32 pieces of advice for a 75-year-old

lepetitnordorann00gren.jpg

In August I went on a seven-day cruise of New Zealand’s southernmost fiords with two friends, 29 soon-to-be friends, and six friendly crew. (What, only six? Yes: they were all multi-skilled and worked day and night for our comfort and enlightenment.) This adventure with Real Journeys on the Milford Wanderer is such a rich experience that — so I discovered — half my friends had already taken it.

Preservation Inlet is the most remote fiord, and I felt the name was a good omen for anyone contemplating old age. I wish to be well preserved until I die. (After that, who cares?) 

How does the Preservation Inlet cruise fit into the context of my boot camp for the bonus years? It’s not on the list of twelve challenges because it’s my long-standing policy to have an adventure every year, and I have no intention of stopping. That is not a challenge: it’s just fun. The oldest passenger was Jess, a vibrant 92-year-old full of fun and curiosity, who really listens and is fully engaged with the world. Another role model.

But the cruise was certainly a learning experience — we could hardly help becoming enlightened to some degree as we walked in many isolated places saturated in a startling human history. We learned from the experience, the passengers and of course from our guide Chris and the other crew members.

However, if information goes in one ear and out the other, that’s not exactly learning new stuff, is it?

 Lest I forget: a rapid review of tips

On our final evening I toured the common room asking everyone to restate any advice they had given me in the course of the trip. If they couldn’t remember, they gave me new tips regardless. Yay! Now I’m all set. Who could go wrong with advice like this?

Advice on cruising in rough sea and the southern fiords

  • Glenda: To reduce sea-sickness, put an ear plug in the ear opposite to your dominant hand (e.g. if you are right-handed, put an earplug in your left ear).
  • Donna: Lie down and close your eyes.
  • Peter 1: Choose your cabin carefully, away from snorers.
  • Alayne: Always wear sunscreen.
  • Ray: Petition Parliament for more pillows.

Tips for bush walking and kayaking

  • Brent: Use seal blubber as a sandfly repellant and don’t be a penguin.
  • Kate: Camp under eucalypts to deter mosquitoes. (Good luck with that one, Kate.)
  • Juliet: Make sure you fall in love with a man who you know will survive in the bush. (Quote from Jenny Bornholdt.)
  • Barbara: Record an unknown bird’s song and send it to the birdsong website.
  • Lyall: If pursued by horsemen or horsewomen intent upon doing harm, carry a supply of calthrops.
  • Martin: Have a good camera and learn how to use it.

Advice about nutrition

  • Janine: Order an iced cake at least one week in advance. 
  • Older Tom: There is no rule that says you must drink all the wine in the bottle.
  • Clive: Don’t drink anti-freeze. Or if you do, drink my anti-freeze, made from Antarctic fish.
  • Graeme: Keep moving. Eat prunes.

Advice about advice

  • Don: Don’t seek too much advice at once.
  • Deborah: Don’t advise other people. 

Old and mostly true (the tips, I mean)

  • Peter 2: Live life on the edge. 
  • Hamish: Before you start your enterprise, appoint the scapegoat. (Joke… or am I it?)
  • Jim: Never put off something that you will later regret not doing.
  • Alison: Keep your knees together. (Too late.)
  • Janine: Be nice to your mother. (Too late, but I’ll pass it on.)
  • Peter 3: Be kind. (Never too late.)
  • Fay: Keep on smiling. It will take you everywhere. 

Instantly usable tips

  • Heather: When threading a needle, fold the thread over the eye of the needle and slip the eye over the fold.
  • Lyall again: Use a needle threader.
  • Young Tom: What’s your novel’s title?  Write it to attract your target readers. 

Wisdom from the youngest and oldest

  • Heather: Sometimes it’s the youngest or the oldest person in the room that you learn from.
  • Young Rachael: To pack small, use compression bags.
  • Geraldine (81): I am a senior citizen so I am entitled to give you advice. When you’re over 80 you need a sense of humour. So if you don’t have one, start working on it.
  • Young Rachael: Get ready for your shower the night before.
  • Jess (92): FINISH YOUR NOVEL!

Image from Le Petit Nord, or, Annals of a Labrador Harbour (1920) by Anne Grenfell and Katie Spalding. Pub lic domain.