Stop the Clock is a memoir on ageing with dignity, grace and humour by well-known octogenarian writer Gordon McLaughlan. His perceptive and intelligent words put paid to the stereotypical image of his age group as doddery old men.
“It is a most devastating awakening that as you move out of the 60s and into the 70s there is a creeping sense of irrelevance, of being marginalised and patronised,” he writes.
Gordon himself refused to put his life on hold.
‘I fight doggedly against drifting into old age dismayed and disgruntled. I look upon it as a new career move. I take an interest in it. Study it. Try to cope with it with nonchalant dignity.’
But there was no getting away from his altered physical appearance and he accepted it with humour
“My cheeks are slumping like Poverty Bay hills, my eyes have carry-on luggage and only shrink wrapping could tighten up my biceps.”
McLaughlan calls himself an autodidactic, a self-educated man, who after just one year at University left because he was bored. He continued to read widely throughout his life. This is evident from the quotes by famous authors and philosophers which are sprinkled throughout his book, alongside anecdotes from his own life.
Gordon’s opinions about life in New Zealand are wide-ranging. He challenges the wisdom of not making space for those in their sixties and seventies to work part-time. He has words to say about the misinformation tsunami. He rails against the infestation of bicycles and especially scooters on footpaths. And he shares his recipe for longevity, just how much exercise is good for old people and the dangers of excessive drinking.
Until his 89th year, Gordon was in good health. Then, his body was unexpectedly invaded by an aggressive form of lymphoma and he was given only a short time to live.
Despite the discomfort and indignity of his final days he considered himself lucky to be surrounded by his loving family and to be granted enough time to write his last chapter, something few people have a chance to do.
His thoughts turned to his funeral.
“My one rule about a funeral is to put it off as long as I can by staying alive.” he wrote.
But the reality of life is that there is always a beginning and an end. Gordon died in Auckland, 26 of January 2019.
I enjoyed reading this memoir. It was a good reminder that old age does not need to be dreary or unproductive and to live life to the full.
Stop the Clock is by Gordon McLaughlan. Publisher Bateman Books. RRP $29.99.
Reviews by Lyn Potter
Parent and grandparent, Avid traveler, writer & passionate home cook