When I was fourteen my form teacher told my father that I ought to go to university. He said “People like us don’t go to university”. From that moment onwards I made up my mind. I thought to myself “I am not like you and I will go.” I won a county award in the sixth form for my work on the French scholarship paper and was allotted a good grant which meant I did not have to ask Father for a penny. I then felt my future was assured.
When I was young I avoided old people apart from my uncles, aunts and grandparents who were in a class of their own. The ones Mother visited didn’t smell good and complained constantly. I thought they must live miserable lives. My father talked about taking a job in the Civil Service with a pension. I had no intention of working for anyone else, especially in an office. I knew I must find work for myself where I could be fully in charge of my own life.
In any case, sixty is light years away when you are fourteen, so pensions seemed irrelevant. I had many ideas of what I wanted to do and I knew I was capable of extraordinary achievements.
Decades later I realised with surprise and horror that old age was on the horizon. I was fifty and had led a varied and enjoyable life. A dear friend of mine who was fifteen years older then me said that he regarded every day as a bonus for him. He had nearly died twice, yet he lived on and enjoyed life in good enough health until he was nearly ninety.
“I don’t like getting old” I said.
He replied, with a twinkle in his eye, “It’s better than the alternative!” He was right. Ever since the war was over I was convinced that I would reach thirty if I was lucky. I was so horrified by all the new instruments of destruction, especially the atom bomb, that I was certain it was inevitable that a third world war would happen soon and if it did and both sides used this bomb, it would be the death of our species. We have had several smaller wars but to my amazement the instruments of death which were the most powerful were not used.
I am at heart optimistic, but I also have bouts of extreme anxiety from time to time. I like to know the truth of situations as far as that is possible. I have always taken risks to be able to do what I want. My gift of imagination has made me a spotter of opportunities that very few people recognise. It has also cost me to always consider worst case scenarios, so that I have an alternative plan if everything goes wrong.
Now in my early eighties I still keep myself busy reading and writing and researching. I am lucky enough to have a small circle of friends and family with whom I share similar interests.