18 February 2012

It comes to us all

The sense that all the body parts are not quite working as they should.  The recognition that there are some pastimes - jogging, dancing, standing at the bar - which are no longer tenable.  The occasional feeling that a quiet night in is infinitely preferable to a wild night out.  The understanding that there are limits to the skills of the medical profession.

Ian Jack in The Guardian identifies one aspect of the problem:
Men tend to come to pills quite late in life. For our first 50 or 60 years, what has a chemist's shop meant to us? Toothpaste, shampoo, Calpol when the kids were small (or even, in our own impossibly distant youth, an attractive drawer marked "Liquorice"). Certainly, we've been aware of another kind of man in the queue – a shakier-looking or more breathless-sounding man, perhaps leaning on a stick or sitting on a chair opposite the pharmacy counter where an assistant in a white coat is about to deliver him a bulky paper bag with words such as: "Here you are, Mr Mackenzie, that'll last you 'til next month." But what were such men to us, who wanted only Euthymol? Then suddenly one day we are … not that other kind of man, not exactly, not yet, but certainly more aware that becoming that other kind of man isn't so impossible.
A bulky paper bag with a prescription form attached awaits us. The pills have begun. To women, a regime of pills may be no big deal in a life that may have been governed since the age of 16 by the contraceptive pill; and women, to risk a generalisation, are less alarmist about medicine. But to many men, pills are a sign of vulnerability – sometimes the first sign. Cholesterol, hypertension, type-two diabetes: our 50-year-old selves were hardly aware of the prospect of them. And now 10 and more years later they come marching towards us with their little warning banners about heart attacks, a risk to be moderated by an unending commitment to pills.
Och well.  Onwards and upwards.  As long as I have my books and music, a fag and a glass of beer, life is still sweet.


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