‘You don’t look sixty-two, sir,’ said a sixth year student.
‘Thank you,’ I said, ‘you are very kind to say so.’
There was a temptation to ask what he thought a sixty-two year old might look like.
Being older than the parents of most of the staff and being the age of the grandparents of many of the students, I am aware that I am in a land unimaginable to the teenagers I try to teach.
Last year was much easier. Last year, I could walk to school, and if I forgot something, could walk back to collect it and still be on time. It was a post I loved, but was a one year appointment and I had to find another job for this year.
During the summer, I applied for forty-three jobs. Most schools did not trouble themselves to respond to my application. I had four unsuccessful interviews, two of the schools did not bother to contact me afterwards. The job I have now came from a head teacher who needed someone at short notice and who couldn’t find anyone else.
So I drive forty miles out to a small Irish town each morning and forty miles back each evening. It takes an hour each way.
The mornings this week have been challenging. It was -7 this morning, not so cold, it would have been a fine day on the ski slopes, but on Irish country roads, it brings black ice.
The roads on the route to school are treated, although this can seem a mixed blessing. The ice that is thawed by the salt seems quickly to refreeze. Even driving home in the afternoon, there were bends where the car slid, and I have winter tyres.
Perhaps the darkness adds to the mood of oldness.
Perhaps the onset of arthritis is a constant reminder of the passage of time (one of my uncles, sixteen years older than I, has had both knees, both hips, and both shoulders replaced). Kneeling down this morning to tie the shoelace of a boy with intellectual disability, I found myself struggling to stand up. Getting out of the driver’s door of the car, I had to hold onto the seat to push myself up.
Retirement and a pension are still six years away and there are moments of wondering how those years will be endured. Perhaps the passing of the solstice will bring a reinvigoration of the spirits.
The one certainty seems to be that by the time I reach sixty-eight, I shall definitely look my age.