Apologies for the lack of blogs recently. I do appreciate in an endeavour like this a prolonged silence may worry some of my more ardent supporters but fear not, I am still alive. In fact, I'm closer to the title of World's Oldest Man than ever before.
It has, however, been a rather testing few weeks. Personally, my health has been fine. I'm ticking along nicely - obviously, I check my pulse hourly and not once has it stopped. I don't even have a cold at the moment. So there's absolutely no reason to think I won't live to 150 years old at least.
But I do have to report some arrivals and departures to and from my family that have put my attempt into some sort of perspective (what perspective exactly, I don't yet know - but some sort certainly). First, on Christmas Day, my second son was born. He's now two weeks and two days old. He's almost last in the Oldest Man in the World League Table which is somewhat disappointing. Having said that, he's right up there on the Youngest Man in the World League Table so he's doing something right.
Looking at his tiny shrivelled face, wrinkly fingers and unknowing eyes, it's impossible to imagine him being anything other than a baby. But, like me, with a bit of luck, he'll grow to be a man and spend decades wandering round the earth, gradually becoming wrinkly and shrivelled all over again. I can't believe I was once like he is now. It's ridiculous. But then my eldest (eldest!) son, currently 19 months, seems MASSIVE by comparison. And he's barely two foot tall.
As I say, I don't have any perspective here yet, but I was blown away by how young my newborn baby was.
Then four days later my last grandfather died. He was 92 and it was time. If I'm honest, even though I'm determined to win this thing, I think I'd want to retire if I'd spent more than six months in bed too. He was ready. What's more he had a brilliant crack at the life thing. He was healthy till near the end, busy for nine decades and cheerful to the last - especially after hearing about his third great grandson.
Coincidentally, a few days after he died, the Daily Mail reprinted an article I wrote about longevity a few months ago. I had to check the facts were still accurate and make the necessary changes, including adjusting the number of my grandparents.
(By the way, I hope none of this seems too trite or heartless. I find it healthy to think about death rationally and this record attempt is quite a useful way of examining one's life. I'll miss Grandpa - but I won't miss seeing his deterioration over the last couple of years. He lived long enough.)
But whilst checking the rest of my article I found out that Ellen Watson, the supercentenarian I fell in love with back in August, is still going strong. She celebrated her 111th birthday on January 3rd. When I first met her she was the 9th oldest person in the country, she's now at number 5. She's the 59th oldest person in the world! Keep an eye on her! This really could be her year!
Again, I hope none of this seems too trite or heartless. I'm genuinely excited for Ellen, partly because I know she is too. She loves being her age. She hasn't lived long enough yet and I'm hoping to get to know her better this year.
Apologies for this rambling blog, but that's where I am in my life. I now know people who are almost 111 years apart in age and they're both incredible.
If I do live for another 80 years, my sons will, obviously, be in their 80s when I go. Extraordinary. Unthinkable. Luckily, right now, I don't have time to wallow any further. There's a lot to be done, and even though I'm exhausted by seven o'clock every evening I can feel these two little ones keeping me young. I play with tiny cars and bouncy balls half the day. Life is good.
Just a quick blog to let you know the record attempt is still on. I haven’t died - in fact, I’ve got over a cold and am still drinking berocca just because I might as well. Take that death.
This week I was asked by BBC Sheffield to come on their station and talk my attempt with their very funny breakfast presenter, the comedian Toby Foster. They were doing a feature about people living longer and I was meant to come on at the end to close the discussion. Apparently I’m the ideal person to explore such matters because I’m trying to become the oldest man in the world.
I thought this was very funny. I’m glad that now I’ve stated I’m going for the record I am an official authority on longevity. I can see the logic and I have, after all, got an unblemished record of living so far. Not once have I been in that situation where your heart stops for a bit and you’re declared dead and then you come round and you have a really good story to tell people. I’ve not been in a coma. I’ve never broken a bone. I’ve never even been unconscious. I think I’ve had one rash (I’m currently doing a show with a jazz band - The Horne Section, come along! and our saxophonist claims to have never been ill. This is ridiculous. Also, the trumpeter thought that all hair grown during or after puberty (on legs, chest, face, armpits etc) is pubic hair. We had a big discussion about this in a pizza restaurant and found out from the internet that he was wrong).
