January 2015

Victory for older drivers

Let’s have three cheers and a quick spin of the Zimmer frame for Ms Justice Simler.

The High Court judge has decreed that age alone is not a reason to remove a person’s driving licence.

It is a decision for that rare quality known as commonsense. There has never been any understandable logic behind the restrictions imposed on drivers simply because of their age. It suggests that a person who is in the best of health and in possession of all necessary faculties suddenly, on a single day, becomes gaga, uncoordinated, hard of hearing and devoid of sight. By having a birthday  they are determined as having lost all ability to control a moving vehicle.

Justice Simler’s landmark ruling reversed a decision by  the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to revoke the licence of a 78-year-old woman after a road accident for which she was held responsible.  Without any supporting medical evidence, the DVLA had asserted that the woman had been rendered unfit to drive by “age-related cognitive impairment”.

The judge said the DVLA had acted solely on a basis of age – that the woman was an older driver. It had ignored clear medical evidence that the woman did not, in fact, suffer from cognitive impairment.

Licensing authorities are not alone in applying this inflexible age-based ruling. Car rental companies are equally restrictive. Until a certain date, I was able to hire a car and enjoy the freedom of self-drive mobility. The following day, I was confined to barracks as it were.  It was as if my ability to drive had  evaporated overnight.

Fortunately I found one company http://www.enterprise.co.uk/car_rental/home.do that has the sense and business acumen to go against the flow without fuss or question or excess charges.

There is no logic in such draconian age-based rules – especially when one regards the lack of driving ability daily displayed by those many years younger. Driving skills, road sense, reaction times and general awareness of other motorists are what need to be assessed rather than  assuming there is a line in our lives beyond which we immediately become senile and decrepit.

At the moment I am fortunately in rude health and in possession of all my faculties. Many others several years (even decades) younger are less blessed. Yet they are the ones who have the freedom to drive without question or impost.

Here’s hoping Justice Simler’s decision will be more than “considered” by the DVLA (and rental companies)  and that regulations affecting older driver – or at least attitudes – will change for the better.

Drive on …



Editing skills recognised

Welcome note in today from a writer whose book(s) I am editing.

He writes: “I’m loving what I am seeing. I think finally I’ve found an editor who understands what I’m aiming for in style and tone and who knows just how to make it shine and breathe that extra level of life into it.”

Such words are pure gold … totally unsolicited and so very welcome.



Jack Nicholson, love, Viagra and me.

It seems fame and fortune – like money – cannot buy happiness. Not even for an A-lister as well-heeled as Jack Nicholson.

Regardless of his big bucks, big house and even bigger ego he is now just one of the lads. The ageing lads. The guys who, as the saying goes, may have snow on the rooftop but still have a fire burning down below. Or, if not a roaring winter blaze, at least some smouldering ashes.

According to the Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/11339505/Jack-Nicholson-I-am-single-and-lonely-and-likely-to-die-alone.html the fears and doubts that assail we mere mortals have now struck Lothario Jack. He, just like the rest of us, has woken to the fact that there is a use-by date on one’s romantic appeal. Such realisation comes all the harder for those who have enjoyed what might be termed “an interesting life”.

We can accept the failing eyesight (disguised by contact lenses or laser treatment), the onset of deafness (long hair hides the hearing aid) and the shift to a soft food diet (false teeth look good but make poor gnashers and chewers). But it is the lost of libido that hurts the most, that is hardest to accept, because it is accompanied by the discovery that one has been consigned to the shelf of unwanted goods by those with whom most wishes to consort.

Taking the initiative in such matters is just not on. As Nicholson observes about the potential for chatting up the opposite sex: “It just doesn’t feel right at my age.”  So true. Not only does it not feel right but there is an over-arching fear of failure, of rejection, that was rarely there in earlier times. At least then to be turned down meant merely one moved on;  eventually there would be a meeting if not of bodies, at least of  minds … and with a hope still burning of things moving on to something more intimate.

And if not, at least there was companionship and a closeness that made a reasonable substitute for love.  Move into one’s seventies however (Nicholson is now 77) and the scenario changes rapidly. The “pulling” power of the past diminishes at an alarming rate, aggravated by the nagging knowledge that to make the first advance of old is simply not on.

