IT’S not often that I feel tall or young, but a visit to my mother puts that right.
Even five-foot eight looks vertiginous next to my mother, and a night out tasting pinot noir wines with her pals in the U3A allows me to flourish my youth credentials for a moment as – hey! – no one else is wearing Levi jeans.
At one point in the day I catch sight of us in a mirror and, yes, I look tall next to my 86-year-old mum, although if my sons were standing in line, I’d look small. Our eldest is six-ft two. Long ago he saw his parents at an event surrounded by tall people and he said that we looked small, as if he’d only just noticed.
In the day we go for a coffee and then go for a walk at Alderley Edge. My mum is running in a new hip and worries about her lack of fitness.
We walk for an hour or so. At the Edge the red sandstone escarpment falls away to a view of the Cheshire farmland running to the Peak District. Move around and you can see Manchester swanking in the distance.
Back home I drink tea, read Saturday’s newspaper and have a nap; we young people must keep up our strength, you see.
After tea, my mother goes to a meeting about plants instead of the wine-tasting. I know, some people. I am her understudy and walk slowly in the rain to the event with her partner.
It’s an enjoyable evening, as evenings spent drinking wine tend to be. We start with a champagne, then all the other wines are pinot noirs, running in price from £6.50 to £32. The cheapest wine is just what I’d expect because it’s the sort of wine I buy; the dearer wines aren’t as good as they are expensive, but that’s OK because I can’t run to those prices.
The sweet spot seems to be around the £15 mark – for which I’d normally expect two bottles – with a pinot from Tasmania winning the popular vote. On the way out, I give a Chilean pinot from the left-overs table another taste, and it is good, but still relatively pricey at around £13.
The man giving the presentation is interesting and amusing. The chatter from my mum’s partner and friends seems to concern health and ailments, but that’s the way with age.
Sitting in that church hall, swilling wine and looking around, two thoughts occur to me. One, this is a glance down the corridor to 20 years’ time; two, I’m not as young as I pretend to be.
On the way out, a woman who’d been at our table asks me if this was my first time. She is clutching one of the opened bottles – “Only the Aldi,” she says.
I explain about my role as an understudy, as if brushing off the notion that the University of the Third Age had any sort of relevancy to me. But then I realise that I would qualify if I’d stopped working. Nobody was thinking: “He looks a bit young to be here.” They were just wondering: “Who’s the new old boy?”
The U3A has been great for my mother and her partner, an endless great source of activities and friends. Perhaps when I am properly old I shall roll along under my own steam. For now, I’m still trying to cope with the muddy pastures running up to that Third Age.