I’ve had one near-death experience; a car crash. But even that was a low-speed affair resulting in no damage to people or vehicles. I did, for one split-second, think I might die (and if I had, my dying word would have been quite a jaunty, ‘hello!’). But that’s pretty much the extent of my flirtation with death thus far.
One question Toby asked me was whether I was worried about tempting fate with this project. I didn’t answer it particularly well because I hadn’t really thought about it before. It hadn’t really struck me that going round telling people I was trying to get very old might make it less likely to happen. I’m not sure if I believe in the idea of fate (I’m afraid I’m more of the less exciting opinion that we just happen to be here because the stuff that happened to come into being 13.7 billion years ago happened to react in such away to create stuff like us and we’ll be around for a bit then die and more stuff will be created and yes there are lots of unanswered questions but don’t worry about it too much - apologies for lack of technical terms there) and even if I did, I’m not sure I could imagine this strange concept succumbing to something as human as temptation. What is it with temptation anyway? First Jesus, then Fate, now desserts? It’s sort of nice, sort of nasty. Like kebabs and Cher from X Factor.
When I’m tempted by things, like desserts, I find I can normally replace the words ‘am tempted by’ with ‘want’ and it means the same thing. I want a new pair of shoes. I want to watch X Factor (yes, I know I shouldn’t like or keep mentioning X Factor, but it’s very entertaining). Being tempted by something implies it’s the something’s fault, not yours.
It doesn’t work the other way round. I’m not tempted by becoming the oldest man in the world. I want to become the oldest man in the world. So wanting something is stronger than being tempted.
If I say I want to live a long time does fate want me not too? If so, is fate really horrible and not nice at all? If so, I’m very glad I’m more into my ‘stuff just happens’ theory.
There is little point to this blog (or, indeed life), except to say that I’m very happy to carry on merrily trying to avoid death for as long as possible. The plan to have a lot of fun at the same time and do things like go on the radio with Toby Foster. And if this does somehow pique fate into drastic action, well, at least those who do believe in him/her/it will have their own convictions confirmed.
See you next week?
As you may know by now, I am trying to become the Oldest Man in the World. If you didn’t know by now, don’t worry – it’ll probably gather a more momentum when I break into the top 3 billion.
So far my attempt is going well. I’m still alive. That’s all I can really hope for at this stage (apart from some rapid premature ageing on my part which I don’t really want or some rapid apocalyptic disaster killing everyone older than me which I don’t really want either).
Since telling people about this attempt I have become known, to a small extent, as the guy who is trying to become very old. I’m fine with that. But recently I’ve become increasingly aware of another guy, a rival perhaps, who looks like he’s going to become very old but who seems to be doing everything in his power to make that not to happen. He’s inching closer to the title reluctantly. He already looks like he could be the oldest man in the world and he clearly doesn’t give a damn. He really doesn’t care if what he does might kill him but he’s still very much alive. He’s already twice my age. And his name is Keith Richards.
His autobiography is fittingly called ‘Life’ and how he’s managed to keep hold of his seems to be the main selling point. Since the book’s launch a couple of weeks ago, Keith’s face has been all over the papers, and what a face, like a gnarled oak tree, hammered by woodpeckers and eroded by time. I’d like that sort of face when I’m 120 (maybe not when I’m 67). I occasionally worry that I don’t have enough wrinkles, that I haven’t lived an exciting enough life to earn laughter-lines. Richards has earned his stripes. But as well as his face, almost every article seems to have featured some level of astonishment that Keith has managed to stay alive at all. It would appear that he has already defeated the odds, that he should really, to be blunt, be dead and so he must, to some extent, hold the keys to immortality.
According to rock critic Nick Kent, Keith in his prime was ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’. I’m rarely described as any of those things. Here’s a tiny selection of the mad, bad and dangerous things he’s done:
Drugs – Keith was tried for drugs-related charges five times before I was even born. The most serious occasion was in 1977 when he was arrested in Toronto by the Canadian Mounted Police with 22 grams of heroin on him. That’s a lot of heroin and horses. Mad, bad and dangerous.
