Today, 28 July 2011, I am 60. It is a birthday I have not been looking forward to.
Despite countless people telling me “It’s only a number” and “You are as young as you feel”, I can’t escape the fact that it is a milestone in anyone’s life. It’s only in recent times that my birthday would not coincide with retirement. Which brings me to my real issue with reaching 60.
Ten years ago, on my 50th, I had great ambitions and dreams to attain by the time I was 60, among which included:-
- My debts and my mortgage would have been paid off, that was on the assumption of regular payrises, which never happened and a 4-year pay freeze put a final nail in that coffin;
- I would be able to work part-time, no such luck, see 1 above; and
- With a little bit of luck I may have been whisked off by a Knight in shining armour and be living the lifestyle of a “Lady wot lunches”, be tanned and rested, and have my nails and hair done regularly. Ok, that was just a hopeful dream.
As I write this, the sensible me is saying “No one knows what the future holds, live for the moment, make the most of each day”. Carpe Diem. It doesn’t stop the non-sensible me from worrying about my future. I am well aware we never know what is around the corner, but as sure as eggs is eggs, I will not be working at 70 – I sincerely hope not anyway – and with only a state pension and a very meagre private pension to live on, I don’t relish my financial future. However, I know I will manage, people do and it’s family and friends that are important.
Good things have happened in the last 10 years, I have gained two lovely son-in-laws, two beautiful grandchildren, and my parents are still alive and well. Also, despite the recession and plethora of redundancies the last few years, I still have a job and was even promoted recently.
From sixteen to sixty in a blink of an eye
I thought it would be fun, at this stage, to look back at what life was like when I was 16 in July 1967.
I was unlucky enough to be in the age group when the new CSE exams were introduced and as it was still at the experimental stage, we were all marked dismally low. A grade 1 was deemed to be equivalent to an ‘O’ level. I left school a week before my 16th birthday with one ‘O’ level in Art. Nothing to be proud of really and my biggest regret in life was not going on to college and possibly university. Sadly, my parents didn’t set great store on further education for me, and I can still hear my Mum saying “All you need is a husband and a family” as though that was the be all and end all of everything. I wanted to go to Art School but my Pa vetoed this, giving me the choice of secretarial college or a good job.
So I got a job with Westminster Bank. The branch was in The Strand, London, opposite the Royal Courts of Justice. Working in London in the late 60’s was a great time. It was Swinging London.
I dyed all my school shirts bright orange and lime green, (psychedelic being the colour of the day) and set off for my new job at the grand salary of £640 p.a. I also had luncheon vouchers of 1 shilling a day and you could get a decent sandwich for that. No such places as Pret, Starbucks or Costa then. Once a month, after saving up luncheon vouchers, we went to an Italian restaurant in Villiers Street where I always ordered escalope of veal and spaghetti for 6/4d (six shillings and fourpence). Funny how memories come flooding back, I remember that my monthly train fare from Sidcup in Kent to Charing Cross was £3/19/6p (Three pounds, nineteen shillings and sixpence).
At lunchtime I used to go with friends to the BBC Paris Studios in Lower Regent Street, where weekly radio programes were recorded with BBC DJs and pop groups in front of live audiences. I recall going to the lauch party of The Archies “Sugar Sugar” in a record studio in St Martin’s Lane. We drank whiskey out of tea cups, I can’t remember how I got home!
Mobile phones, CDs, iPods, lap tops, note pads, Kindles, iPads and even microwaves were a thing of the future in 1967. I often look at people in amazement these days who can’t even shop without having to talk to people on the phone. It’s great to talk but everything now is instant and I wonder if waiting to find a phone box to make a call, or waiting for the oven to heat up before we can have hot food would be good for us again. It might slow life down a bit.
Standards at work have also changed. My first day the Bank Manager sat behind his large desk looking very much like Captain Mainwaring, and told me “There are three things that you must never discuss with work colleagues, sex, religion and politics. If you stick to that rule you will upset no one”. Gosh, that doesn’t happen any more. As for what you wear at work; I had a coat dress, very fashionable at the time, and was pulled to one side and told to wear something under it as I was showing off some of my chest! When I think of what young women wear now, and the parts of their body they show off, the woman who told me this must be turning in her grave.
Ah, such memories and such a change in lifestyle in 44 years. I wonder what my daughters will be able to write about when they get to 60. If 60 is the new 40 what will it be when they reach that milestone?
Happy Birthday to me. 🙂