Too old to risk buying unripe bananas

If, like me, you are sick of hearing that sixty is the new fifty and fifty is the new forty,  then fear not – for I come bearing glad tidings: ninety-nine is not the new anything. It’s just very old and very precious.

And I should know, I’ve just spent a lot of time with some real oldies at my mum’s 99th birthday. It got me thinking about old age and writing. And there is no shortage of  candidates – from Mary Wesley who started writing when she was 70 to David Lodge who still writes well into his eighties and in his latest novel Deaf Sentence has a very endearing elderly main character in professor Desmond Bates.

There are also plenty of older authors writing about old age, like Norah Ephron who goes for the jugular in I Feel Bad About My Neck and her latest brain teaser – I Remember Nothing.  But it is hard to top Diana Athill, who at 90 wrote her expose on growing old – Somewhere Towards the End, in which she talks of (amongst other things) a declining interest in sex. Say no more!

Inspired by all this bounty, I offered to fetch my mother some new reads from her local library. She smelt me coming a mile off and lifted her large print saga quite defensively. On its cover was a winsome lass dressed in plaid in the arms of a bearded laird – set against a background of soft lavender hills, with a little croft and its lazily smoking chimney. “Don’t get me any of that newfangled stuff” she said. “I’m already old and it’s not that interesting!”

I was quite taken aback. If old people aren’t reading the books that I was recommending, this begs the question – who is?

That’s when I told the group of oldies that I would blog on this. It proved to be more difficult than you’d think to explain blogging to the hard of hearing and technologically naive.  But this is it Ma, a blog – and I wrote it just for you!

By the way, the headline is a quote from a character in a Stanley Middleton novel.

17 thoughts on “Too old to risk buying unripe bananas

  1. Glynis 18 February 2011 / 3:35 pm

    Don’t wait to be 70 or 80 Roberta!! You can write NOW !!! Well done … and I hope you’ll be back in Durban’s library next year when your mom turns 100.

    • robertafsmith 18 February 2011 / 8:18 pm

      Actually Glynis, you’ve given me an idea – next time I think I will blog on Durban’s library.

  2. Ros H 18 February 2011 / 3:43 pm

    Too old for sex but never too old for romance? I like to think Georgette Heyer as the doyen of historical novel writing will be keeping me company in my 99th year.

    • robertafsmith 18 February 2011 / 8:17 pm

      Now you’ve got me thinking – what will I read when I am very very old?

  3. karen Wilson 18 February 2011 / 5:21 pm

    This tickled my fancy, Roberta. Is that we women of “a certain age” are looking toward (perhaps not forward) to the adventure of old age and wanting to find mentors, heroines, real women who can give us a bit of a road map?
    Hope your Ma enjoys this blog. My own mum zones out when I try to explain what onearth blogging is.

    • robertafsmith 20 February 2011 / 3:27 pm

      You could be right. But it is interesting that at every other stage in life we tend to read within that stage – young mothers like books with that theme, young adventurers like travel books, men like spy thrillers and westerns all their lives (oops, I digress), but old people don’t like to read about old people – the exception could be biographies?

  4. Tom 18 February 2011 / 7:46 pm

    Annie Proulx once noted that she waited until she was in her 50s before she started writing because she wanted to actually experience life first and “wanted to have something interesting to write about”. And if its good enough for her, its good enough for the rest of us!

    • robertafsmith 18 February 2011 / 8:16 pm

      I love Annie Proulx (who will be at this year’s Melbourne Festival by the way)and that is a terrific quote. I think I am a quintessential late developer. A near oldy who would still be reported on as “having potential.”

      • robertafsmith 19 February 2011 / 9:31 am

        I see that Annie Proulx will actually be in Christchurch on March 17th!

  5. Anne Schauffer 18 February 2011 / 7:49 pm

    Mary, David, Nora and Diana, be afraid, very afraid. Here comes Roberta.

  6. robertafsmith 18 February 2011 / 8:22 pm

    Mary has died, but let’s not nitpick. They are great writers all. Anyone who starts a new career at 70 and still writes at 90 has my vote!

  7. Ansa Liebenberg 18 February 2011 / 9:04 pm

    The quote about the bananas just got stuck… I do not buy much groceries these days, hence also buying ripe bananas on the odd occasion! Herein then lies a wonderful discourse… The fruity and sexy thoughts of people in different age groups buying bananas… In fact, I now want to read the books recommended for the golden oldies!

  8. helen 19 February 2011 / 8:10 pm

    wonderful piece of writing brought tears to my eyes thinking about your Mom, thanks for sharing

  9. SHUG 20 February 2011 / 1:07 pm

    This isn’t about books, but do check out Ginger Rogers dancing Salsa on You Tube. Ginger is 92 and still dancing up a storm. Truly inspirational!

    • robertafsmith 20 February 2011 / 3:20 pm

      Absolutely FANTASTIC! The link is:

      Make sure you watch right the way through!

  10. Allison 22 February 2011 / 3:32 am

    It’s interesting that the way I remember the Diane Athill is that she speaks with energy about a none-too-distant sex life. This set me back on my heels! Such zest for life at 90! Are we now to be put to shame by the older as well as the younger generation?

  11. robertafsmith 22 February 2011 / 7:43 am

    It is indeed tough being piggy in the middle!

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