Reading Miranda Sawyer today who is 44 and is feeling that half her life is over and I was inspired to discuss my own advanced age and what it means to me. I am eighty on my next birthday and am not at all sure what I should feel about this fact. Not a lot is my first impulsive answer and this is true, I really don’t think about being so old very much. Yet it is a fact. A fact that seems to impress other people far more than it does me. I am not sure how I am expected to act and today by chance the superb Joan Bakewell is reading her autobiography on the radio, here is woman who is slightly older than I am. An admirable woman too exceptional to claim as a role model but I hold her in great regard and admiration. I have had friends before who have been eighty and a few of them have been admirable people but not very much like me. I suspect that I am an aberration.

I am glad to be able to remember the war quite vividly and very possibly inaccurately. I do remember being sent off with my gas mask on a cord round my neck and being convinced that I had committed some dreadful sin to deserve such a terrible banishment. I also remember before this, alone on a train with my mum in a corridor which was packed with soldiers. I needed a wee and a soldier gave me his helmet to use as a potty and they all laughed and my mum joined in I never forgave her and privately blame this incident for my intermittent cystitis, (far more likely to be caused by far too much indiscriminate, thoroughly enjoyable, sex.)

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It seems a very long time since I wrote about Tubby the tumour, thought I had it under control didn’t I? in fact the crafty little beast was growing out of sight of the camera & when I had a scan there he was galumphing along increasing in size -though I have looked at the scan I still have no idea of dimensions. What does one compare it with? And not knowing anything about my internal organs I have no idea. My lovley oncologist was disappointed too & consoled me for keeping it at bay for longer than the initial seven-month sentence. But my objective was to stop it growing so we two could live amicably together if not forever then for a few more years – I have a good life & would rather it wasn’t terminated just yet.

My first instinctual reaction was one of disappointment. In myself, my diet, & my chats with Tubby but hey! Not the first time people have copped a deaf’un I was teaching for years!

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Nods wisely to herself.

‘Don’t work things out do you? You’ve got to fink fings frew.’

She stabs at her nut with her forefinger, then she leans on the bar looking over at me.

‘For instance: when it’s foggy what do you think?’ She pauses but doesn’t wait for me to speak. ‘I’ll tell yer what you think: delays of transport, nasty coughs, bad chests, black snot in yer hankie – am I right?’

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I have a feeling. Backed up by some evidence that a new buzz word has come about. Last Friday on a news programme, an educator (!) used this word five times in one speech about education. As in robust education, robust practises but nothing about what this meant. I am no doubt old fashioned in my understanding of the meaning of robust: a rosy cheeked peasant of stout frame comes to mind. Or a robust wine: plonk? In my old Oxford dictionary another definition is: sensible, straightforward, not given to subtleties I see. And that could figure in our education system. But six times in one speech?

I have heard it used several time since, and not about healthy people ot  strong equipment  and I am on the aural watch with ears a’twitch. Will this be the new ‘basically’?

We will see!

And why do I mind?

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I am not sure how many of my readers will have had the speculum experience. It was profound. I encountered my first friendly speculum in Newcastle in the late seventies on my first venture to a women’s conference.

Feminism had come to me after I sent for various magazines in The Guardian, Along with Spare Rib and Shrew was one called Women’s Voice and this was delivered to my door by a member of IS( International Socialist) an excellent woman brought it to me and I became part of a group which included a Communist, several Labour Party women an IMG ( International Marxist group) member and a few nonaligned characters including me and a wonderful doctor called Helena who willed specula when she very sadly died  at an absurdly early age.

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