….says Fay Weldon writing in the Guardian magazine. The prolific novelist and writer of many television plays says she is ‘not young in heart’ as Brian Aldiss said of himself in our previous posting. ‘It would be extraordinary if I were after all my experience of life, my years of work, the people I have loved, those I have lost, the places I have lived in, my friends who are dead and those who are alive, the births and growing up of my tall, handsome grandsons.’ She goes on to say that growing old is not all sweetness and light and bemoans the way younger people view old age, especially how they notice – or ignore – women who are old. ‘According to them, the old all have false teeth and colostomy bags’.
Exercising regularly since she was 37, Weldon says she is ‘absurdly proud of being size 10. I have a very good head of (dyed) hair, the only disadvantage to this being that a lot of people think it’s a wig.’ Her clothes she says ‘have become increasingly feminine.
The unpalatable truth is that old women often look like old men as they age, a tendency not to be encouraged by wearing tailored suits, striped shirts and lace-up shoes. And I have bought my last pair of jeans.’
She says that she reads as much as she ever did. ‘I would far rather read than watch television. The theatre I enjoy less than I once did, but music more. Going to the opera I feel the same excited anticipation I felt visiting a swimming pool, aged eight. When I was young and middle-aged I used to boast that I never felt tired, but I do now and, as one who gets up at six, I struggle to keep myself awake till 10.
Fay Weldon’s husband died in 1999 and she thinks of her own death every day. The ‘miserable faith’ she had has now gone but she often reads the Bible, ‘something I am sure young people would think a suitable occupation for an old woman.
I never say ‘elderly’, as mawkish a euphemism for ‘old’ as ‘passing on’ is for ‘dying’.
‘Every day when its not pouring with rain or icy – old people should take care not to break their bones – I walk about London. When I’m in the country I walk the lanes and the footpaths…I thought I walked at the same pace and with the same energy as I did when I was young until I began to notice that I was soon outstripped by anyone younger walking alongside me.’
Allowing for the ‘irremediable absence’ of her husband, Weldon likes living alone. ‘I like to come and go as I please and not to have to tell anyone where I shall be and what I shall be doing and when I shall be home. It is nice to eat what one likes and drink what one likes and not answer the phone if one chooses…I am an old lady who lives alone with her cats.
I am not sure that I would like anyone else to describe me like that, but I can do so myself and smile.’