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Feeling old - my wife's friends look back on a year of births - for me its deaths

Tom Winnifrith
Monday 2 January 2017

My wife is younger than I am and her social set here in Bristol is younger than she is and thus on New Year's Eve I found myself with a group of folks in their mid thirties. I shall be 49 in ten days time. There were a stack of babies and young children there and one adult opined "it is just as if everyone is having babies, is it a Bristol thing?" No, dippy snowflake, it is a function of how old you are.

By way of contrast no-one who I would describe as a friend has had a baby this year other than my wife. My sisters and step siblings have all added to global overpopulation in their time but are well past the nappy changing stage of life.
Instead for me 2016 was a year of deaths although the arrival of Joshua was a welcome relief from a list of departures. The year started with great Aunt Eleanor Booker, a 98 year old who was - I think - the last person alive to have witnessed the partition talks in India.

The most notable death was my step mother. Having battled cancer and enjoyed live for far longer than the quacks said she would back in 2012, that awful year in so many ways, her final descent was rapid. She had been given a 50% chance of making it into 2013 but she lasted to the summer of this year. The end was a relief. Cancer is an awful opponent which takes no prisoners.

After Helen the grim reaper moved into first gear. There was Maurice Byrne, an amazing man and a family friend for decades who had become a keen reader of my work and a good friend of late. Then a week after Maurice's service, death visited our old cleaning lady the wonderful Frau Whicker. She was beaten to meeting St Peter by a few weeks by another friend of my father's Anthony Briar, who was a very jolly figure I saw often in childhood.

it is folks of my father's generation who are dying - Eleanor was almost the last of the generation above. But these are also figures who loomed large in my childhood. Whilst my wife's friends think about the next Christening or rather, since they are all Godless liberals, "naming ceremony" I reflect on how the "front row" ahead of me is starting to thin out.

Fifteen years may not seem like a long time but it really does give you a different perspective on life.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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