Cars – he may have been pardoned in 2006 but back in 1975 Keith was arrested for reckless driving in Arkansas. He may well have swerved wildly because he was adjusting the radio as he said at the time (as opposed to smoking marijuana or drinking booze as the police thought at the time) but either way; mad, bad and dangerous.
Trees - More recently, in April 2006, Richards fell of a tree in Fiji. Shows were cancelled and he underwent cranial surgery in New Zealand. Mad, bad and dangerous.
Ash – the following April, Richards admitted snorting the ashes of his late father. ‘He was cremated and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow’, he told NME magazine. ‘My dad wouldn’t have cared... It went down pretty well, and I’m still alive’. Exactly. He’s still alive. Despite being mad, bad and dangerous.
So perhaps I shouldn’t worry so much about being safe. You clearly can live a long while popping pills other than vitamins, running wild and taking risks. Do I want to reach 120 having sat on my sofa wrapped in cotton wool for the last 90 years? Wouldn’t it be better to scrap my way to old age and have some amazing memories to keep me going for that tricky last decade (if I still have enough brain cells to cope with the images)?
I’m no less determined to break the record. Don’t you worry, I’m in it to win it. But there may be an alternative route to the title. I can play an attacking game rather than sitting back and defending. In October last year, Richards was presented the Rock Immortal Award by Johnny Depp at Spike TV’s Scream 2009 awards ceremony in LA. He is immortal. And he’s won an award for it.
‘I liked the living legend, that was alright’, said Richards, referring to yet another award he’d been given in 1989, ‘but immortal is even better’. Quite right, Keith.
I'm a magnificent man.
I have survived another week. Not only that, I’m flourishing; my hair is growing more vigorously than ever and my trousers have recently become quite tight. I am ALIVE!
Another person who is alive is a Japanese fellow called Dr Nakamats. I was alerted to his existence last week by a friend of mine who is right behind my record attempt and so thought I ought to know about a potential competitor.
Dr Nakamats is streets ahead of me right now. He’s 82 and incredibly fit. He does press ups and crunches and swimming and he wrestles men half his age and twice his size wearing nothing but saggy grey pants. He’s quite a man, Dr Nakamats.
My friend found him featured in a documentary shown on More4 called ‘The Invention of Dr Nakamats’. The film, a simple but gripping hour shot by a Dane, follows Dr Nakamats during the build up to and aftermath of his 80th birthday. I hope I’ll be as sprightly as Dr Nakamats when I reach that age.
The title of the film refers to Dr Nakamats’ job, which he seems to be rather good at. He holds the world record for the amount of patents ever held, which, at the time of filming, is 3357 (three times as many as Thomas Edison). It’s unclear how many of these patents have translated into actual things or whether he really was the man who invented the floppy disk, as he claims, but that’s a big number; almost one invention a day for ten years! Or one a week for 64 years or, most pertinently, one every fortnight for 130 years! It’s a lot of inventing.
Longevity is at the top of his list of things to tackle. ‘The most important problem of mankind is how to elongate life’, he says in his gruff broken English. ‘I think that nothing is impossible’. He’s convinced he’s going to make it to 144 years old; ‘I’m only half way through life’, he says with complete conviction.
His methods are, of course, peculiar. ‘I only eat one meal a day – if you eat three meals a day you age very fast. If you grow hungry you are not using your brain enough. As long as you use your brain well you won’t go hungry.’ I don’t quite see the logic and don’t think I could really sacrifice two meals a day (I really like breakfast, I really like lunch and I really like dinner so I wouldn’t know which to keep and which to lose – also, I’d probably get extremely hungry), but you have to admire Dr Nakamat’s commitment to his beliefs.
He’s taken a photo of every meal he’s eaten for the last 34 years. Amazing. Every single meal. The film shows him sitting down to a big Sunday lunch with his family then, when when some people might say grace or just pass around bread, he’s there with his digital camera (which he bought because it smelt nice – honestly), snapping away. Each of these photos he then blows up and puts in a book. Incredible.
And that’s only the half of it. He also has a blood test after every meal to show how the food has affected his health. From this procedure he’s managed to find the 55 best foods for human life and has invented a single disgusting-looking food with elements of all 55. And you can wash this down with some ‘Brain Drink’, his own type of tea made from 13 different medical herbs which Dr Nakamats says are particularly good for the brain.
