Let me Die a Young Man’s Death

There is a BBC radio programme, Desert Island Discs. It is on the radio as I write. The format is very simple. A guest is interviewed about their life and during the interview, they choose 8 records they would want with them if they had been cast away on a desert Island. Originally presented by Roy Plomley since 2006 Kirsty Young has been asking the questions. It has longevity. It was first broadcast in 1942 and there have been over 3,000 episodes.

The Desert Island Disc game is a game that every radio enthusiast has played. What would be my 8 disks? Sometimes I think that I would choose my favourite pieces but could I ever get the list down to 8?

Most guests use the music to highlight key points in their life with an ‘I remember when I was stuck in a traffic jam in West Norwood, in my old mini when they started playing Bridge over Troubled Water. It was mind-blowing. I pulled in to the side of the road, closed the windows and turned up the radio to the loudest.’

That last bit is true but a traffic jam in West Norwood is not so monumentally important to be recounted on the radio, however, I would probably choose Bridge over Troubled Water

On other days I play them at their own game and choose music specifically for a desert island. Then I pick a selection of loud, inspiring music to make me smile and feel better. Sorry, Sasha. Lady in Red may help me think of you but I need the music to cheer me up and not remind me that I am alone. Then it would have to be a selection from the last night of the Prom Concerts with Land of Hope and Glory and the National Anthem.

It may read as though I am just filling space, and maybe I am, but there is purpose and those are thoughts of longevity. When we are young we think we live forever and as we get older we recognise our own mortality.

The adage says you are only as old as you feel. Of course, the genes make a difference but even these can be managed with exercise and diet. Let’s be clear. Age is an attitude.

Yesterday Mahathir Mohamad was elected Prime Minister of Malaysia. Nothing strange in that. He has a track record. He was prime minister between 1981 and 2003 and came out of retirement to take on his former protégé Najib Razak.

What makes this really interesting is that Mahathir is 92 and will become the world’s oldest leader. The previous holder of this record is our very own Queen Elizabeth but the difference is that she has grown old in the role and not elected to it.

I did some research and I found that there are many octagenarians who have stood for office and won. Tunisian’s 91-year-old President, Beji Caid took office in December 2014 and is nation’s first democratically elected head of state.

Not quite a head of state, but certainly matriarch of a family, my mother is another example of working late into life. In her 90s she is still President of the local Horticultural Society and berates the Committee to get going on the preparations of the annual show. She is threatening to take back responsibility.

I can’t equate longevity in a radio program with individual feats. Human longevity needs desire, drive and enthusiasm matched with a good dollop of genetic good fortune. Some people live their live’s to retire and adopt the cloak of old age while others measure the experience that comes with age as a reason for carrying on.

The Who may have pleaded for a generation when they sang I hope I die before I get old. Then I believed them.

Now I am older and I am with Roger McGough.

Let me die a Youngman’s death and not a clean and inbetween the sheets holywater death, not a famous-last-words, peaceful out of breath death.

He goes on to say,

Or when I’m 104, and banned from the Cavern, may my mistress, catching me in bed with her daughter and fearing for her son, cut me up into little pieces, and throw away every piece but one.

As they said when I was young, Rock On Roger!

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