Age is Just a Number – Right?


Under normal circumstances, I’d like to answer “Yes” to that assertion/question. Surely we’re all as young as we feel; and if, on any given day, we’re feeling kinda young…then young we are. But, when truth be spoken, when I look at all those tablets that I take to maintain my eyesight, keep my feet on the end of my legs, and stop me degenerating into a basket case, I wonder. Then, when trying to push-start a stranger’s car, I fall to the ground and gash myself on the tarmac road surface; and when I slump onto the sofa following some strenuous pottering about with some seedlings in the garden; and when I stop regarding my poor old todger without rose-tinted glasses on, I begin to wonder. If I’m honest with myself, I am not the man I used to be. But then, recently, I discovered this book in a bottom drawer…

It is a collection of short stories, written in the 1960’s, by a brilliant science-fiction author, who was later to write the classic sci-fi novel ‘Ringworld‘. I bought it in the late 70’s aged 23. At the time I devoured it’s fabulous stories and snappy prose. I became an overnight Larry Niven fan, and read everything of his I could get my hands on. So, recently, forty years after reading it for the first time, I picked it up and began to read. Guess what: suddenly the decades fell away. I was 23 again – and I came to realise what age being a number really means. Our bodies may fail us miserably, but our souls don’t change. We may acquire knowledge, and probably forget a lot too; but the basic us; the indefinable something that makes us all individuals, remains unchanged – unspoiled. Thank you Larry Niven (even if your later books were all lazily-written with characters who spoke in the same voice, and whom you never bothered  to introduce before (or after) they spoke, so that your reader wondered who was saying what to whom, and in the end couldn’t give a shit – I’m thinking ‘Integral Trees’ here) you made me feel young again – which is what I’ve been all along, but just didn’t realise. Who needs a perfect cock anyway? Now which motorcycle shall I go buy myself? Gotta be a Yamaha, obviously.

 

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