Keep calm dear you’re only 60

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.

One birthday balloon and plenty of cards already!

Ten years ago, on my 50th, I had great ambitions and dreams to attain by the time I was 60, among which included:-

  1. 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;
  2. I would be able to work part-time, no such luck, see 1 above; and
  3. 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.

Birthday flowers from my dearest Pa

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.  🙂


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  2. Now I can see why this post is popular. Well deserved. DO do do – put the a link with the top picture on your sidebar. Out loud and proud. Think of new readers, just got here, wondering about your blog title … Erratic readers like me, suddenly realising too late, that your blog title has changed for The Reason … And your loyal readers, who might like to read this again, and again, going forward …

    Have I convinced you yet, or shall I just go away and be quiet now?
    Adding you to my blogroll!


    • Thank you, thank you, your comments have made me smile and give thought to the blog. I have now put the top posts on the side bar and will work out how to place the birthday post at the top. Your comments are really welcome, and please give me an invite to google+. 🙂 🙂


      • (leave me a Not For Publishing comment, with the email address you want to use. Then check your email, and make sure you are logged in at the right address. c u there soon …)


  3. Enjoyed your post Ronnie. It bought back a good few memories as I am only a couple of years behind you. I hope that the next decade treats you kindly xxx


  4. Happy Beyond 60 – since I managed to miss your actual birthday altogether. Hope you had a lovely birthday, despite it being such a milestone. I recognise a lot of what you say re financial future etc, I certainly never imagined being in the position I am in, I just assumed I would be comfortably off and able to look after all my nearest and dearest. Instead we are looking after each other, but there again at least there is an “each other”. I think one of the big things I have learnt over the past very challenging ten years, is that people, relationships, matter far more than any material stuff, assuming you can cover the basics of a roof and something to eat. It seems you have that covered, so I wish you all joy for the next decade. I hope it brings good surprises and that whatever happens you continue to be able to face it alongside people you love and who love you.


  5. Belated Birthday greetings, hope you had a wonderful day ! Didn’t you know, 60 is the new 40 ! Its amazing what you can do once you reach a certain age, having taught for years at night school without any qualifications, at the grand old age of 60 I got my teaching certificate and then last year, when I was 67 I went and taught woodcarving in Africa for a month !! You never know what opportunities are round the corner, I believe in grabbing them with both hands !


  6. Happy birthday Ronnie. I enjoyed your look back and all the memories you wrote about. I am hoping just to remember when I hit 60. It is wonderful you have kids and grand kids to share your retirement with, when you finally get to that stage of life. Many happy and prosperous years ahead. And I hope a frog enters your garden and turns into a prince. Fairytale dreams can come true.


  7. Happy (belated) birthday and thank you for this nostalgic post which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading. I’m a bit behind you age-wise but had to smile at your dad sending you to secretarial school rather than art college. Mine was the same and I finally made it to Central St Martins in my late 30s. It was the age when daughters were expected to be nurses, teachers or secretaries – at least until they got married! My two sisters and I fulfilled each category between us. I hope that we’ve now come a long way from those stereotypical ideas and there is so much more choice available, even in our maturity. I truly hope that your days just get better and better!


    • We certainly have come a long way. Both my daughters went to University. One is a scientist with a PhD and the other is a high flier with a string of degrees. I am so proud of them and happy in the knowledge they did this because they wanted to and were not pushed. I am certainly not a mother who is attaining her dreams through her children. A lot of life really has changed for the better.


  8. Happy Birthday! I often look back in the same way you do and am amazed at how things have changed. And like you, I always imagined that I’d be working at least only part time, if not retired by 60, but it looks like I will continue on at full time for years to come.


    • It’s a tough world isn’t it, I will continue to buy my weekly lottery ticket with the hope that I will be able to retire, or at least work part time soon. Thank you for the birthday wishes.


  9. Hello and a very happy 60th. Lots of memories of starting working life in the 60’s, my wages were £5 a week and never used first names for our bosses. I’m 66, still working through choice as many are. Enjoy your decade and don’t view 70 as beyond the pale – are you going to change the title of your blog now. I enjoy reading and seeing pics of your garden.


  10. Happy Birthday – I loved your trip down memory lane. I do hope that life will be kind over the next 10 years and you will be able to enjoy retirement without too much financial worry


  11. Happy birthday! I think so many of us are still working, way beyond 60, that it will become unusual to retire, rather than the other way round.

    My first salary, in 1968 was exactly double yours, at £1280 but then, I was a man and a university graduate. It was still legal, I think, to pay women less than men for doing the same job, and fewer people went to uni, so graduates were paid disproportionately more. I don’t think Germaine Greer had quite finished The Female Eunuch – but I’m hazy on that.

    Having sped through life to a not too creaky 67, I can tell you that in many respects, the over 60s decade is one of life’s best. One begins to take a more reflective view and that, I’m told, can result in greater wisdom. (Still waiting for that to happen, in my case.)

    Give you joy for the beginning of your 60s!!!


  12. You know the hardest thing about being 60? References to the elderly and then reading on that they are 60! Whoever’s writing that must have a warped view of old! Enjoy being however old you are.


  13. This has brought back so many memories.I started working for a bank in 1970.My first manager did not mind us wearing mini skirts but would not let us wear trousers!

    Mary x


    • Strange that, we could wear really short skirts but showing a bit of chest was a no no. These days young women would stand up for themselves, then we just did as we were told, until Germaine Greer came along!


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