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Friday 17th October 08

“IT’S THE GREATEST PLEASURE OF OLD AGE”, SAYS DIANA ATHILL

 

 

"I have rarely spent much time fretting about the future.  I am 90: having thought a great deal about dying in the past in order to get used to it, I now try and avoid it.  As one gets more incapacitated, thinking about death  becomes too frightening.  What I do now more than I used to is enjoy treats as much as I can – looking at pictures, being with friends, sitting gardens; I’m fairly easily pleased.

A lot of people place too much on possession.  That’s a terrible thing.  I was brought up to believe that it was not important, wrong even, to fuss too much about possession.  I never felt I needed a great deal – I never wanted or owned a house.  I could never afford it and that didn’t bother me.  There was a luxury in not thinking about money.  It’s a question of what makes me happy, which was a job and friends I loved.

It’s true that things have to be good if you’re going to be happy, though.  It’s slightly a matter of genes – for me, it is fairly easy.  Some people are born anxious.  I also read an enormous amount – perhaps that’s a strategy for avoiding anxieties.

Discovering that I could write helped.  If something really bad happens, the best way to face it is to face it completely;  to examine it, get to the bottom of it, then you can wrap it up and put it away.

I suppose I rate contentment more than I have done previously.  I’m not so busy worrying about other things, which is a relief.  I greatly appreciated being a sexual being, but getting out of it finally left room for other things.  I spent the day with a man just recently and we had a happy time full of laughter, and not an atom of sex in it – that was a lovely thing.  I spent an awfully long time thinking about sex as a younger woman.

I have just come back from the most wonderful week in the most northerly part of Scotland.  It was so glorious because I was, for the whole time, in the moment.  Everything went so well – I was just “there”.  At one point, I was in a boat, with a man standing behind me.  He said: “There is no place in the world I’d rather be.”  I said: “I was thinking exactly the same thing.”


I think I missed out on the rest of the article, which is irritating as I really identified with what Ms Athill says, in the most part.  I haven’t reached her detachment about sex yet – indeed I have yet to reach her age - and in some ways I hope I never do, as I truly think sex helps the world go round!  There is nothing quite like it and as a means of communication with another human, it takes some beating.  Maybe should I reach the glorious age of 90, in another 30 years time, I will feel differently;  who knows?  I’ll tell you when I get there!

 

I feel very strongly that to be the ‘in the moment’ is vitally important to everyone, not just actors.  We have to try and savour what we do from minute to minute and squeeze the most enjoyment out of life.  We cannot enjoy every moment that comes but to be aware of self and the world around you at all times, can be strived for and achieved.  If you shut yourself away for too long, your senses atrophy and you become quite numb, staring at life and not participating in it.

 

That said, I am becoming more involved with the Sheltered Schemes and local council involvement with them.  You have to go where your interest takes you, I guess, but where that takes me, I’m not sure yet.  I may yet offer myself as a nominee for one of the Cambridge Federation [of Tenants, Leaseholders & Residents] Management Committee places, coming up in November – more in our next exciting episode!

 

I also spend a great deal of time reading and love exploring the reaches of another human’s mind.  My delight in finding a new and natural storyteller cannot be fully expressed in words but it is a wonderful thing.  Some writers have good stories and glorious ideas but couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper bag; it doesn’t ‘live’.  You must write as you speak and be coherent as you do it, otherwise no matter how fine a tale you want to tell, it will be like trying to eat very dry biscuits.

 

I adore unique people like the amazing Stephen Fry – do visit his site if you haven’t already http://www.stephenfry.com - Billy Connolly, Alan Davies, David Attenborough, Nadia Sawalha, Sylvie Guilliam, Robbie Coltrane – the list is a long one fortunately, as there are many more and yes, I count James Marsters among them.  We are blessed with these truly individual people, who stand picked out RED in a dark grey world.

 

My favourite way of being totally me is going to sci-fi conventions or events like Collectormania and Comic Con to see the many and varied guests – usually to see James - but in the case of Collectormania, it is just over two hours bus ride from where I live and well worth a day there at least.  In any event, at any event, I can wear what I like, paint my face and wear my tattoos with pride.  I don’t have to speak to or be with anyone I don’t like and if I’m lucky, some of my sweet girlfriends will be there too.  So that’s jam on it!

I have always enjoyed interacting with like-minded people and remember with great affection the one convention I spent as a steward [before my arthritis became too bad to offer my services again].  I only wish I could do it again.

 

 

Whatever the future holds, I hope I will face it with vigour and courage and arrive at the peace Ms Athill has attained.