OPINION: Sherry at noon and swerving anything technical: what I love about middle-age

Not just for Christmas... James says a glass of sherry at noon is one of the things he enjoys at the

Not just for Christmas... James says a glass of sherry at noon is one of the things he enjoys at the age of 45. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/Zoonar RF

How do you know when you’ve hit middle age? Our columnist has some clues

It’s been a strange week, Trump’s cavalcade, Covid chaos reigns supreme and they’ve made Ian Botham – a cricketer – a peer of the realm. As John Arlott once said, I think, “we take life too lightly and sport too seriously”, so perhaps the presence of Lord Botham in the upper house should come as no surprise, after all.

As I often say – one couldn’t make it up. Nonetheless, in these confusing days of 2020 I’ve decided I can no longer wage war with the 21st century.

However hard it is to witness a world I don’t always understand, I do not want to be old before my time and fighting against change is surely a sign of that.

I might not go as far as becoming woke – a modern American word which has replaced “boring” – or blame everything on someone else nor demand a world view of everyone else which agrees with my social media output – but I have decided that at 45 I’m not exactly old, even though I’m not missing nightclubs and quite like the return of table service, about time too if you ask me. And as I wait, as the voices of Covid-19 dissent to get louder still, for a return to sanity, I can’t help thinking it might be easier to go with the flow.

Indeed, it simply might be easier to look on the bright side.

I am, of course, and I can see it as plain as the nose on my face, beginning to accept I am middle-aged. Not only have I had a mid-life crisis; I’ve already changed career and joined the church. But, as my forties progress I’m seriously considering a golf club, a sure sign of the hinterland between youth and getting on a bit. Indeed, I remember that when I was in my twenties, 45 was impossibly old and I used to laugh when my parents said they couldn’t believe they were coming up to 50. Mother was right – it has happened to me one day.

Most Read

I have yet to be described as “veteran” or “active for his age” but I know that day is coming, and like a thief in the night, it will suddenly be there, heralding decline, just at the moment I think I’ve finally understood what it was all about and feel ready to live life to the full. But in the meantime being middle-aged must have some advantages:

Where better to be than where we live – I’m investing in a pair of walking shoes.

The middle-aged can feign technical inability to get out of doing things – I say “feign”.

Older people still think you are young, they even tell you sometimes – that’s nice.

The middle-aged have to talk to and tolerate less the people they don’t actually like – except when one has to.

I’m the right age for a midday sherry or a gin and Dubbonet, finally.

The rule of six is probably quite welcome.

Money is less important – though I don’t actually believe that as it is always the rich who say it.

The middle-aged aren’t yet too old to be ignored – though the day will come.

I’m having a great time, there I’ve said it.

Are you middle-aged? What is middle-aged? Do you remember being middle-aged? What do you think? Write to James at james.marston@archant.co.uk

James Mailbag

Recent weeks – especially when I question our reaction to the pandemic – have prompted quite a large mailbag and thanks to all who write. Here are a few of the letters I thought I might share with you.


Your article asks how we will look back on this pandemic, when common sense, and some sort of normality, resumes.

I was about in 1970, during the Hong Kong flu pandemic, which caused untold deaths in the UK and worldwide.

But we got on with everyday life, and if you ask anybody who lived through it, hardly anybody can even remember it!! It will be the same with Covid in 30 or 40 years time.

Many of your past articles suggest that you have a similar opinion to me about Covid, that is, that the government reaction has been totally disproportionate to the risk. We are not alone.


Glyn Linder


Question. If masks are now so efficacious at preventing the spread of a virus why is the NHS expecting an upsurge of winter ‘flu?

K. Would,

Wiggenhall St Peter.

Dear James,

I think your five questions are spot-on, and should be answered by all our local MPs and local council leaders . They should listen to the public.

1. I think that the spring lock-down was probably a good idea, but it went on too long. People were bored, frustrated and angry, and were even more irate when BLM and other demonstrations flouted any controls and were allowed to get away with it.

2. The danger of this virus is no worse than others. We need to be prepared to live with it. We know how to treat them, we have learnt a lot about treating Covid from early experience.

3. Mask-wearing is a farce. Their efficacy has not been proved. If people feel safer with them, then that is their affair, but one should not be forced to wear them under threat of punishment.

4. Nobody really knows how much the recent spread is due to young people.

5. We cannot have rule by decree, and must return to democracy at once.

Keep up the good work!

Best regards,

James Dent

Hello James,

I am 81. I deplore the way that society seems to blame authority for everything and does not seem to want to take any responsibility for their own actions. We seem to have lost or are discouraged from using self-responsibility, nowadays only the self bit applies. I do wonder if we have got the pandemic rules right, It does seem to me that the cure might turn out to be worse that the virus. The average number of people who die each day from all things is about 1,850. Why is this never shown?

Best wishes.

Chris Pill


Is James saying what you think or do you disagree? If you would you like to contact James? Please do so at james.marston@archant.co.uk