Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 43 — new month, reflecting on age

Being a war baby I am on the home straight….

As are Michael Caton (21 July 1943) and Robert Dessaix (17 February 1944).

“Shirley” Strachan was much younger (2 January 1952) — but he is gone just on twenty years! So a post on Facebook reminded me yesterday. “Twenty years today since the sad passing of Shirl! A good bloke & such an incredible lead singer. Never forgotten. RIP.”

I mentioned in an earlier post that I have been reading Robert Dessaix’s lovely book on growing old, The Time of Our Lives (2020). Really savouring it. See also Letting forth late flowers while ‘ineluctably sagging’: Robert Dessaix on ageing well.

His book takes a meandering path, through the grief and joys of his present septuagenarian living. We join Dessaix in the lush garden of the home where his partner’s mother Rita lies in a white room and recedes from her pronoun. With him, we scale the stupas of Borobudur, appreciatively notice the tight shirts of young waiters, dip into Epicurean philosophy at a gay ballroom dance. And we delight in the free-wheeling, wry and enjoyably forthright series of conversations on ageing with Dessaix’s female friends which pattern the book, in which they talk sex, death, religion and sundry. It is in these lively exchanges that ageing well is played out, and some of the book’s richest meaning resides.

Affirms Dessaix, the book isn’t about how to avoid dementia, or how to become a wise and dignified elder. It “is about how my friends are blooming. There are strelitzias on the cover. That’s your clue.”

It is a refreshing, entertaining and singular read. He wrote it, as he usually does, “imagining I was conversing with a friend of mine, a woman I’ve known for thirty years,” he tells me. “She’s fond of me, but not uncritical (that’s vital)… The reader eavesdrops.”


Michael Caton featured in the latest Australian Story on ABC.

JEREMY SIMS, DIRECTOR: Michael has led a long, incredible, boisterous, complicated life. He’s done everything in his power, I would say, to shorten his life. And he’s still with us.

MICHAEL CATON:  I just really notice that I’m losing memory. Vocabulary. You’ve got to work twice as hard as I used to probably three times as hard as I used to, especially if you get a big page of dialogue.

Helen: Michael’s mother lived till 103.

SEPTIMUS CATON, SON: Dad’s getting to that time in life. where every few weeks another one of his mates is gone. another star has blinked out and I think that’s really left dad with I’m going to make the most of the time I have.

Michael Caton

And as for me, this post has had quite a few visits lately: The air-raid siren of Woodleigh.