers, one painted with a Jewish symbol, the other with a Muslim symbol. Do you think that we should all be making such gestures towards reconciliation? CC

Dear CC,

No.

 

Dear Miss Sixty,

Do you think that sixty is an age when we should start to feel, well, a bit deflated? Promise unfulfilled, hopes fading, all of that? I sometimes water my begonias and feel quite discouraged. AC.

Dear AC,

I think I understand. Begonias can be a bit discouraging.  But I’m inclined to think that, firstly, we should really be quite pleased, and grateful, to have reached the age of sixty at all. None of the Brontes did, or Jane Austen. Or Shakespeare. Now, I know that’s a bit of a two-edged consolation. They, after all, had already created magnificent masterpieces, and died, whilst still younger than us.

But the answer to your question, I suspect, is that it all depends. If you want to perform on the parallel bars at the Commonwealth Games, or be in the Cuba women’s volleyball team, or be feted as an infant terrible, then basically your moment has passed. There’s no wrapping that up. And you’re way too old to die young.

On the other hand, there are all sorts of ambitions that can mature slowly, with us.  Margaret Simey didn’t enter public life until her late fifties. Penelope Fitzgerald wrote her first novel at sixty, and Mary Wesley at seventy. Doris Lessing received the Nobel Prize for literature at the age of eighty eight. Diane Athill won the Costa Award for her memoir ‘Somewhere Towards the End’ at the age of 91. It just goes to show.

(I’d refer to my own recent, very small foray into the publishing world, but modesty, of course, forbids.)

The point is that, in general, we in the West are not only living longer, but ageing better than ever before. We live in a stable, affluent society which is not at war. We live in an era of inoculation and antiseptic.  We may not always manage to feel it, but we are extraordinarily lucky.

So, AC, whilst I do sympathise with your sense of deflation, it could be that you need to conduct a glass-half-empty, glass-half-full sort of audit, and then perhaps sit down and decide what you’re going to do with the life and potential you have left….Begonias, I venture, may not be quite enough….

Dear Miss Sixty,

Are people having more sex these days? –Anxious.

Dear Anxious,

No.

Dear Miss Sixty,

There were some wonderful products in the 60’s. I recall Birds Eye Frozen Cod Balls in Batter, Goblin hamburgers in gravy, and Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney Pies, topped off with a lovely, damp flaky pastry. There were Vesta instant curries, and a particularly sweet Ski strawberry yogurt which has since vanished.  Where are they now? Greta H 

Dear Greta H,

I know. I miss them too. Well, I miss Goblin hamburgers in gravy. They were a perfect 60’s meal, served with Smash instant potato and perhaps a tin of garden peas in sweetened salted water. With pink Angel Delight to follow.

 

Miss Sixty replies in brief:

Agnes D – No, this is not a good idea.

JK – I have covered this topic previously. Please refer back.

LL –  I will deal with this in depth in a future post.