Opinion

Reasons to be cheerful

By John Lewis

Here we are diving back under the lockdown doona and I've just turned 65.

When I was 20 I thought 65 was the age when you signed off like Bugs Bunny and said That's All Folks! Then you sat at home in your slippers and watched Days of Our Lives with a mug of cocoa and a blanket on your lap.

I've been doing that since I was 40, so nothing to look forward to there.

I started off my 65th birthday as I do every morning by staring into my Facebook stream and a bowl of muesli with soy milk and strawberries because that's what old people do.

Among the dancing cats and birthday wishes, my virtual stream of global consciousness delivered a video of a Polish opera singer in a large outdoor courtyard performing Nessun Dorma to Warsaw hospital workers leaning out of windows.

At the crescendo of the stirring aria, tenor Leszek Swidzinski held the final note over six bars — which may not sound like much but it went on so long I thought he'd fall over.

Doctors and nurses applauded, visibly moved by the singer's tribute and Puccini's soaring final lines which translate to: I will win! I will win! I will win!

The recording was actually from May, since when singing to and from windows of people in isolation has become a familiar COVID trope. But on my 65th birthday, I felt my throat tighten at this celebration of life.

These days it might appear there is not much to celebrate.

However, because I am now 65 I can be as cantankerous as I like and I would like to say there are still things to celebrate.

Way back in 1979, physically disabled punk singer Ian Dury came up with a song called Reasons to Be Cheerful Part Three in which he listed random items like oatmeal breakfast cereal, yellow socks, carrot juice, Buddy Holly, generosity and politeness in a shopping list of cheerful items. Nothing seems connected in this list, but yet somehow everything is a reason to cheer up and look out towards the horizon.

So anyway, here's my list of Reasons to be Cheerful Part Two.

I live in Shepparton, Australia; I have family and friends who care about me; I have a dog who doesn't care about anything except chicken necks; I live in 2020 with access to the internet; crisp, blue winter days; I have a complete collection of original Beatles singles; flowering wattle along the riverbank; I have a signed postcard from Famous Five author Enid Blyton from 1963; warm winter evenings with a wood fire and a glass of Fat Bastard wine; I have three grandchildren with infinity in their eyes.

Finally, I'm still standing.

That's a full enough list for my small life of 65 years.

● John Lewis is a senior journalist at The News.