He’s either a genius or quite loopy. I hope he’s a genius. I hope he makes it to 144 and thus sets me a terrific score to chase, like when South Africa got those 434 runs against Australia. But I am worried he’s going to kill himself en route. His basic method for inventing, for example, involves flirting with death in a swimming pool; he thinks of ideas by holdings his breath underwater because, he says, the brain works best when starved of oxygen (he’s invented an underwater notepad to make the process a little easier). The closer he gets to actually dying, the better ideas he comes up with. ‘The ideal time for thinking’, he says, ‘is 0.5 seconds before death’. I could see how that might go wrong.
Just by the way, Dr Nakamats also never sleeps for more than four hours (he invented the Cereberex chair for taking power naps – it’s essentially a chair with a hood), is active at all times and is one of the top twelve most expensive lecturers in the world.
But if there’s one thing I’d take from Dr Nakamats, its his enthusiasm for all things new. A lot of 80 year olds I know (I know seven 80 year olds) haven’t embraced technology. They’re not online, they can’t cope with satellite tv, they don’t text. Dr Nakamats is not only au fait with all these things, he’s trying to invent ways of improving them. If you’re going to enjoy old age you need to stay interested. Dr Nakamats is both interested and interesting.
Good luck Dr Nakamats!
Put your hand up if you're still in the running to become the Oldest Man In The World?
About half of you. That makes sense.
Well, so am I! And I'm more confident than ever having consumed: 3 berocca, some spinach, 4 smoothies, 4 small fish and a dozen Sea Dog Pills (see the entry on Hong Kong) in the last week.
Full of both life and self-belief, I've decided to look ahead to how life will be different when I eventually claim the title. But, because I can't actually look ahead because it hasn't happened, I'm going to do that by looking backwards. I'm going to have a look at how life was different 100 years ago to give us some idea of what it might be like 100 years hence.
What follows is a list of 32 things that have been invented in the last 100 years (up until my birthday, 10th September 1978). This might be less of a blog and more a load of information copied and pasted from Wikipedia but it should hopefully make you think, 'wow, if the equivalent of all that stuff gets invented in the next century, won't it be amazing!' That's one reason why I want to be alive at the age of 132. I want to see what we come up with. I mean, look at this lot:
• 1910: Vitamin B (in my opinion, the tastiest of the vitamins. yummy)
• 1910: Dental Braces (my childhood was blighted by these but they may just keep me going - gum disease is, surprisingly, a killer)
• 1910: Neon lighting (can you imagine life without neon light? I know I can't. But will there be a new sort of light soon? Let's hope so)
• 1911: Knapsack parachute (the knapsack, by the way, was invented over three thousand years ago)
• 1913: Aerobatics (it was probably a good thing these to were invented in that order)
• 1913: Crossword (and then sudokus came along in 1979 and ruined everything)
• 1913: Stainless steel (before, just dirty dirty steel)
• 1913: X-Ray (surely x-ray specs are just around the corner)
• 1923: Television (my tv currently has 543 channels. At that rate, in 100 years time there will be more channels than people in the world)
• 1928: Sliced bread (maybe in a hundred years time we'll have pre-made Ikea furniture)
• 1929: Mechanical potato peeler (the best thing since sliced bread - although comparison carries the least weight for this product)
• 1934: Hammond Organ (what new musical instruments are in store for us? I'm hoping for something made out of moss)
• 1938: Ballpoint pen (will people remember pens when I'm a hundred? Will we be able to write on the air? I expect so)
• 1941: Computer (but it was the size of a house. Now they're the size of books. I'm sort of hoping they'll go back to house-size in a hundred years)
• 1941: Velcro (the best invention. I can't believe so many people still insist on using laces. That's medieval if you ask me)
• 1942: Bazooka Rocket Gun (bad things but great name)
• 1945: Slinky (ditto)
• 1945: Microwave oven (can be dangerous in the wrong hands)
• 1945: Nuclear weapons (ditto)
• 1946: Bikini (an amazing etymology - no time to go into it here but the story is told beautifully in this book: Wordwatching, by Alex Horne - also available on the Kindle - will I outlive books?)
• 1947: Pocket calculator (the pocket was invented in the late 18th century)
• 1947: Polaroid camera (extinct by the 22nd century?)
