Monday 4 July 2016

Birthday Blues

Today was my 69th birthday and I now begin the unsteady march towards my seventh decade. When I was nineteen, twenty-nine even, seventy when it gets here, always seemed as far away and as unlikely as being on the moon. Sometimes on sleepless nights, the thought of it might briefly cross my mind but it wasn't pleasant. It conjured up visions of old people bent over walking sticks, half blind, half deaf, talking to themselves, pissing themselves and smelling and quickly it would be dismissed as too far away to contemplate. Of course I'm almost there now, still upright, still reasonably fit, still not wearing incontinence pads, still able to do most of the things I've always done, so I've convinced myself that it must be ninety when all the things above start to happen.

But when you get to this certain age, you do tend to sit around more, mulling over the last sixty odd years and unless you've had an incredibly boring life, you wonder at all the directions that you've taken and all the emotions that you've felt. After three wives and a couple of lengthy relationships, all of whom remain my good friends, I guess you could say that I've had my fair share of both of them. That aside though, to think back over almost a life-time is to wonder at times how you fitted everything in and travelled from one end of your life to the other.

A lot of my childhood was unhappy and subsequently blanked out and I won't dwell on that too much, but I do recall from around ten onwards, that I could be found alone on the marshes near where I lived, sitting by ditches, taking in the wildlife and later learning about it from books from the library. In my twenties and thirties I not only got involved in sport, as a Sunday League goalkeeper and a useful badminton league player but I enjoyed being out on the marshes in all weathers, eel trapping in summer and rabbit catching in winter. I played guitar and wrote poetry and now write blogs. In 1976 I became involved with the RSPB at their Elmley reserve and then a Volunteer Warden for thirty years for Natural England on their Swale NNR here on Sheppey. I became indoctrinated into the conservation world and spent far too many years being told and believing, that far too many people involved in countryside sports such as shooting and those of my earlier years, were the enemy of conservation.
My working life began as a milk boy on a local milk round in the bitter winter of 1962/3 and then I was employed by the Kent River Authority to scythe and maintain ditches and repair sea walls, a favourite job in the late 1960's, early 1970's. For the next thirty four years until I took early retirement in 2006, I was employed in the local docks, for nineteen years as a stevedore and the rest in management there, retiring as part of the middle management team.

Now, as I tread softly and arthritically towards seventy, I've turned back to my old and original thoughts and enjoyment about and with countryside sports and realised that they have a part to play in conservation. If I was young enough I'd love to still be out eel trapping and rabbiting but I have to make do with chatting to farmers, chatting to wildfowlers and simply enjoying most aspects of what's left of the countryside, without bias.


  1. Happy birthday Derek, but the bad news is your 1st decade was from the age of one day to nine years 364 days- you entered your second decade at ten- which means next year is the start of your eighth decade here :-) Sorry not got a better pressie for you than that!

    Kevin (midway through his sixth decade :-) )

    1. Oh well, what the heck, feels like my 10th decade at times.

  2. Happy Birthday, Derek, and Many Happy Returns of the Day. I remember as a child when I first realized that at some point the world would enter the 21st Century, I did the math and figured that I would be 45 when that happened. I thought 45 was ancient, but thought my chances would be pretty good to see the year 2000. Well, I was right, and here we are, still ticking along. My life is good, although the world is in a shambles. Glad you survived your decades and that 90 is the new 70! Cheers!

  3. Derek, that potted history of your life was fascinating. It would make a good book, or a BBC4 documentary. So get writing - see if you can publish before Dylan!

  4. Interesting life history Derek. You must not let yourself dwell on what might happen to you physically in the future. I decided that a long time ago. It is easy to get into the 'what if' mode and it gets too depressing.

    The chances are that what will happen will not be what you envisage anyway. Your marshes sound wonderful - just enjoy them every day while you can. That is what I do.

    And again -happy birthday - and many more to come.

  5. Keep walking them marshes Derek, dogs and all, and you`ll live to be a hundred! The flatlands are good for the soul too.

  6. Nice to come across your blog, Derek. I remember the winter of 1962/3 for the fact that there was snow on the ground where I lived until April and, happily, (in my opinion!) all football matches were cancelled and we had films on TV on a Saturday afternoon, instead of boring sport! Yes, I know, sad ...

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.