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Old age and death
Anthony Howard Writer
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41. Old age and death 326 02:55
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Old age is horrid and I don't think you should pretend otherwise. It's no fun, your faculties start failing, you… that's true of your physical faculties as well as any mental ones. And it is, I think… there's no... I don't want to live to be 90 or anything like that. Everyone I know at that... all says I wish I could die. And I think, you know, you ought… I'm frightened, no doubt of… everyone's frightened of death, but I hope I'm not frightened of death as such. I think I'm frightened of the illness and the pain, and that kind of thing, but if I could just heel over, would I mind all that much? I don't know. I was brought up a Christian, of course, I'm afraid now I'm an agnostic, so I don't really believe in life after death or anything like that. Of course, my father did, because he was a clergyman, and that was the whole background I had. But I would… I think probably life after the age of 80 isn't much fun. I'm now 74, so we haven't got long to go on the last lap, final furlong.

And I don't think retirement's much fun, either. I think a lot of people look forward to retirement all their lives, they've got rather dull jobs. But then when they actually embark on it, they don't find it very rewarding and there are an amazing number of people who die very rapidly after they retire, even if they've had drab jobs. It was the job that kept them going. I'm lucky still, in that I do write occasional bits here and there. I do occasional broadcasts here and there. So I'm not entirely unemployed, though the income has dwindled, I'm afraid, drastically, and that's always a slight worry, even if you've made provision, as I've tried to do by sort of private pension schemes and that kind of thing. But it's not the same as being as well paid as you are as a columnist. And once that dries up, you've… you know, you feel the pinch. But I shouldn't whine or grizzle or complain. I'm much better off than most, as I say.

I tend to believe that death is the end, but I'm not, sort of, 99% convinced that is true. I, you know, I could be wrong about that, and I might get an agreeable surprise, although no doubt I'll be punished for not having believed it. But I think that, you know, it's true that most, sort of, doctrines of, you know, eternal life defy human comprehension, but it could be. It could be that it's right. I certainly… I suppose when I was young, I believed it was, being brought up in a vicarage, a rectory and places like that. And I've drifted away from it. Still go to church, but that's largely sort of out of custom, I think, and aesthetic appreciation of church services and stuff. But I don't go as an active believer.

A distinguished British political observer, Anthony Howard (1934-2010) wrote for 'The Guardian', 'The Sunday Times' and 'The Observer' for over 40 years, during which time he has commented on the historical significance of global political issues. He was also editor of 'The Listener' and 'The New Statesman', and a reporter on both 'Newsnight' and 'Panorama'. He was awarded the CBE in 1997.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: old age, death

Duration: 2 minutes, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: November - December 2008

Date story went live: 21 May 2018