This past week in particular, however, my age relative to everything else around me has been thrown into the spotlight through my ongoing relationship with, of all things, snow.
I'd like to leave aside the fact that it has taken mother nature more than fifty one years to present me with more snow than I have ever seen, but I can't. I mean, my kids have all grown up, for Christ's sake! There isn't a toboggan in the house! Nobody wants to have a snowball fight any more! I mean yes, I can kick snow in the dog's face and he will think it's the funniest thing that's ever happened in the history of human/canine relationships, but there's only so much satisfaction that can be wrung from that. When I was a kid, snowfalls (in my coastal town) were rare events - sure they were enjoyed to the full when they happened - and we treasured them. NOW, I've been faced with the heaviest snowfall in my time on the planet, and the kids are nowhere to be seen! It's just not fair.
That issue notwithstanding (and I would like to repeat that as far as I'm concerned, it definitely IS withstanding), the snow this week has brought home my time of life to me in an even more cruel way. To not put too fine a point on it: I'm knackered. I'm sick to death (well, not literally) of shovelling the bloody stuff. Despite the fact that I have always loved the way that snow transforms our surroundings, the novelty and the shine wears off very quickly when there's a couple of tons to be moved by hand. Each day, for several days. The fun side of this job isn't enhanced by the wind chilling the air even further, making it feel a good ten degrees colder than it actually is.
Then, there's the ice. The kind of ice that lurks beneath the snow, playing it coy until it is met with the blade of a digging device. At such moments, as the piece of soft flesh at the other end of the hand-held digging device, I'm reminded - chiefly by the reverberations moving up and down my spine - that ice has quite literally moved mountains - or at least large portions of them. Ice carves out valleys from solid rock. Ice doesn't mess about, and trust me, when you hit it with the end of your shovel - especially when you're not expecting to, it makes you feel like a tiny insignificant mote in the story of planet earth. Which, of course, we all are - but there's no need to be reminded of it so harshly.
That's not the only way that the ice gets you though; not at my age. Oh no; there's another little barrel of laughs waiting in the wings called 'Let's make the fat old bastard fall on his arse.' If the snow melts during the day on our steeply-sloping driveway (Note to self: never buy another house with a sloping driveway. In fact, never buy a house with any slopes anywhere on the property. Or stairs - anywhere, inside or out...), you can bet your bottom dollar that it forms a sheet of slick ice overnight. You can also bet that it turns me into something between a Hippopotamus with Tourette's syndrome and a distressed penguin as I slip, slide, skid and eventually fall like an old man into the nearest snow drift. It's not fair.
My humiliation at the hands of our recent snow has been almost complete. Whereas once I would have delighted in the challenge of clearing our driveway each day (yes really), now I am a shattered husk of a man, feebly poking at huge white berms with a plastic snow shovel and muttering darkly. Age, fatness and lack of fitness have caught up with me and kicked me in the arse over the last week. I don''t like it, and I definitely don't think that it's fair...