Old Age

It was immensely sad to see the programme on TV last night about Jeremy Paxman’s failing health with a degenerative neurological condition. I used to so enjoy Paxo giving politicians (eg Michael Howard, infamously) a roasting in the good old days on Panorama. And he was a wonderful quizmaster on University Challenge, giving some wretched undergraduate a witheringly scornful gaze if he/she got something stupidly (at least in Paxo’'s opinion) wrong.

And this morning Radio 3 has just announced that Daniel Barenboim’s health has declined so badly that he has given up live performance. He hadn’t performed as a pianist much in recent years, but now he is giving up conducting as well.

It all makes me feel very old.

Cue up Saturn (Bringer of Old Age) from Holst’s The Planets.


Did not see the program, but wifes father in hospital, carer to her mother with dementia…….she has had to go into a care home. Life is fragile, enjoy while you can.


Sadly, as we get older, I find I tend to relate to memories (esp. of people), than awakening to the fact I/they have all progressed in life, this even after losing some close work colleagues in their early 50s…there’s probably a psychological term for it.


Neurodegenerative conditions are indeed horrible and something I dearly hope I never have to deal with.

However, and not wanting to derail what could be a very helpful thread, I have to say my respect for Paxman withered on the vine when I noticed that he would scornfully respond to answers even when he clearly didn’t understand the question himself (as evidenced, for example, by really bad mispronunciation of technical terms or names). Ironically, he often seemed more forgiving when he did seem to know something about the subject (e.g. students getting 19th century prime ministers mixed up).

My final straw was when they played a bit of Grieg’s piano concerto for the teams to identify. The exchange went like this:

  • Student: [buzzing in] Grieg’s Piano Concerto
  • Paxman: [pause, withering glare, sneering tone] Which one?
  • Student: [slightly puzzled] A minor
  • Paxman: [pause, extremely grudgingly] Correct

If he’d known his stuff, he’d know that Grieg only wrote one so his demand for extra information was redundant. That never would have happened under Bamber Gascoigne.

Anyway, with that shining example of my grumpy old age, back to the topic title…



Oh well, Mark, if you can laugh at yourself, as in your final para, at least you fail to qualify for a ‘grumpy old git’ designation!

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Saturn has always been my favourite from the planet suite. I find I need absolute silence to appreciate the quieter parts, which is harder to come by.

Sorry to divert the focus!

There is an argument that celebrity can do good when they highlight specific issues, health conditions etc. I tend to the view it does more harm than good as they start from the perspective that their view is important because it’s them and their perspective is the only valid experience of that thing. They are, if you like, set to transmit more than receive. I’ve always found such programmes offer wider value and have more impact when they let others talk about their experience at length without being steered.

As regards old age… again we all have such hugely varied experiences. Massive value in sharing those.

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One way to approach it…not especially one I aspire to but it suits some

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I have had the pleasure in my work of knowing many people who lived to a great age in good spirits and thoroughly reconciled to waning physical abilities, with rich and satisfying lives, not lived in nostalgia but in the present. Old age can be a time of peace and fulfilment.

As an alternate artistic response the last two Leonard Cohen Albums (‘You Want It Darker’ and even more explicitly ‘Thanks For The Dance’) are very much an artist signing off, but he does it largely with wit and conspicous lack of self pity. He died within days of completing some of these songs I believe.


Oh, and seize the day!


Enjoy one day at a time, you never know what is around the corner :upside_down_face:

And if someone wants to put me in a home, just make sure you install a good hifi and an internet connection and I’ll be grand!


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Try to find a copy of Karajan’s ancient first Planets recording with the Vienna PO for Decca, made when the orchestra could hardly have known even who Holst was. A spectacularly good (presumably Sofiensaal) recording. The Decca engineers in those days knew their stuff (around the time of Solti’s Ring).

Avoid like the plague Herbie’s second (early digital) Berlin PO account on DG, horrible screechy organ and all.

Apologies for diverting my own thread!


Bruce, I recognise that poem so well (Dylan Thomas, I think), but I don’t know where I’ve heard it read out. It’s the kind of thing that might have crept into a film such as ‘Four Weddings And A Funeral’, but I just can’t place it.

Do you, or does any other Member, know where it might have appeared?

It is, by any reckoning, a brilliant piece of writing.



Especially when narrated by Michael Sheen

Maybe “ Under Milk Wood ?”

Michael Caine narrates it in ‘Interstellar’. I think over opening and closing credits? That is Michael Caine, the astrophysicist. Which always struck me as a bit of rather ‘creative’ casting!

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I think that I’d remember if it had been Michael Caine delivering the lines, if only because it would be so unlikely.

Now, as for handling a shootah or blowing them bloody doors orff…

Michael Caine it is. I think closing credits too

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Or perhaps we should ask NASA if they could deflect it away, thereby giving us a few more years to demonstrate our collective grumpiness about getting old.

When I was younger the only medicinal drugs ( :crazy_face: :face_with_spiral_eyes:), I had heard of were aspirin and paracetamol; I’ve now reached the age where I know too much about a long list that keeps growing!


Might I also commend Ulysses by Tennyson to this thread?

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Agree with you. Very sad to see Paxo this way.

Even worse for me was to see Paul Mayhew-Archer with the same illness. Only two years older than me but looking 15/20 years older & very frail. Almost impossible to recognize him as the genius who wrote ‘The Vicar of Dibley’.

I found the whole program deeply depressing for those afflicted with this dreadful disease & also distressing to watch.