• 1950: Credit card (surely money will be dead too)
• 1952: Hovercraft (but when, oh when, will we get these bloody jetpacks?)
• 1967: Mumps vaccine (thank goodness. Mumps would be a silly way to go)
• 1969: Video cassette (RIP)
• 1971: Instant noodles (I'm hoping all food will be instant when I'm old. Same with washing up and writing blogs)
• 1971: Karaoke (can anything possibly be more fun? Or less fun? Depending on if you like it)
• 1974: Rubik's Cube (will I complete my first Rubik's cube before I'm 132 years old? Unlikely)
• 1977: Mobile phone (some people are very excited about how this will develop. For me, they should stop now. You can phone people and walk around, that's enough)
• 1978: Spreadsheet (this, however, could do with some more work. Excel, in particular, could be four thousand times simpler please)
• 1978: Me (or I could become four thousand times cleverer)
So, that's your lot for now. It's almost impossible to imagine life without all those things which makes life in a hundred years time even more exciting. I would say I can't wait. But I can. And I will.
I’m still alive and, as far as I know, fatal-disease-and-accident-free. Good news. If I keep going this way, only old age will get me. But I want to get it too. So that’s fine.
Considering the length of this venture it may seem ambitious to write a weekly blog about my efforts but I’m confident this will remaining a thrilling spectator sport for the next century. Look at the London marathon. I do, every year, for at least four hours, and every year I’m engrossed. I don’t care who wins, I don’t support a particular runner and I’m not trying to spot someone I know. I just like the event. So it shall be with my longevity race, I hope. And if it does get dull I’m sure I can find someone dressed as a lobster to talk to.
To reflect this on-going appeal, I thought I’d present my top ten recent news stories on the subject of longevity. Every day someone writes something new about something old; here are those that I have found most useful/interesting/odd over the last few weeks:
NUMBER 10 – OLD CITY
Here’s a report on a city in China called Rugao which is home to 255 people over the age of 100. Considering it only has a population of 1.45 million, this is a remarkable number. Its secret? Well, there’s more than one: ‘regular and healthy eating’ (I certainly do the former), ‘good sleeping habits’ (I do have a habit of sleeping) and a ‘favourable environment’.
This last one is probably the most tricky because according to a study by the Jiangsu Provincial Institute of Geological Survey (you’ll probably know them as JPIGS – like JPEGS, just more piggy), the area has more selenium in its soil than is usual and selenium, they say, can stop you getting cancer. So as soon as I find a good selenium shop, I’m buying a load of the stuff and spreading it across my garden, before having a big meal and going to bed.
NUMBER 9 – OLD BOOK
So, this book was published back in 2003 but it’s still getting a lot of attention today, hence its inclusion here. The blurb boasts that ‘The Omega-3 Miracle’ (an excellent title, I think) ‘is the secret to longevity’. Setting aside the thorny issue of whether a secret can still exist when printed in a book, it goes on to explain that Icelandic people don’t get ill much because they eat fish oils so we also, should eat fish oils. As far as I can tell, that’s the entire message of Garry Gordon’s book.
Sorry, he’s not just Garry Gordon, he’s Dr Garry Gordon, M.D., D.O., M.D.(H.), who ‘received his Doctor of Osteopathy in 1958 from the Chicago College of Osteopathy in Illinois... his honorary M.D. degree from the University of California, Irvine in 1962 and completed his Radiology Residency from Mt. Zion in San Francisco, California in 1964’. Not only that, ‘Dr. Gordon is founder/president of the International College of Advanced Longevity and is currently a fulltime consultant for Longevity Plus, an Arizona based nutritional supplement company whose products are widely used by alternative health practitioners around the world.’
Highly qualified indeed. Too qualified? Should you really trust someone who is both founder and president of an ‘International’ College of something called ‘Advanced Longevity’. Well, someone calling herself AndreaK thinks not: recently she reviewed his book with the following blast; ‘There are NO medical studies on Mr. Gordon’s product. The author is NOT an MD, though he uses the title in his name. He is not a cardiologist. He is not a practicing radiologist and, despite the bio, he can not be located anywhere as a practicing Osteopathic doctor either. He is a complete hoax! So eat healthy foods, live a healthy life style and save your money – don’t fork over your hard-earned cash to a guy who lies about his background. Love the photo on the cover of him with a stethoscope around his neck – almost makes you think the guy has a medical background.’
