Auntie Ag & Uncle Ony

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I am 65, a university professor and have fallen in love with a student of mine who is 21, beautiful and charming. I think if I were a man, and he a woman it would be easier, but it is the other way round. I am trying my best to teach him responsibly because he has finals coming up, but when he asks me about the Dream of the Rood all I can do is imagine him naked and me, 21 and smooth skinned again and falling into bed with him in a college room.

Edwina, Oxford.

Uncle Ony: Oh how disgusting ... Of course the situation would be easier it the sexes were reversed, but it is a fact of life that in sexual terms women are valued for their beauty and reproductive faculties which decline with age, and men for their "hunter gathering" and economic viability which increase. Your delusions are clearly a product of denial penis- envy. I suggest you seek a course of Freudian counselling without delay.

Auntie Ag: Darling, don't take a blind bit of notice of Ony. The same thing happened to him three years ago when he fell for one of his 21- year-old students called Babette. He made a complete fool of himself hanging around outside her hall of residence, and asking her to Tunbridge Wells for the weekend until she complained to the college authorities she was being harassed by a dirty old man and he had to take a year's sabbatical to Loughborough. You, on the other hand, are being an absolute saint, darling. How on earth is one supposed to deal with the cauchemar of ageing, let alone teaching the intricacies of old English verse to youths without one's imagination to retreat to? Are you doing Beowulf at all, darling? Maybe you could get him to act bits out as an aide memoir'?

My 85-year-old mother has three apple trees in her back garden and uses the apples to make cider. I am not worried about her drinking habits, as she takes a whole year to drink the three barrels. What bothers me is that she will insist on climbing up the trees to pick the apples at the top which will not come down by shaking.

I am trying to encourage her to break the habit of a lifetime but, although I am a retired headmaster, she still dominates me. I can't tell her anything.

John, Kent

Uncle Ony: This is not about the danger of falling, John, but power struggles. By climbing the trees your mother is asserting her freedom, her control over you, and forcing you to meet her need for attention. At the "committee table" of goddesses which is your mother's psyche, Artemis (huntress) and Aphrodite (inspiring love and attention) are stifling Hera (mother). Remember as a child, John, how you used the same devices to assert your independence and elicit your mother's attention. Only by climbing those upper branches yourself will you reawaken the "Hera" in your mother and resolve this unhappy scenario.

Auntie Ag: Oh don't be ridiculous, Ony. The last thing one wants is two retired people swinging through the upper branches of the apple trees of Kent, trying to reawaken imaginary goddesses. What could make a more thoughtful 86th birthday gift, John, than a gadget for loosening the apples from the upper branches without risk to life or limb? If you look through Yellow Pages you will find a number of garden or farming implement shops which will be happy to oblige. But if she still wants to climb the trees, let her. Anyone who reaches 85 knows about survival and should be allowed to take whatever risks they feel necessary to make life thrilling enough to continue with. Let her get on with it (perhaps discreetly sticking a mattress or two underneath) and thank your lucky stars she didn't go for bungee jumping.

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