It's still spring in my heart

5th November 2004 at 00:00

* David Lean's film Ryan's Daughter, Robert Mitchum plays a village schoolteacher who has visited Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising, but is unable to tell the thirsty locals anything about what had happened during the Insurgence. One of the villagers makes the dismissive comment: "It's working with children - makes a man childlike."

Nobody, I suppose, likes to admit to the passing of time, but for those of us who work with young people, there is perhaps the extra opportunity, or even pressure, to "stay younger for longer", using the excuse that we need to keep in touch with our increasingly younger charges.

Sadly, this leads to all sorts of ill-advised adventures in fashion and lifestyle, and there is a constant need for self-awareness lest we appear ridiculous. Alternatively, a teenage son will perform much the same sort of function.

My son would not permit me to leave the house unfortunately dressed, or take part in any activity that would cause undue embarrassment to the family on account of my advancing years. He is very supportive, tolerates my footballing and running activities without so much as a snort of derision, and has even started to share some of my prehistoric musical tastes.

Occasionally, however, he reminds me that I should be growing older gracefully - but sometimes it's not easy. The problem is that what my body is telling me chronologically doesn't always sit well with what my mind is telling me aspirationally, and when the two get mixed up, tears are sure to follow.

Last week I sat in the car, quite smugly listening to my state of the art iPod - albeit to music of a previous generation. I was also reading the newspaper (multitasking for the over-50s? - Ed). I know from the demographics that most readers will recognise that deciphering the abysmally small print in today's "compact" journals will require the use of "reading glasses". These in turn, at least in my case, need to be attached to a cord around my neck so that I don't lose them in the frenetic "on-off" decisions my "over-40" eyes demand.

Inevitably, in the struggle to disconnect myself from both iPod and glasses, the cord of the earplugs became entangled with the cord of the glasses and I writhed about in the driver's seat like a demented and overacting extra in a giant spider horror movie.

It was a deflating moment - but not half as revelationary as the one that came later when I attached my iPod to the computer and discovered that my son and heir had changed the title on my little silver music maker to "Grumpy Old Man's iPod".

Out of the mouths . . .

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