That’s the sort of passion the longevity game can engender.
NUMBER 8 – OLD INSURANCE POLICY
I never knew it existed but now I think I should almost certainly get myself some ‘longevity insurance’. Obviously, if/when I reach 150 years old Innocent Smoothies will be slipping me a cool million but it’d be nice to have money in the bank until that point too.
Longevity insurance, or deferred annuity, protects you from outliving your money, something I should probably have considered when setting about this project. According to this helpful site ‘a typical longevity policy is purchased after one turns 60 and begins paying a monthly income after the policy holder turns 85’ – about halfway through my life.
Back to the website for a quick summary: ‘Is a longevity policy worth the expense? The key factor, obviously, is your life expectancy. If you’re in good health and come from a long-lived family, a longevity policy could make a lot of sense. People are living longer and longer’. Well, yes, I suppose we are.
NUMBER 7 – OLD BILE
Only when I read this news report did I realise how little thought I’ve given to my bile so far. Quoting research from Canada’s Concordia University (recently published in a journal called Aging which I really must subscribe to), the author writes: ‘bile acids are beneficial to health and longevity. For example, they have shown to accumulate in the serum of long living mice and play a role in improving rodent liver and pancreatic function. This leads us to believe that bile acids have potential as pharmaceutical agents for the treatment of diabetes, obesity and various metabolic disorders, all of which are age-related… they may indeed offer hope for a healthy aging life.’
So, if you know somewhere that sells bile and selenium, let me know IMMEDIATELY.
NUMBER 6 – OLD MAID
This one isn’t all that relevant to me (I have a second kid arriving in time for Christmas – fingers, but nothing else, crossed), but on September 4th Edinburgh’s Isa Blyth celebrated her 106th birthday and, in the Sun’s words, ‘puts her amazing age down to being a VIRGIN’.
The rest of the article doesn’t hold too many surprises but you might be interested to know that ‘Isa has never even been KISSED’ (yes, this one was in capitals AND bold), she does like sherry, she worked in a whisky distillery and she celebrated her birthday with champagne. And if you think all that booze sounds a bit much for a centenarian, fear not. Have a look at number five.
NUMBER 5 – OLD DRINK
Ok, so we’ll rattle through the top five now. They all feature things that will, apparently, increase the length of your life and which I think will improve it too. For more details click the links.
Ignore the fact that this one comes from a website called www.daveywaveyfitness.com, the headline here is enough for me: heavy drinkers live longer. In fact, the more you read, the better it gets. The scientists cited by Wavey Davey (who do their thing at the University of Texas and Sanford University) have proved that both heavy and light drinkers outlive their non-drinking counterparts. The study took an astounding 20 years (but only featured 1,800 people which doesn’t sound like many to me but still...) and concluded that the known risks of alcohol are outweighed by its social benefits. Marvellous stuff.
NUMBER 4 – OLD CHOLESTEROL
Over to Tokyo now and news, at last, from the Japan Society for Lipid Nutrition who claim that high cholesterol levels are actually better for living longer. Hooray! There is a whole load of technical stuff about ‘good cholesterol’ and ‘bad cholesterol’ but basically I think I’m now ok to eat lots of eggs cooked in butter and booze.
NUMBER THREE – OLD FRIENDS
The news only gets better – you don’t have to enjoy all this not-so-naughty food and drink alone. Another study from America has revealed that people with no social life are fifty percent more likely to die early than those ‘who share a strong bond with friends’.
Now, I have to say that I don’t completely understand the maths here. Does that also mean that those ‘who share a strong bond with friends’ are also fifty percent more likely to die early than those with no social life? Never been good at numbers. Except for counting slowly (one number every year).
Other highlights from the study include the claim that ‘the impact of friends on life longevity was comparable to the effects of quitting smoking’ – so if you do smoke, don’t worry about giving up, just get on facebook; while those with few friends ‘are exposed to mortality risk … even higher than either obesity or physical inactivity’ – so if you are obese, don’t worry. Unless you also don’t have any friends.
NUMBER TWO – OLD BEAN
Not as exciting as the previous few but important to me at a time when my son is determined that I get up before six every morning: daily coffee also makes you live longer.