What comes with this is the fear that the inevitable end of life is approaching at an alarming rate. We have passed man’s once accepted lifespan of three score years and ten. The end is nigh. Many of our contemporaries are long gone. Those featuring in the obituaries are all of our age or younger.

And we are alone. Truly alone.

Although the years have been blessed by marriages (good and bad), relationships, entanglements and one-night stands, there have also been many periods when we have lived in a state of singledom. Yet although we were alone, statistically, we were neither lonely nor lacking companionship if we wished it.

It is only now, when age is no longer viewed as just a number, that we are alone for the first time in our lives. And it is hard to bear – not the aloneness, but the lack of  love and intimacy.

In Nicholson’s words: “What I can’t deny is my yearning. I’m definitely still wild at heart but I’ve struck biogravity.”

These are sad times indeed for ageing Lotharios everywhere, rich or poor. And not even Viagra can help if there’s no other in the bed.

Welcome to the real world, Jack.




Kindle can’t compete

Could this be the light at the end of the tunnel? Is this the turn-off on a long and winding road?

Maybe it is one of those blips that tend to rattle forecasters before the status quo returns … but the news from the ubiquitous UK bookshop chain, Waterstones, is that sales of Amazon’s Kindle device have taken a massive dive. So much so, that the company describes them as having “disappeared”, according to reports in today’s financial pages.

It is all the more interesting in view of the fact that as recently as 2012 Waterstones joined up with Amazon to sell the Kindle throughout its 290 stores.

However, the latest figures, based on December results, show sales of good old-fashioned books – you know, the ones printed on paper with pages you could flick to and fro and even scribble on, and that yellowed with age and well-thumbed love – rose by five per cent. And did so at the expense of the gadgetty e-reader.

Encouraged by this trend, the company plans to open at least a dozen more shops this year.

The company reckons a refurbishing of its stores and handing more control to individual shop managers was the reason for the reversal. However, it could just possibly be that old thing of Joe and Josephine Public voting with their feet – of knowing and buying what they want rather than being led by the nose to buy what the great god Amazon wants them to buy.

Certainly almost every day seems like rush hour in my local Waterstones, where the small display of e-readers is hidden in a corner well away from the main flow of customers — who are all busy using their hard-earned to buy BOOKS.

How best is a bestseller?

Could it be that among the many words that have become overused, abused and exaggerated beyond all meaning, “bestseller” is the most misused of all?

Screaming at us from the shelves, tables and remainder bins of our bookshops are covers proclaiming that what lies within is a “No.1 Bestseller” or that it has been written by a “Bestselling Author”. And even those that fail to make the No.1 ranking are still labelled as a “Bestseller”.

At times it seems that every second book placed before us has achieved such exalted status; there are no runners-up. No book is ever hailed as a “No.2” in the listings.

How can it be, especially when there are thousands upon thousands of books being published every week, that so many manage to achieve sufficient sales to be ranked so highly. Who justifies these claims – and how can such status have already been achieved when the book has only recently arrived on the market?

Perhaps, although it is never stated, they are bestsellers within a certain category. And the narrower the category, the easier it is to push to the top of the pile.

Such thoughts arise from noting claims that regularly appear on  online author discussion groups. Here writers boast of having achieved top billing – and there follows the information that this is within, for example, the genre of  fantasy Outback psycho romance. Gee, I bet the competition is mighty fierce. As it must be within those churning out tomes in the genre of futuristic outer-space techno war thrillers.  Or hard-core island castaway rock chick-lit.

Maybe such categories have yet to be created but a glance at the sub-genres the scary monster named Amazon offers shows that the publishing world has progressed (although that’s probably not the right word) way beyond what used to suffice to describe a book’s theme and contents.

This multitude of genres and sub-genres has splintered the writing world to such an extent that competition is almost non-existent. Anyone can become a winner in a two horse race and claim “bestseller” status. The marketing people love it; their patently spurious blurbs of their authors’ exalted status need no explanation and, if someone dare ask for proof, they can easily create a sub-genre for their clients’ works.

Bestseller? Baloney and balderdash.

And even if there is a grain of truth in the claim. does it count for ought? Surely the proof of excellence is within – and not on those shouty covers.