When is it time to die? That’s a Cilla question

EARLIER this year I went to a splendid and memorable party birthday.

It took place at a small ski resort in the Alps. I don’t ski, so I enjoyed myself walking in the snow and wielding a camera. Everyone else in the party, though, spent a good part of the day speeding down the slopes.

None did so faster, with more style or more vigour than the man whose 70th birthday we were celebrating.

I very much hope we’re able to repeat the exercise in 2015, when he’ll reach the age at which Cilla Black claims she wants to “bow out”.

It’s a strange statement Cilla’s made, really.

There’s no doubt that every year of your life speeds by quicker than the one before. I’d have thought that at 67 giving yourself another eight years wouldn’t seem like a lot.

If you’re still healthy and in good mental nick, that is.

Most Read

For that, of course, is the nub of the matter.

It’s not about the years. It’s about the fitness.

There’s no guarantee it will go on doing so – far from it in the current political climate – but up to now the NHS has done a pretty good job of prolonging both those things.

I have an aunt who at 84 still plays tennis regularly and competitively.

She still gets a kick out of beating opponents decades younger than her. She was enthusing recently about making an improvement to her service action.

I have another aunt who at 94, and though now blind, is writing a book (her seventh) and still appears from time to time on TV as an expert on the history of the nuclear industry.

They’ve been lucky, of course. But there’s also been a dogged refusal to fade out. A dogged persistence in going on doing the things that matter to them.

They, and the rest of us, would have missed out on a lot had they taken Cilla’s Exit 75.

So when is it a good time to go?

The other day I was in on a conversation on the subject among a group of elderly folk, all in at least their 80s and all reasonably fit. And their unanimous view appeared to be this:

• That they were all glad to be alive and all still enjoying life

• That they felt grateful to the NHS for keeping them going this far

• That they had no desire whatever to “linger on” in the way Cilla saw her sad and sickly mum linger through her last years

• That they hoped to go suddenly and unexpectedly

• And – this is a crucial point – that they wouldn’t feel cheated or deprived if that were to be tomorrow.

As my 89-year-old mother pointed out to me, though, that’s well and good for her to say – not so easy, or right, for me.

It’s not for me – or anyone who even in theory might stand to benefit – to switch someone else off.

The trouble is that leaves so many elderly, and not so elderly, folk being kept alive when maybe they’d rather they weren’t. Like Cilla’s poor mum.

The question of when and how to leave it is perhaps the most intractable of anyone’s life.

At a personal level – anyone’s personal level – it’s a massive problem. And not one I, or anyone else, has the answer to.

Not a one-size-fits-all answer, anyway.

Cilla’s apparent answer – throwing the switch at a pre-determined age – is certainly not the right one.

Yes, I’d like to go suddenly while still apparently fit. But unexpectedly is key too.

I’m reasonably comfortable with the idea that one day I won’t be around any more. But I don’t want to approach that day knowing when it will be, thanks very much.

As one old man put it: “Nobody thinks they want to go on to 94. When you’re 93 you blooming well do.”

I hope by the time she’s 74 Cilla will have changed her mind.

And I hope by the time I’m 84 I’m still in good fettle, in mind and body.

Who knows, I might even have taken up tennis by then. Or skiing.

IF only impatient Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley could have waited another week. Then he could have had a manager with real experience. A man who was being spoken of again only last week as a future England boss.

The question is: Would Ashley, big as he is, have been big enough to admit he got it wrong in 2008 when he sacked Sam Allardyce – the first of six managers he has shown out in less than three years?

And the next question is: Can Blackburn Rovers really have Diego Maradona up their sleeves as the man to replace Big Sam in the summer?

It would certainly be an interesting appointment. Maybe even one to relish.

As long as you’re not a Blackburn fan.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter