Everyone passing threescore and ten becomes more interested in the past. What twenty-year-old would look back? At that age, the world is one’s oyster and life is there to be grabbed with both hands and shaken like a rag doll.
With the passing years, things change, memories weaken, joints stiffen, arteries clog, each breath exchanges less oxygen than the breath before and despatches become more important than hatches or matches.
The problem with old age is that you run out of friends. Grab every opportunity, I say, to relive old memories, laugh at former errors and drink to absent friends with current ones. Today, we have silent still photos to prod our minds and pique the memory. We can recall ‘with advantage’ in a way that may well be denied tomorrow’s children with their videos and audio.
We all have particular associations which will last with us; school, university, regiment, sports club, etc. Before Facebook wiped the earth with its American power and rich functionality, Friends Reunited proved to be a popular platform for reminiscence. We can find so many friends on the Internet but there’s no substitute from meeting up in person.
I have friends from my youth with whom I played rugby or cricket. On golden afternoons or muddy wet days, I strived with every sinew to win each game before showering and then supping ale at a bar. It is little surprise that sport, in particular, creates a strong bond. But young men grow old too quickly. The thread of life by which we all hang over the jaws of death becomes ever thinner, when it snaps, and we lose a friend, a part of us dies as well.
I have some special memories of rugby in France in 1975 when I joined CSF Fontainebleau. The weekly rugby magazine ‘Midi Olympique’ declared on 7th October 1974 that: ‘Le brittanique announce dans l’effectif du club de la cité de François 1er….’ Never before had I been announced at a club. It proved to be a special season which started with a 50-6, nine try-victory, against Gouaix before a small but devoted crowd in the new stand erected by the municipality. Some start. It got better. A parachutist presented the ball from an overhead aeroplane for our match against the visiting English team, Pulborough; Thursday evening training followed by a meal at the Trois Maillots; and, clearest of all, finishing in the semi-final of the third division of the French National Championship against Rives-Renage. Deep in the Macon region in front of our small but noisy band of supporters and with only a minute to go, we were denied by a penalty in the last minute.
What a team! the wild-haired Claude Verron, the slippery winger Philippe Marcenac, the doughty hooker Jacques Abadie and the giant second-row Christian Merger.
They say the problem with old age is that you run out of friends. CSF Fontainebleau will celebrate their 50th anniversary, next year and I will be going while I still have some.