I've always been a complete woos when it comes to being poorly. I probably helped perfect the man flu concept. A sobering diagnosis was definitely no time for me to embark on a life of bravery and stoicism.

The human condition

Most of us have known people who've faced an early showing at the pearly gates. I'm impressed by how pragmatic they can often be. I guess it's part of what's referred to as 'the human condition'. But such a dread-fate is usually miles and miles away, hidden in the mists of time.

My own father seemed to have realised his fate. With hindsight, I think he'd mentally prepared me for his passing. Just little things he said and important things he'd put in place unbeknown to me at the time. But, despite all his strengths and his reassuring presence throughout 49 years of my life, he too was claimed by the searching hand of the dreaded reaper.

This year I turned 58. I'm now less than 18 months away from my 60th birthday which (mathematically speaking) means that the reaper must surely have my name on his to-do list. But instead of hiding away in a potting shed hoping I won't be found, I'm writing this piece in a lovely Algarve hotel overlooking a sun drenched beach. When I’m done, I will find a good restaurant, order some ice cold Portuguese beer (or two) followed by a damn good bottle of crisp Alentejo vinho branco to help wash down some freshly cooked crustaceans. You know, those poor little orangey-pink things with tentacles and eyes. A few glasses of good vinho do Porto accompanied by a hearty Serpa cheese will help round things off nicely. I can then blame any resulting memory issues on booze fuelled amnesia rather than dementia.

Becoming hardened

I don't really think about carking it despite the fact that my pals are popping off left, right and centre these days. I seem to have hardened to such things. Of course, it bothers me, but not to the extent it used to. What's the point? I can't change anything. I just contemplate my next culinary adventures on the glorious Algarve. Beats getting all maudlin.

You see, I don't do mumbo-jumbo either. I can't bring myself to blindly believe anything just for the sake of convention or to fit in with the hippy-dippy brigade. No matter how much comfort weird belief systems bring to others, I need hard evidence before subscribing. Without evidence, all those gown-wearing priests from whichever faith or denomination are just churning out a load of pointless nonsense in my opinion.

I guess that time-honed cynicism has provided me with the ability to sort out the wheat from the chaff. I personally believe that the world we already live in is paradise. The bizarre notion of floating along on a damp old cloud plucking golden harp strings fills me with absolute dread. Sorry. It's the Algarve for me every time. I like shady palm trees and, let's face it, there are none in the sky.

Professor Sir Robert Winston once said that when we've done our bit and produced offspring, our job is basically done. I see his point because a few days ago when I was lapping up the sunshine in Benidorm, I witnessed for myself the various incarnations of the human condition. I beheld virulent 'beautiful people' bursting with vitality; all their trembling seeds proudly on display shouting "pollinate me!". The air was so thick with hormones, I could almost smell it.

Then, on the other hand, I beheld wallowing apparitions from the zombie apocalypse riding mobility scooters. They (and I) were just 'there' consuming the planet's resources (beer) and giving nothing in return.

Victim of its own success

Seeing all those sellotaped old relics convinced me that modern medicine is a victim of its own success. I saw people who are actually imprisoned in crumbling bodies. It's almost barbaric. Back in days gone by, folk would wake up one melancholy Friday morning (usually well before ever reaching the age of 40) only to discover that a significant part of their anatomy had packed in. Basically, their number was up. On such occasions only one person around our Welsh village would be smiling and that would have been Evan-the-Dead (the local undertaker).

Most older folk I know take a cocktail of pills and potions just to stay alive. Others suck away on various pumps. There are even pills for dementia sufferers (like me) which supposedly keep our brains from shriveling up even further. A pal of mine (younger by six months) has already had two new hips and just for good measure he's also had prostate surgery. Another one had a pacemaker fitted. Thanks to medical science we're becoming a race of walking wrecks.

Yet here I am, a dotty old sod, lapping up the magnificent Portuguese scenery. I now firmly believe that I should spend my golden years doing as much travelling as possible. After the dementia diagnosis, I was advised to go and see lots of new places, smell cactus flowers and taste some of those scary looking fish that French people eat.

Pantomime villain

Perversely, even if I do manage to remember all these lovely places and all the crustacea that were terminated in my name, my kids won't want to hear about it. Even without mentioning the great crustacean carnage, to them I will forever represent carnivorous bigotry. I'm just another loathsome bottom-feeder conceived in an era of shameless racism, homophobia, sexism, V8 engines, T-bone steaks and Jimmy Saville. Whenever I'm in young company, someone will mention global warming or 'gender issues', there will be an almighty bust-up and a small soy-boy will start crying. Inevitably, I will end up being branded the pantomime villain AGAIN! But at least I'm a villain who has experienced a time when eating steak wasn't deemed a form of abject nationalism if it was eaten with a generous soupçon of luscious Coleman's English mustard.

It appears that no matter how much yoga I do or how much lettuce I eat, my generational follies have indelibly tarnished me. I've already learned that my opinions stink even worse than my underpants and that chasing youthfulness around a park or gymnasium is utterly futile. My youth has vanished, like the pearls of morning dew, ne'er to be found again.

Age can be cruel. I watched Rod Stewart on live TV recently. The ravages of time could not have been more stark. He stood on a stage and looked and sounded his age. Once a handsome genius with the entire world at his feet. So, what chance have I?

Still. How much debauchery time I have to play with will depend on what I'm ABLE to do from here on in. It was whilst pondering such imponderables I came up with my bucket list. From where I'm standing, so far, it's looking OK.


Douglas Hughes is a UK-based writer producing general interest articles ranging from travel pieces to classic motoring. 

Douglas Hughes