Getting Older

When the TV announcer warns that the following item contains potentially distressing images – I switch channels; this increased sensitivity feels new and, while not a disorder, it’s a shift I need to be aware of – incremental disengagement; I struggle most these days in company – when I can become overstimulated or even overwhelmed; I’m too affected by other people’s moods; waste time afterwards dissecting what was said; it’s all too agitated. It was my intention to age with Buddhist calm and wisdom – not crabbit impatience.

With the passing years, human encounters become less appealing to me – more trouble than they are worth; how someone could choose to become a monk is no longer a mystery. Wisdom cautions about the loneliness of the elderly, but I feel the opposite – that solitude is my preferred default; anything to avoid the turbulence of engagement. But even as I write this, my common sense knows that it’s not true – that it denies deeper truths; we need friends; daunting as our relationships can be, they define our lives.

When I reflect on my life, as oldies do, the focus quickly narrows to a handful of people who loved me; nothing else survives time. Central to the effort of life, is the need ‘to feel ourselves beloved on the earth’ – which can only be realised through relationships. I believe that this need is universal, and that it is our most meaningful evaluation. I can claim to be ‘quite beloved’ – which I hope scrapes a pass.


A significant number of UK families will soon be unable to pay their energy bills; not an intentional decision, simply impossible: they don’t have access to an extra £700. For many, it will be their introduction to household debt; the poorest, with pre-paid meters, will go cold in mid-winter. It’s not an exaggeration what charities say: that this new austerity will cost lives. From the Chancellor’s half-hearted mitigation, (£200 loans) we see again the Tory party’s remoteness from actual poverty; but it’s also clear that they wildly underestimate how ‘cost of living’ impacts on voters. More than their buffoon leader—I think this is the issue which will shape the next political months.


“For months now, Scottish Government has conducted a competitive tendering exercise to determine who should be allowed to represent Scotland’s social enterprise sector. Just pause for a second to reflect on that last sentence. Whatever the outcome, this just feels wrong. A line has been crossed”. This is from the intro to Wednesday’s Scottish Community Alliance Briefings – where Angus Hardie is asking if Scottish Govt is now prescribing how the sector should represent itself.


There’s an innate tension in the conduct of our police forces: we need officers who can protect us from the bad guys – including a savage minority; but, at the same time, behave with fairness and courtesy. This Conversation piece explores the controversy around the London Met – particularly the alleged misogyny of ‘cop culture’.


On 11th March, Gabriel Boric (35), a leftist with steely resolve, will become Chile’s youngest ever president. He has named a female-majority Cabinet and this Guardian piece from Santiago, celebrates that his government will be giving the climate crisis top priority. Compared to the UK’s sleazy, faltering Tory regime – Chile’s hopeful future makes me smile.


Bamber Gascoigne has died, aged 87; hosting University Challenge for 25 years, he was an iconic TV figure for my generation. I remember his unfailing kindness and warmth to students (compared the torn-faced Jeremy Paxman). This short tribute informs that he was from a long line of military and land-owning toffs; also an exceptional philanthropist.


On Italian TV recently, Pope Francis answered questions on a variety of issues, including whether he had friends.

“Yes, I have friends who help me; they know my life like a normal guy – not that I am normal, no. I have my own abnormalities – and I like to be with my friends, sometimes to tell them my concerns, [sometimes] to listen to theirs, but really, I need friends. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t go to live in the papal apartments, because the popes who were there before were saints, but me, I’m not that much of a saint. I need human relationships, that’s why I live in this residence of Santa Marta where you find people who talk with everyone. It’s an easier life for me; I don’t feel up to the other one; I don’t have the strength and friendships give me strength. I actually need friends, they aren’t many, but they’re true friends.”