I’ M nudging 70, which is better than the alternative, but it is a bit of a burden. Twenty years ago a younger man, whose surname was Walker — actually he was a polo player from the country, so he was also a rider — told me I had a better chance of being shot by a terrorist than getting married again past the age of 50. (He must have read it somewhere; it’s one of those ‘‘ statistics’’ people like to quote.) Well, I did, and still am.
Despite that success my daughters, who are nearing their 40s, are trying their utmost to control me. I am apparently too old to muck around. ‘‘ Why do your wear orange shoes?’’ one of them asked. I stared back at the inquisitor and told her in no uncertain terms that I am deeply devoted to these shoes. They make me feel young and light on my feet, so much so that I’m also thinking of getting a pair of blue brothel-creepers. The riot of colour should be enough to encourage others to take on the fashion and dance willy-nilly down the street, feeling like a teenager.
In any case, Mrs Fortysomething obviously did not know that orange is the in colour this season. Just ask Carla Zampatti, whose shop windows are ablaze with orange. She knows her onions, and citrus, when it comes to this kind of thing.
I heard a sigh. The next question was about my hair. According to one or both of my daughters — my son is newly married and more interested in his lovely wife to worry about how disgracefully I am ageing — my hair is too bouncy. ‘‘ I was born with bouncy hair,’’ I parried, ‘‘ and I can’t help my lot.’’ One or other of the daughters countered with: ‘‘ Yes, but it is too colourful, very red.’’ Grey wisps sprang to mind and I almost threw a wobbly. I managed to keep control, however, vowing to beat them at their own game, if I have to die doing so.
Which reminds me that there are two things in this world I shall never take up. Bridge is one — I’m really not one to sit around a table with a number of dead keen women who still have their marbles. And forget golf. I’d mess things up, as did one of my son’s best friends. The friend was best man at my son’s wedding, as it happens, and he tends to get mixed up and has done since he was 10.
Once he was playing golf with a couple of his old friends and they stopped to buy a beer. The three of them balanced the tins on my son’s friend’s golf bag, a wind sprang up and the ales went flying — all over the golf bag, and what a bloody mess that was. Swearing ensued from the best man while his mates lay on the lawn and screamed with laughter. Well, that was enough for me; imagine making even a bigger fool of myself than usual.
But back to marriage, the second one. I met the man-to-be at a mutual friend’s house — he was a widower, I a spare part. We were standing on a balcony looking at Sydney Harbour and he told me fishing stories that made me immediately feel a story coming on for The Weekend Australian Magazine. There was no way I was going to get his phone number and find out more; how embarrassing would that be. So I took myself off to the fish market and became involved with fishermen who — years ago — were a bit too close to some unsavoury types. Then I gave up.
It didn’t matter. In the meantime, the man and I got talking and walking and one thing led to another, despite the fact that like many men he had traces of chauvinism.
One of his employees said she had to rush home to put on a load of washing. ‘‘ You mean you do your own washing?’’ he exclaimed. ‘‘ Well, what do you do about dirty clothes?’’ she asked. ‘‘ I put them in the bin and they appear a few days later in the wardrobe, all cleaned and ironed,’’ he replied.
I exploded, as is my wont, and now he uses the dry cleaner. I don’t mind ironing too much, although it is a bloody bore and sometimes a chore. Occasionally, I wander off and the iron sizzles through the board, which doesn’t make me popular, although I always blame one of the dogs as they can’t speak.
When I told my daughters this story they looked at me in a strange way. I could see what they were thinking: ‘‘ Get her into an old people’s home before she sets the house on fire,’’ was writ large on their faces.
Well, I’m not ready to go. As long as I have my bouncy hair — which gets in my eyes so that I get on the wrong train at the railway station — and the brightly coloured shoes that let me dance my way, I’ll behave just as I wish.