LORD PARKINSON, 60: (Ha, ha, ha.) Game, set and match to you. It's not a subject to which I've ever given a second thought. Now, would you mind . . ?

DEREK JAMESON, 62, broadcaster: Men of a certain age wonder if they can still go out and get their oats to reassure themselves of their manhood. I've been married three times so maybe you could say I've had a succession of crises.

JAMES MILLS, 66, retired businessman: It's an invention, an excuse for behaving like a damn fool. I certainly never had one. I had a family to look after and a business to run and I didn't have time.

FIONA PITT-KETHLEY, 37, poet: Senility can begin very young - I have a friend who's 30 and who always wants to play bingo. There are very few things anyone is ever too old for - the trouble is rushing at it. The middle-aged man with the younger girl should say to himself 'Well, she's not doing it for my looks, it must be for my money.'

PHIL REDMOND, 43, chairman, Mersey TV: When your waistline exceeds your inside leg and the hairs on your chest outnumber those on your head, between the ages of about 28 and 38 - you've been grown-up for about 10 years and you wonder what to do next. I had one when I gave up my job as a quantity surveyor and switched to being a writer and again at 33 when I went into independent production.

FAITH BROWN, 48, comedienne: On my 40th birthday I thought I was dead. But you get over it. Now I just have more laughter lines and use more Polyfilla.

TAMARA BLAKE, 36, beautician: If you mean this thing of suddenly acting stupidly in your forties then it's definitely men rather than women. Once transformation into an old camel begins you should try to accept it.

MAVIS NICHOLSON, 61, TV journalist and writer: Why mid-life? There are crises right through. For me, it wasn't my career, but when my children left. It's like a very cold wind blowing round you.

BRENDAN CLUSKY, 35, pub manager: You can spot the ones having a mid- life crisis because they don't want to go home in the evening and face up to things, any excuse and they'll stay in the pub. I think men have it when they realise they're closer to the end than the beginning.

LORD LICHFIELD, 53: What is the plural of a crisis?

BILL HULSON, 60, marriage bureau director: There are two distinct types. When a man hits 40 he will ask: is my career getting anywhere? At 50-something, the financial and career burdens are easing and the bimbo-temptation comes into play. A lot of men come to see us and say: 'I want an active woman no older than 35.' For women, it's very depressing going back to work at 40 after having children, and finding they are at the bottom of the pile. Women of 50 are usually the ones who get left. They come to us looking for more than just a partner - a new life after children.

FREDERICK LAWTON, 80, former Lord Justice of Appeal: I was never conscious of a mid-life crisis, either in myself or among my friends. If it exists at all, then it happens to people in their mid-forties when they start to wonder if life is going their way.

(Photograph omitted)

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