I got my first tattoo at the age of 59 and by the time I was 60 I was covered.
My art statement arms proved so remarkable that GQ magazine asked me to write about them and even commissioned illustrations of me.
Presumably because an artist’s impression is invariably kinder than the creased horror of the real thing.
I heartily approve of this because the illustrator’s skill can make you lose two chins, a beer belly and an inferiority complex, all with just a few strokes of the airbrush.
This is probably the closest I will ever get to knowing how Madonna feels.
Getting inked was a very un-me thing to do. So much so that friends expressed anxiety that I was having a massively delayed mid-life crisis.
One even asked how I’d feel about my adornments when I was older, which made me laugh because I already AM older.
My death wish can wait
Growing old is something that has never scared me – mainly because certain periods in this burning building of a life have made getting to retirement age seem like a pipe and slippers dream.
Once you realise that getting older is the ultimate absurdist joke, the next step is admitting the punchline usually takes place in the crem or the cem, and that you won’t be there to join in the tributes.
You do get to choose the music and the guest list though.
And depending on your beliefs, you might even get to look down on it all from on high.
Much as I enjoy a reasonably happy life my ultimate wishes must now include a happy death.
Just not tomorrow, or next week, please. I have a few nice dinners planned, a needy cat to look after and I’d like to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class to New York just one more time.
I’m also determined to fit into my old Vivienne Westwood bondage t-shirt before I croak, even if taking that final fashion selfie is the thing that proves to be my ultimate breathless undoing.
Death remains a taboo
Death as a subject is something we don’t like to confront unless it’s staring us in the face.
However, as we get older thoughts of death tend to flood the brain at awkward times.
Yesterday in the gym I remarked to my trainer how good it was to see so many old people lifting weights.
It was only when I looked at all the people running faster, lifting heavier and squatting deeper that I realised I am one of those old people myself.
In my head I was 16, lean and lithe and with my whole life ahead of me.
But when I pulled off my sweatshirt and my t shirt rode up I was exposed to the gym as someone whose biggest ambition is one day to regain a dad bod.
And as with male pattern baldness, my body suddenly seems to have skipped a few generations.
This is not so much a six pack as some party crates of Tennent’s.
I can’t die yet, I’ve got too much to do
Thinking about a happy death doesn’t mean I’m clamouring to be summoned into fast- track at the Pearly Gates before they open for Easter though.
I love my life at 62. And I want it to continue for as long as it fulfils me and amuses my friends.
But, while the fatalist in me believes much of life is preordained (I’m always just one step away from a tarot reading), the realist knows that some factors do play a part in our longevity.
And, for me, one of those factors is a sense of inquisitiveness.
There are just too many books to read, too many wines to discover, too many friends to laugh with, too much good food to eat and too much sex to be had before I die.
And, in this respect, I realise I’m not much different to the creature I always wanted to be at 16.
I still want it all.
And if I’ve already had it then I probably want it again, because I loved it so much the first time.
No regrets, no acne, and no hurry to shuffle off just yet
Just as at 16, at 62 I have little sense of regret, denial or shame.
And having none of these impediments means I can stumble through life quite sanguine about death.
Just as in adolescence I feel free.
Julie, no stranger to beauty herself, replied kindly, saying how young and lovely we all were back in the day.
We agreed how terrible it would be to look back on life and wish there had been more fun, more friendship, more booze, more drugs and more sex.
At 62, life is a constant surprise, full of possibilities – just like at 16, except without the acne.
And thinking about a happy death is nothing less than a realistic appreciation of a happy life.