The Ages of Man

Business - December 4th, 2009
Pensiero-Crop

THE VIEW FROM HERE
by Ian de Stains OBE

A year ago I wrote about becoming 60 and the Japanese way of marking that milestone. It does not seem like a year; more like the day before yesterday. Where did the twelve months go? What have I done with them? More properly, what about all the things I’d pledged to do that still remain undone? My nieces reassure me—in the cheerful way that young relatives do—that this is to be expected at my age.

At this point, the danger of ‘old fart-hood’ approaches. I recognize the signs: finding the car keys in the fridge, searching the house for the glasses I’m wearing—that sort of thing. A friend only slightly older than me tells of waking up and finding a paper clip in his pubic hair. What bothered him most was not the discovery per se, but rather not remembering who might have been, as it were, in a position to leave it there.

Alongside of this is the ‘grumpy old man syndrome.’ I hate it when otherwise attractive young women on the train drag out whole tool kits and proceed to do what they ought to have done in the privacy of their bathrooms before boarding the train—especially when, as happened to me recently, one of them spilled a nasty rhubarb-colored blusher over my suit and then blamed me for bumping into her and spoiling her make up.

I am determined not to give in. My nearest and dearest are on promise to point out when I start repeating myself and I am determined to stay ahead of the latest technologies (despite the fact that I am Luddite at heart). As I’ve said in a previous column, I’m no fan of Kindle and such devices—preferring good old-fashioned paper and ink—but I am rather taken by the idea of the so-called ‘cloud’ which they tell me will liberate us from our hard discs.

There is, of course, the physical side of things. I played rugby and cricket in school, took up fencing in drama school, ruined my tennis game by taking up squash when I arrived in Tokyo. Now? Not much. I’ve tried the fitness centers, but they’re full of pumped up bodies looking at themselves in the mirrors and making me feel like the man who gets sand kicked in his face. I thought of buying one of those bikes with thick tires that make such a satisfying sound on the pavement. But as with all such pursuits in Japan, you have to have the right kit to go with it. The helmet I can live with, but I’m afraid fluorescent spandex tights don’t turn me on, and I imagine I’d frighten the local stray cats and start the neighbors’ dogs barking. So I content myself with walking. Now, where were my shoes?

Ian de Stains is the executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

Photo credit: Pensiero