Dispatches From The North

Tania Kindersley lives in the North East of Scotland with two amiable lab collie crosses and one very grumpy Gloucester Old Spot pig. She co-wrote Backwards In High Heels: The Impossible Art of Being Female, with Sarah Vine.

In which I contemplate age.

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Somewhere along the line, I lost a whole day. I spent all morning convinced it was Tuesday. Then, in a bizarre fast-forward, I thought for half an hour it was Thursday. Finally, I figured out what day of the week it was.

I cannot work out if this is age. Is it like the awful, clichéd middle-aged thing of having to squint and hold a newspaper at arm’s length in order to read the small print? Is the fact that I endlessly wander into rooms and then have to stand stock still, trying to remember what I went in there for, just something that happens as one motors towards fifity? Is my inability to recall which day I am on simply something I have to factor in, at this stage of life?

Tania-Jan15-Dog

The curious thing is that in other ways, my brain works pretty well. I exercise it a lot, as one is instructed, not by doing crosswords or playing chess but by constantly filling it with new information. When I am working my horse, my concentration is intense. Riding is not just a physical activity, but a cerebral one too. One has to think of everything from technique to the psychology of a flight animal. Writing itself is a never-ending curve of learning. There is no golden moment where one may think: I’ve got it. The scales and arpeggios must be done every day, to keep the sentences flowing. It’s the kind of job that can never be taken for granted. Striving is locked in; the mountaintop will never quite be reached, but only glimpsed.

I don’t really mind age, although these idiot forgettings do make me think of it. I shall soon be forty-eight, which is not all that old. I tell myself endlessly that age, especially when it comes to females, is a human construct. Fifty is not some magic, past-it number. There is something comforting and galvanising about having built up a bank of life experience, on which one may draw. On the other hand, I do make that terrible oofing noise now when I get up from the sofa. There are mysterious twinges in the joints. But I do not feel as if I am approaching fifty, whatever that is supposed to mean.

There is a nasty school of thought which says that women become invisible when they hit a certain number. I have no experience of this, perhaps because I talk a lot, and quite loudly, when I get excited, and also have a habit of wearing eccentric hats, which means visibility is a given. At the Golden Globes recently, Emma Thompson made headlines by taking her shoes off on stage. She did not seem invisible to me, but very vivid and actual. She is a woman in her pomp. Today’s newspapers are screaming about the terrifying fact that Kate Moss is going to be forty. It’s all over for her, seems to be the burden of their song. Look, look, here is a picture of her looking her age. The doomy sounds of the end of the line may be heard, insinuating themselves through the unkind headlines. It is clearly nonsense. The grumpy part of me wonders whether this kind of thing is solely designed to make women frightened of the years, to throw their hands up and give in. They can quietly retreat into their rooms, and keep cats and collect old newspapers and not bother anyone.

Tania-Jan15-Landscape

I have a feeling that I cannot keep track of time not because I grow old, but because my brain is crammed with interesting things. I have two jobs, both of which fascinate me. I have the great good fortune to ride out most days through rolling hills on a glorious thoroughbred mare. Because of my work for HorseBack UK, the charity I help, I meet a parade of fascinating people who have seen the extremes of life. My geekish interest in politics constantly keeps my brain working. My absurd determination to get to the bottom of the human condition gives my frontal cortex a pretty good stretch, most days. Even my idiot desire to work out what is going to win the 3.30 at Huntingdon exercises a part of my mind.

I am not sure if one can write off age as just a number. I think it might be more than that. But I’m damn well not going to believe all the rumours about it, and discreetly fade into the background. It is a time not to give up, but to stand and be counted, even if I cannot remember what day of the week it is.
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