Just a bunch of…me and my mates growing old disgracefully on a trip to Orkney after Frances spotted the potential of the church name.
I used my bus pass for the first time today, cupping it in my hand so only the driver would see it, dousing that half hope that he would refuse to believe it. I hardly believe it myself. ‘Surely not’ he might say but he didn’t. ‘Darling, they never ask,’ my mate Peter told me when I said he would need to bring his bus pass to prove that he was eligible for a pensioner’s discount at a Fringe show last September. So there is nothing for it but to grow old disgracefully.
It’s an odd feeling. For the first time in my life I have been shy of admitting my age. Sixty sounds so bloody old, so truly past it, and – until I catch sight of myself in a shop window on a bad day or, come on, even on a good day – I don’t feel so very different than I have done for a couple of decades. So I jumped off the bus with a sprightly little hop just to show I could in the liberating knowledge that I could jump straight back on to another bus whenever I felt like it without having to rummage in my bag for the right money. And I can keep on doing that for the rest of my natural…unless the government cottons on to the fact that people like me are filling the buses.
Despite myself, I do feel occasional twinges of liberation. When I am in the company of friends the same age (any age for that matter) we laugh, drink and talk dirty just as we always have done. Becoming 60 seems to bring odd echoes of adolescence especially if you are fit and still earning: claiming my state pension and cashing in a private savings scheme has almost doubled my precarious freelance earnings, while (when my vanity allows) I can benefit from discounts at the cinema and theatre, at dancing classes, and on the trains, and I no longer have to pay National Health Insurance.
Almost everyone I know agrees on two facts about ageing: wearing specs is a pain but the bus pass is an incredible gift. Fran got a free ride home from Oban when she, er, forgot which car park she had left her car in (she got home in time for the police phone call to say she had parked it at the Co-op not Tesco so she took a free ride back up to Oban to collect it, enjoying the trip again). And there are other perks. Celia and I fancy getting cheap train fares for a day out enjoying exhibitions at pensioner prices in London, maybe a night too if we decide to take advantage of discount hotel rates. Ray and I are thinking of travelling the length of Scotland always taking the long way round. From Edinburgh to John o’ Groats via Greenock, perhaps. Rock, as Dougal would say, and roll.
No, really, I can see a new world is opening up. I am still paying taxes so I don’t need to feel guilty about these sudden perks and I can always let on to myself that other passengers might just think I am flashing a season ticket instead of a bus pass.