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Mind my poor bulging belly

I was discussing old age with a friend, and we suddenly realised that you don't actually feel old, even if the wrinkles, creaking joints and time spent recuperating from any exploits means you surely are.

If I was a pupil, I would consider me old. If I were my sons, I would consider myself past it. Luckily, I'm not them, so can carry on shuffling along the beach at dawn, partying at sunset, marching with the best of them - even if my drum beats to a different tune.

Except - and, as a child of the sixties, it amazes me - I find myself shocked at the way kids dress in school. There will be all hell let loose if they don't have a tie slung casually around their shoulders - but these girls are coming in wearing skimpy little trousers that barely cover their bums, with the waistbands of their knickers deliberately on show. Apart from anything else, as my mum would have told you, they will get kidney trouble going out with their vests not tucked firmly into their pants.

At least they still wear vests . . . even if they wear nothing over them.

My son is not much better, having adopted that fashionable look where his jeans are worn slung beneath his buttocks. How they stay up is beyond me - and they don't seem to prevent him skateboarding, leaping on bikes or throwing himself around on the "Tarzie" swing ropes over the local beauty spot river. One of these days, his breeks will fly off and land on a family picnic.

It's strange looking back. We thought we were the bee's knees in our tie-dyed T-shirts and patched jeans - but woe betide us if a bra strap slipped into view. And we lived in fear of the VPL. I remember an elderly neighbour squinting at my frilly bikini knickers that my mother was hanging up and saying: "My dear - what on earth are those?" And so I must be getting old, because I see those bum-cutting thongs, and want to ask: "How can anyone wear those?" And I still think it is rude to let them show above trouser waistbands.

My old ma used to like the Jenny Joseph poem, "When I am old, I shall wear purple", and I suppose things have changed in that my ancient friends and I haven't really made any concession to middle-aged fashion sense. Our only respectable clothes are kept for funerals and interviews - so are thankfully rarely worn.

But there is one positive result of the skimpy fashions, and that is that bellies - of all sizes - are now acceptable. I find it hard to believe all the statistics about obesity and the young, when they all look anorexic to me. But when they do have tummies that stick out, no one seems to care.

Even pregnant bulges are held proudly barely out. And that, in a world where middle-aged women naturally have rounded bellies, and where every magazine berates them, is extremely comforting.

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