(youth­ful)

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - David Kim­ber Re­view this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

Life’s a jour­ney, as they say in the clas­sics. Re­mem­ber when Christ­mas never came and the church ser­vice lasted for­ever?

A clever soul once ex­plained to me that a stan­dard life of (then) 75 years could be bro­ken up into seg­ments. The first 25 years take 40, the next 25 are true to form at 25, but the fi­nal 25 take a mere 10.

“So don’t waste those fi­nal years,” was his sage ad­vice. “You’re a long time dead.”

My old mate Vern is 93 and past his use-by date. “It’s a bas­tard get­ting old” is his oft-re­peated lament. His old plea­sures — fos­sick­ing in the bush like a con­tented mallee fowl, duck shoot­ing, camp­ing and fish­ing — have been se­verely re­stricted by life in a high-de­pen­dency aged-care fa­cil­ity.

One of his few re­main­ing plea­sures in­cludes tot­ter­ing out to my 97-year-old T Ford buck­board and en­joy­ing the wind in his face, or to sit and have a red wine or a beer and chuckle over the old camp­fire days.

An­other friend, Howard, is 92. Awarded a wartime Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross, he still flies a recre­ational air­craft and man­ages a com- puter and iPhone. This de­sire to stay abreast of mod­ern liv­ing keeps him well away from the grave. An ac­tive and ab­stemious life­style, plus ge­net­ics, prob­a­bly helps too.

He flew Lan­caster bombers dur­ing World War II. He would have known as much about that aero­plane as the de­signer. Howard’s like that: smart. For­mal school­ing may have ceased at age 15, but he made full use of the Univer­sity of Hard Knocks in the en­su­ing years.

As I ap­proach my mid-70s, I find my­self think­ing more about what used to be — and about what may be around life’s cor­ner. I’ve al­ways been pretty fit and still walk a great deal. My wife and I back­packed 800km on the Camino Trail through Spain a cou­ple of years ago. We weren’t the only oldies on the trail: there was 79-year-old Roberte, a French­man who’d un­der­taken the trek 11 times in mem­ory of his wife; Dave was an 80-year-old 10-pound Pom; and then there was the 87-year-old Ital­ian re­tired heart spe­cial­ist and his wife who had walked the Camino sev­eral times.

The re­al­i­sa­tion that I’m at the old fo­gey stage of life is quite daunting.

For­tu­nately, I can still round up one or three friends for the oc­ca­sional swag camp.

Re­cent rains in far north­ern South Aus­tralia have filled the bil­l­abongs and creeks, and the yab­bies will soon be out of their holes wait­ing for a cou­ple of us to pop our nets in.

A lit­tle fire, a beer or wine, some fresh bread and a bucket of yab­bies. Add some non­sense yarn­ing. What could be bet­ter?

Why is life so short?

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