A few years ago, I read “No! I Don’t Want To Join A Bookclub!” by Virginia Ironside. It was a diary of her character, Marie Sharp’s sixtieth year and it was that rare thing, a book that was witty, humane and spoke truthfully about getting older.
At the time, I was in my late fifties and it seemed part warning and part reassurance about what was to come.
“No! I Don’t Need Reading Glasses!” is the diary of Marie Sharp’s sixty-fifth year. My wife and I are both sixty-one and as we listened to this audiobook we kept finding ourselves laughing and saying, “Yes! That’s EXACTLY how it is. Why does no one talk about this?”
Structured as one month of journal entries per chapter, the book carries us through Marie coming to term with the reality of being old and having only getting older and dying ahead of her. It’s not a gloomy book, in fact, it’s filled with humour, but it doesn’t dodge the issues that face the old, even comfortably-off, healthy older people with children and grandchildren.
There is some fun as Marie works with her very traditional no-computer-on-my-desk solicitor to make her will. I’ve found that solicitors can be remarkably coy about this, as if you can make a will without ever discussing why it might be needed. Marie’s matter-of-fact conversation, looking at all the combinations of who might predecease whom and what that would mean, made me smile, as did her antics to challenge the local Council’s plan to allow a hotel to be built on one of the few remaining green spaces in Shepard’s Bush. True, it’s mainly used by drug dealers but that’s no reason to allow the Council to take the space away.
The book deals, very compassionately but very accurately, with Alzheimer’s and how it steals people from us well before they actually die. Then there are the small oddities of being old: the tendency to fall off ladders, the need to wait for your joints to unlock in the mornings, the surprise when strangers treat you as though you’re old when all you’ve done is forget to get your purse out in the checkout queue because you were so angry at the person ahead of you for being so slow, It also covers those occasional mornings when you wake and ask yourself, “Why am I still here? What use am I?” before making a cup of tea and getting on with doing what needs to be done.
The joys and challenges of having your child and grandchild move to another continent, including how inadequate Skype is for really staying in touch are covered.
If you’re in your sixties, or you want to know what it’s like to be in your sixties, or even if you just want a smile, this is the book you should listen to.