Him Indoors: Revealed at last: the wisdom of the ancients

The nights are getting shorter but are they getting harder? Why do I look so ropey in the morning now that I'm not drinking or smoking and going to bed early? I'm being so good, why do I look so wretched? When young I looked tousled in the morning, then I looked rumpled, now I look mauled. I look ruined. What happens after lights out? Does someone come in during the night and throw a bucket of old age over me? Who is it that paints another ten years under my eyes? This vandalism is deplorable. And it's pointless because, luckily, it washes off. It still washes off. By breakfast time I'm back. I've reasserted myself. Perhaps will-power is important after all.

Growing older has long been an ambition of mine. Not everyone manages it. The gains continue to be greater than the losses. Wisdom, for one thing. Age makes you wise. Eventually it becomes clear that nothing very bad can happen to you in life if your shoes are properly polished. Experience, you see. It's the great teacher. At my age, when things are going wrong, you can spot it. And very often you can work out why (it's for the same reason they went wrong last time). This is all essential to happiness. Also the hair has settled down, that's important too. The freckles have faded, they've blended into the background. Hair, freckles, five stone weight loss. Somatically, things improve as they deteriorate.

But not always. There are signs that things are not for the best, in the best of all possible worlds. That was Leibniz's idea and, broadly speaking, he was wrong; he refuted himself by getting old and dying which made him look pretty silly. It's just too difficult to construe those pains in my hands as unambiguously positive. I don't like the absent mindedness that's gaining on me, either. And then there's the disease, war, famine and death that we hear about if we listen to the news too much. And the fact that I can't do mental arithmetic like I used to - life is hard all right. We all have to work to make the best of it.

And more dangerous to our well-being, we have to come to terms with the things that won't happen any more. I was 30 years old before I realised I couldn't really become a marine biologist any more. Now I know I will never have a boathouse (it wasn't much to ask). But then the not caring so much about things helps a good deal (another advantage of emotional incompetence).

More than that, even more, we have to lay up some sort of treasure for our old age. And not just money or assets or annuities (or nursing home fees, as the Government prefers to call them). No, we need intellectual resources to play with so that we have something to do when we are sitting on the sofa holding our stick and looking at the wall.

Music, that's what I've discovered. At last opera has revealed its use. You always thought it noisy and pointless? I can't blame you because I did so myself. But the more you get to know it the more you come to like it. That's so unlike one's normal experience with people that it takes a lot of getting used to. I can only hope there's music to last the distance.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test