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Impatient clock Youth passes, but we can still grab hold of life ...

If the fates allow, I will bid farewell to 52 accompanied by Pharrell's joyous ode to being alive


Pharrel WIlliams celebrates the joy of living

Pharrel WIlliams celebrates the joy of living

Pharrel WIlliams celebrates the joy of living

As another birthday accelerates the already too-fast hurtle through life to warp speed, a rainbow of emotions - many brightly coloured, others ominous - decorates the horizon.

I'm grateful, wistful, pensive, frightened, sentimental, hopeful, happy, and a little sad; sometimes the sensation is that of a helpless passenger strapped into an express-lane mortal shuttle.

That old phrase (the one we used to tease our parents for having on speed dial): It only feels like yesterday…

Since I was riding the wind of teenage dreams, since I was, 24, 35, 41, and yet, today, I'm 53. How did that happen?

What cruel divinity stole away all those decades? Peel back the years and it seems no more than five minutes since the first love, the first pint, the first coming-of-age Mediterranean holiday.

Since the world stretched out in front of us like a blank canvass awaiting our most optimistic and daring brushstrokes. Since we were fizzbombing around rectangles of grass, playing just about every ball game known to man; happy, gambolling, uncontainable colts with a sheen to our coats and a bottomless fuel tank.

Yet today, it takes longer to manipulate creaking joints back into the car than it did to complete the morning walk which renders your columnist a groaning tin man in urgent need of a goodly application of Castrol GTX.

The simple act of bending to place a golf ball on a tee has somehow become as arduous and perilous as crossing the Khumbu Icefall or the deep crevasses of Everest's west shoulder while uniformed in a straitjacket, manacles, and a pair of Rihanna's Jimmy Choos.

The discs in my back are as moody and sulky and deaf to instruction as a classroom of hate-the-world adolescents.

I'd surrender to the therapy of a hot Radox bath but for the tiny complication of not having a heist, JCB or industrial crane to subsequently winch myself free of the bloody tub.

A line full of foreboding leapt out from the great Don De Lillo's Underworld as I gorged on its feast of words last week: "Time binds us to ageing flesh."

The evil weave of the passing years can feel relentless, suffocating, terrifying. It is 36 years since Live Aid, 31 since Italia '90, 26 since Wonderwall charted, 22 since Gaybo's last Late Late, 20 since the Twin Towers fell, a decade since that redemptive May when both Obama and Queen Elizabeth visited Ireland.

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An intense postcard from childhood pops through the letterbox of the mind: Dad, strong, vital, invincible, opening the gate to wonderland as he introduces me to summer Sundays in Croke Park.

It is a moment that strikes with enormous force.

It was yesterday, it was 45 years ago. Can it really be a dozen summers since he closed his eyes for the last time?

As midlife disappears from the rearview mirror, the clock's impatient, speed-of-light gallop, a comet sizzling across the horizon, seems designed to make us feel small and impotent.

And yet today, the strongest shade in that rainbow of emotions mentioned in the opening paragraph, is contentment. A sunshine hue.

With each passing year, the treasure that is family and bone-deep friendships, though long ago declared priceless, somehow inflates even further in value.

A comfort blanket to wrap around every pore of our being.

The cargo of good fortune life has delivered to the door feels miraculous and, in truth, undeserved.

If there are frequent retreats to the safehouse of sepia-tinted recollection, still the palace of the here-and-now is not a bad place to dwell.

Yes, old memories are a kind of optimistic poetry floating across the years.

But so many of the gates to beauty, serenity and gladness remain unblocked if we only choose to seek them out.

A stroll through Stephen's Green, along the beach, or into a calm Nirvana of an old bookshop remains life affirming.

At 53, the sensory thrill of that hiss of porter transferring from tap to glass has not diminished. It still offers a lovely dopamine rush of anticipation.

This morning, if the fates allow, I will bid farewell to 52 accompanied by the soundtrack of Pharrell Williams chirping Happy, his joyous ode to being alive.

It is song that giftwraps good humour in every upbeat syllable. And then, working up an appetite for a lunchtime repast, just the two of us will saunter down Dun Laoghaire's mighty east pier, the symphony of birdsong and sailboats clinking at anchor offering a merry soundtrack.

We will stop where concrete meets sea, peer out into that mighty body of bobbing water, allowing great draughts of the freshest air to find thirsty lungs.

And, fingers crossed, that invigorating rush of being alive will rewind all the clocks and hand us again the elusive gift of youth.

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