THE world has been agog. Yes, agog. It is not too strong a word. It has been agog at Paul McCartney, aged 80, strutting his funky stuff on stage at Glastonbury.

I confess I did not see all the performance, switching off after just one and a half songs. Nothing wrong with the music, but I found the frequent cutaways to the happy singing and dancing crowd distressing.

Like most decent ratepayers, I deplore Glastonbury almost as much as Wimbledon. Indeed, a few minutes’ in-depth research about the former reveals it was £280 a ticket plus £5 booking fee. No wonder the crowd looked so happy: they were rich.

The former hippie festival is now full of minor royals, company directors and people whose job description includes the word “consultancy” (large fees for nebulosity). It looked like the salad aisle at Waitrose.

It made me wonder who was attending Rolling Stones gigs too: heritage tourists with National Trust stickers in their car’s rear window. According to yonder internet, ticket prices for various venues ranged from £172 to £927, and even £3,000 for VIPs.

However, I have not gathered you here today to moan about ticket prices. I have gathered you here today to moan, sorry to celebrate – no, too positive a word; to ponder – the age-old question of age.

In particular, I find it fascinating that, while other members of the Stones and Faces died, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, the worst abusers of fags, booze and whatnot, soldier on.

Interesting tale: when I gave up booze for a couple of weeks recently, I developed arthritic pains in my fingers. I thought it just coincidence then went online and found alcohol acted as an anti-inflammatory, and that teetotallers were four times more likely to get arthritis. Gad, as it were, zooks.

That said, worried about my hobby, I looked up “arthritis and guitar players”, and found only one: yep, Keith Richards.

The longest-lived woman in the world, Jeanne Calment of yonder France, who died aged 122, drank (moderately) and smoked all her days. Not that I’m advocating either. The smoking in particular was just peculiar happenstance. And you should never drink moderately.

Though Sir Paul once drank to excess (not as much as Ringo: up to 16 bottles of wine a day; how’s that even physically possible?), his fine physical appearance and stamina raised interesting questions about his vegetarianism and, er, eye yoga. He looked great on it: slim; nice hair; lacking that sour look that life usually leaves on elderly faces.

This week, a doctor said that, with the NHS terminally ill, folk can look forward to an old age of pain. I won’t repeat here my argument that everyone over 70 should be given free morphine.

Meanwhile, we take heart from Sir Paul’s life-affirming performance. I am not like him. I deplore life. But I hope to prolong it for as long as possible.

Set in stone

RECENTLY, I wrote a typically authoritative and influential article about Miss Jean Brodie. In the course of composing it, I had to edit out a long-winded riff about a television version of the story.

First broadcast in 1978, I caught up with this in 1982, when I came home on late autumnal afternoons from a hard day signing on (eight-mile round trip walking).

I liked the atmosphere it conjured of douce Edinburgh and, in particular, the city’s solid stone Victorian villas.

I’ve a weakness for these. It’s the very solidity that I love, and their greyness, the respectability they symbolised. I remember, one moonlit night, walking alone – as ever – along a street of these, having lived lately amidst bleaker surroundings.

I was enchanted, engulfed in love for my home city. Later, I learned this was the most expensive street in Scotland. So it was just beyond my purse by a slender lottery win.

Glasgow, I think, has as many of these grand villas, with some – the grandest – allegedly built on the proceeds of tobacco and hence slavery. But I believe these are from an architectural period that precedes the one I’m revering.

That said, many of my villas were built on the back of corrupt professions such as the law, accountancy and medicine, now superseded by trades such as plumbing and carpentry for brazen fleecing of the lieges.

Once, on a news story, I visited a villa in Morningside, Embra, which had been the planned HQ in Scotland for resistance to yon Nazis should they have succeeded in their invasion. I thought the whole idea wonderful. Who’d have suspected?

I knew from experience working in this area – postie, gardener etc – that it was home to many dowagers who, behind their respectable outward experience, had trouble affording to heat such piles. But I liked their dogged insistence in staying on. That woman who says, “Are you lost, wee laddie?”, in the bank advert reminds me of them.

I wonder, though, if they still exist. We rarely see the elderly now. They’ve all been bunged into care homes, some inhabiting a wee room in a modern harled and ramped annexe to a fine Victorian villa of the sort that, once, they had all to themselves.

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