Perhaps such a conclusion isn’t that surprising from a website promising ‘coffee things’ – there aren’t many goods (weapons excluded) sold on the basis that they actively shorten life. But the conclusions of the researchers at the University of Athens sound quite convincing for me, including as it does ‘the marked improvement that coffee has on the elasticity of the arteries, helping to prevent their ageing and thereby warding off potential heart disease.’ I know my arteries have felt particularly bendy over the past few weeks.
Incidentally, the 500 people examined all lived on Ikaria, a small Greek island also known as ‘longevity island’ because ‘a reported third of people live to reach their centennial birthday’. Not necessarily a fair place for this sort of study but maybe a future holiday destination.
NUMER ONE – OLD HAND
And at number one, mainly because it’s something I can introduce immediately at no extra cost but with a big smile on my face, is a study from the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) which states that a strong handshake means a longer life. Great stuff. Be warned that if we meet I’m going to grip your hand like a good ‘un (couldn’t think of a decent metaphor for gripping).
And here are some helpful links to strengthen your shake:
Alternating Multi Curls.
See you somewhere soon (I’ll be the drunk, fat, slobbering, hyper one with loads of platonic friends with sore hands).
I’ve arrived back from Edinburgh, still in one piece (although I cut my nails just before leaving to see if it’d feel weird to have fresh bits of me 400 miles away from the rest of me: it doesn’t). After a gruelling month of festivities, I’m still alive.
I may only be a quarter of the way to my target but the fact that I haven’t died yet is, I think, incredible. Every single day of my life (that’s 11680 so far) I’ve managed to avoid the scythe of death despite that scythe looming on an almost continual looming cycle.
During my last hour in our rented flat I looked up (after clipping my nails) and saw for the first time the gas meter, a couple of feet above the sink. Slapped across the middle of the machine was a sign, framed by hazard symbols, warning me to call the emergency services if I ever suspected there was even a hint of a leak. As soon as I read that I suspected I could smell, if not gas, then a hint of gas. Should I call the emergency services? Was I in immediate peril?
Not prepared to take any personal risk but keen not to get bogged down in admin at this late stage of the festival, we jumped in the car and left the country.
Since that near-incident I see danger everywhere. I seem to be surrounded by potential death-traps. And I’m sorry to interrupt the flow but here are two quick points on ‘potential death-traps’.
1) I remember someone using that phrase as a comedy catchphrase in the 80s or 90s – anyone know who that was?
2) Is there such a thing as an ‘actual death-trap’? The ‘trap’ side of the phrase sounds too fun to be associated with the ‘death’ bit. Is the ‘death’ bit meant to refer to the Grim Reaper himself? Has ‘Death’ set the trap? Would immortality itself be an ‘actual death-trap’?
Enough meandering. Instead, here’s a quick look round my house (at night, so apologies for any gloom) to see just how dangerous my everyday life is. I’ve literally spent two minutes glancing around to see what things might kill m and the results, as you’ll see, are frankly terrifying.
And if any of these things do kill me in the next few days, I’m aware I’ll either look like a prat for not doing something about them, or a soothsayer (given the choice, I’d always pick the second option, even though someone who just say sooth also sounds like a bit of a prat).
So here are just some of the houseassins (my word) I’m having to avoid every single day:
TV – mounted precariously on a chest. It doesn’t quite fit. I could easily be crushed one day.
Radiator – I don’t understand these things. Is there gas in them? Is the gas the thing that’s hot? How does it get hot? Is there a flame near the gas somewhere? I’m an idiot, I know, but should I be worried, shouldn’t I?
Open fire – it suddenly seems ridiculous to me that I have a fire in my house. I often bring in a load of wood and set fire to it, then spend a whole evening trying to create more flames, bigger sparks and hotter heat. Inside my own house. Madness.
Steps – these are steep steps. I sometimes call them steeps. I often stumble on the steeps. And I sometimes sleepwalk. Surely just a matter of time before I steepsleepstumble.
Lights – our bathroom is located directly above these lights. There are gaps in the floorboards of the bathroom through which I can see these lights. So water must often drip onto these lights. As we know, I’m a fool, but doesn’t water plus electricity equal danger?
