Medical milestones are life's new rituals in the 'third age'
I've read a lot of books on the art of writing. Some were useful and others were written by people who think creativity is about joining dots. The one piece of advice common to all writers on writing is that cliché must be avoided - I nearly added 'like the plague' but thankfully my cliché detector beeped a timely warning.
I'm not going to bore you with a dissertation on clichés. Instead I want to reflect on the phenomenon of the passage of time, but it is very difficult to do so without drifting into the cliché-infested dykes that litter the landscape of this particular topic.
There are times and moments and rituals and ceremonies that mark the various stages of life. Some are religious, some are cultural and some are natural - birth, puberty and death come to mind.
I remember as a young lad the leap from short trousers to long trousers was a major sign that the boy was becoming a man. This cultural progression was so deeply ingrained that it took me decades to become comfortable with the sight of fully grown men in shorts or short trousers. Indeed, I found the spectacle quite ridiculous.
I'm a bit of a history buff and it was years before I could take Montgomery, one of the most significant figures of the Second World War, seriously.
The first photograph I saw of the great Monty was taken during the desert campaigns of 1942-43. Although arrayed in his trademark beret and cravat, he was also wearing short trousers: not the kind of hero for a young man who valued the status bestowed by a full pair of pants.
While the wearing of long trousers by boys signified a coming of age of sorts, for girls the wearing of a 'mantilla' at mass was a sign that a significant stage of development had been passed. From what I can recall, girls first wore the mantilla - a sort of lace headdress that looked distinctly Spanish - for Confirmation. Many women continued to wear it at religious services throughout their lives.
However, some young ladies were so taken by the headgear and its significance that they wore it everywhere - cycling their bikes, going to the shop, bringing home the cows or meeting their first boyfriend at the back of the creamery.