TUMBY BAY - Patrolling in the spiky top end of the old Western District in the late 1960s, particularly in the Star Mountains, made me so fit that I had to be chained up under the office for several days whenever I returned from the bush.
I was so fit I was dangerous.
Being young and fit and full of fizz is now an indistinct and fading memory shrouded in the mists of overindulgence in habits I should have known better than to even contemplate.
Screaming down the Nomad River on an inflatable camp mattress, which is something we did for the thrill of it, comes to mind as a typical crazy activity and so does water skiing behind a helicopter on the Fly River but so do a few more mundane things.
Youthful exuberance aside, why did I think it was clever to smoke? And drink too much.
Not just beer and wine and spirits but Coca Cola in aluminium cans and strawberry thick shakes in pretty litre-sized cardboard tubs.
Little did I know that all one’s physical exertions and bad habits come back to haunt you when you reach a certain age.
Aches and pains, muscles that magically turn into pot bellies and teeth that seem to be more artificial fill than solid calcium are some of the more common effects.
It’s amazing how one can become used to such minor discomforts.
There are, of course, much more disastrous maladies out there stalking people of my age but, touch wood, I seem to have avoided the worst of them.
I was fortunate in marrying a nurse who knew it wasn’t a good idea to smoke well before the idea became commonplace. That helped a lot.
Thank goodness, too, that a growing family made boozing impractical and a growing waistline made getting high on sugar ascetically displeasing.
Not to mention a later diagnosis of diabetes that effectively curtailed them both. That has been a curse and a blessing at the same time.
However, the other day I looked in the mirror and was aghast to see my father staring back at me.
It wasn’t my father as I remember him when he died in his eighties but when he was in his seventies, the same age I am now.
He worked hard and was pretty active but had been a smoker and drinker for most of his life. He was a frugal eater but, unlike me, ate anything and everything that caught his fancy.
And yet we look very similar at the same age. I wonder whether I will still look like him if and when I reach my eighties.
The curious thing is that apart from an annoying forgetfulness regarding certain words and names, inwardly I feel very much as I did when I was chained up under the office.
My ideas and views are different but the processing part of my brain seems to be working in much the same way.
I need glasses to read and when I stand up my bones snap, crackle and pop but once I get going I can still walk up and down dale for a fair distance.
If I didn’t occasionally forget where I am going or why I am going there it wouldn’t be a lot different from when I was young and fit.
Would I recommend getting old?
Well, the wisdom gained from all that experience is occasionally handy but it probably would have been handier when I was chained under the office. I’m not quite sure what it’s worth now.
You can’t really sell that sort of stuff because nobody wants to buy it, especially the young.
Discovering at last what is really worthwhile in life and what is a waste of time is also handy but there’s no market for that either.
Then there’s all the little biases and prejudices I’ve collected.
They’re definitely marketable but I’m not sure I really want to sell them and I could definitely never issue anything like a warranty or guarantee with them.
It’s all very curious. There I was, young and fit and full of fizz with an undeveloped mind and here I am with a well-developed mind and a deficit of fizz.
Now how do you swap all that around?