Peace lily – poisonous apparently. So an ironic name? Or does the peace refer to how I should rest?
Beanbag – I could easily choke on this.
I could go on. I’m surrounded by threats, my life is full of near-misses, I am a brave, brave, lucky, lucky man. So can I go on? Keep your fingers crossed and maybe send me on some sort of Home Economics refresher course.
This afternoon I was sat on the Meadows in Edinburgh with my wife and one-year-old son. All three of us were trying to relax after an eventful, exhausting month. Performing at the Edinburgh Fringe is as close to hard work as a comedian ever comes and, with just a couple of shows left, I was feeling it. Being married to or fathered by someone performing at the Edinburgh Fringe is even more tiring and I don't think the three of us have ever been more tired.
But then, as the sun sank behind the Ladyboys of Bangkok's Big Top (tent not jumper), a minor miracle happened. I took a swig of my drink and glanced at the bottle. There, in appealing red letters, were the words "Long Live Alex".
It was a sign. I was going to be ok. I would survive.
It took me a couple of minutes to realise this was no coincidence. The drink was a smoothie made by innocent, the company sponsoring my attempt to be the Oldest Man in the World, and the words did indeed refer to this feat. I'd known they were going to feature what I hope you agree is a truly epic endeavour on their products but I'd never actually seen my name on the side of one of their (or anyone else's) bottles before so was rather moved. Normally when people glance at their drink they see nutritional information or, maybe, competitions involving the World Cup. They rarely read about one man's attempt to live longer than every other man.
So my spirits were lifted. I remembered how lucky I was to have such a fun and full life and that if I am to live to 150 I'm going to need some pretty fine memories to look back on for the last half a century or so. So, I gave my wife a cuddle and chased my son on my hands and knees, giggling.
I'm up at the Edinburgh Festival. I'm still alive, but if the festival lasted more than its scheduled four weeks I'm not sure I'd stay this way for long.
It shouldn't be as tiring as it is. All we performers have to do is perform for one hour every day. Those aren't long working hours. But then there's all the other stuff: the attempts to get publicity, the attempts to get an audience, the socialising, the commiserating, the walking on cobbles, the pies, the alcohol, the late nights, the fun, the festivities. When it's all over, everyone gets ill. That's just what happens. We traipse back to whence we came, lie in our beds and feel as close to death as ever.
Dangerous stuff for someone trying to become the Oldest Man in the World.
But I think it's worth it. Just because you briefly flirt with death, doesn't mean you'll get there any quicker in the long run. In fact, it's good to have these brushes with death (and I do acknowledge that compared to some brushes with death, spending a month at an Arts Festival is a very light one, perhaps with a duster); I think they harden you up and make you far stronger. Victory is even greater when ripped from the jaws of defeat (I know it's a cliché but I was in Istanbul to witness the Liverpool team coming back from the dead to beat Milan and win the Champions League and could only speak in clichés for the following week).
Also, my faith in the attempt has been strengthened during the festival thanks to the encouragement of various people who, at various times, have found me, slapped me on the back and told me I could do it.
‘Don't die, Alex', said one quite drunk young man quite late at night, completely out of the blue. He'd heard about my plans in the article in the Observer but to any uninformed bystander it must have seemed like a dramatic thing to say to a stranger. I told him I wouldn't and he gave me a hug.
‘Is the attempt still going?' asked an older gent a couple of days later. Presumably he thought that I might actually already have died. I wish I'd simply guided his hand to my pulse and walked away but instead I awkwardly said, ‘oh yes, still trying to stay alive, thank you!' and he went on his way. I'm generally useless in social situations but despite the awkwardness I was thrilled that people were behind me.
And then last night, just as I was attempting to order a beer at the bar, my neighbour leaned over and said, ‘I've heard red wine is good for you', before winking knowingly. At first I didn't realise he was referring to longevity and thought it must be some strange chat up line, but then it clicked, we both smiled and then chatted about my plans to avoid death at all costs (I ordered a beer in the end, but do plan to drink a bottle of wine or two on my day off, so that should help).
The more I talk about becoming the Oldest Man the more I think it might happen. Visualisation is key, according to Paul McKenna. So keep coming up to me, keep telling me I can do it, and I'll keep not dying.