Forget the aches and pains, the extra nose and ear hairs, the short-term memory loss and the out of fashion, curmudgeonly railing against perceived injustices, and shouting at the TV and expecting a response, there is one sure-fire way to denote that you are getting old.
I remember a time when going somewhere in the car meant getting to your destination as quickly as possible. Never contemplate even the slightest deviation from the shortest route known to man. If the trip was long enough to warrant a food stop, it had to be McDonald’s because they were quick, the coffee reputedly good and the bathrooms clean – in, out and on the road again in record time. Needless to say, speed was of the essence and speeding fines were just a necessary consequence.
So, this was the scenario in the early years for many a sojourn particularly between Wollongong and Orange. Pile us and our first dog, Licorice, into the Cortina (!), Celica etc and endeavour to reach our target in under four hours. Fast forward to the present and it was decided that we would drive over to the Cygnet markets and then come back via Kingston – a round trip of a couple of hours. We were to include Ruby because we have a great complex about leaving her on her own at home, (could we stand the recriminations on our return?).
The Cygnet markets were a little less impressive than normal, but we bought some local seedlings for the vegetable garden and it was a chance for Ruby to sniff, strut and preen around the stalls. Back in the car for the picturesque wander through orchards, vineyards, villages and farmland through the Huon Valley. And here comes the first hint of pensioner-type behaviour – a six kilometre detour to a renowned bakery at Ranelagh on the recommendation of a Bruny friend. This would never have been contemplated back in the Celica days. It turned out to be a pleasant distraction that afforded morning tea in the garden with Ruby under the table waiting for her portion of my lemon semolina cake.
Back on the road up through the valley taking in glimpses of the Huon River and beautiful surrounding farmscapes, we found ourselves on a road with 80 km speed limit. Horror of horrors, I wasn’t keeping to the speed limit, but was actually not even reaching it! I was intent on soaking in the scenery and enjoying the rather pedestrian pace. However, I was aware of four or five cars lining up behind me, and much to my absolute amazement, I pulled off the road to allow them to pass before continuing on our merry way. If that’s not a sign of getting old, I’ll take my old man’s driving hat off and throw it away. Jan’s only comment was, ‘Next time we should pack a thermos of tea and stop for a picnic, and you can really buy a hat to wear when dawdling through the country’.
Sadly, more pointers occurred on the way home. Mindless detours, scoping out where the next public conveniences might be and stops at places of interest and local lookouts. The final indignity was having to relinquish the driving duties because of aching shoulders and the very real need for a wee nap. And did our faithful dog enjoy her little outing? We’re not sure as a lot of the trip was spent harrumphing (we suspect,) on the back seat.
Now, with that 70th birthday imminent, I have to say, it ain’t all bad. No more pressure of work, trying to keep up with technology, a timetable to adhere to, but replaced with time to sit and contemplate, read and do as little or as much as you feel like – and in your own sweet time. Where did I put that thermos?