I’ve been in England for the last week or so, sorting out various things to do with my mother’s estate and, more pleasurably, going to the 90th birthday party of a very dear friend.

Mary is someone I’ve known all my life; her younger son is my age, her daughter is just a bit older than my closest brother and she and my mother were friends for over 5O years.  She was, and is still, very good-looking and all four of my older brothers indulged in Mrs Robinson type fantasies about her.  Sadly for them they were never fulfilled.

If you were to ask for typical adjectives to describe someone about to hit 90 most people would probably come up with things along the lines of frail, arthritic, a bit feeble, old.  None of those apply to Mary.  Mary is definitely not your little old lady  looking forward to a quiet retirement and a peaceful life.  This is a lady who is no stranger to gins and tonics and bought herself a birthday present for her 80th – a Mercedes two-seater convertible.  Within six months she had six points on her licence.  She still has the car, she still drives from Leicestershire to Scotland, on her own, to stay with her son and his family and says vaguely that when she can’t drive any longer she’ll think about moving from the cottage where she lives alone and being slightly nearer one of her children.  Everyone thought that time might have come when she was run over by a truck in Melton when she was in her mid eighties which caused horrendous damage to her leg – the sort of injury which so often marks the beginning of the end for “old” people.  Not Mary.  After more than a month in hospital she finally came home with a nurse to look after her and her main complaint wasn’t the considerable pain she was in but the fact that the pills she was taking meant she wasn’t allowed any alcohol. It didn’t stop her pouring her guests lethally strong gins and tonics though.  Needless to say you now wouldn’t know a truck had been anywhere near her.

Her party was held at the local agricultural college because it was the only place with enough room for all her guests.  It’s a sad fact of life that for obvious reasons most ninety-year olds don’t have a huge circle of friends any longer, Mary had over 120 to her birthday party.  I’m not sure I could rustle up that number for a party for myself.

Mary said at the end of the party that she hoped we’d all come to her 100th.  I have a feeling that we all will.