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Life. Could it be magic?

May 5, 2019 | Culture

So, here I find myself.



I always think that’s a bit of a misnomer to be honest. The term ‘mid-life’ implies that you’re halfway through your life. In my case I am ‘mid-life’ if I live until I’m 108. Now, I know that we’re all living longer (and doesn’t the NHS love THAT!), but I think 108 is pushing it slightly….

Anyway, my more over-riding concern is how I actually got here….

You see, in my head I’m 25. Straight up. No kidding. I still laugh at the things I found funny at 25. I still enjoy the same things I did at 25.

Problem is when I bend down to pick up something that I’ve dropped, I realise that the head may be 25 but the knees are 54 and I can’t pick it up without making what I used to call that ‘old people’s noise’.

I’m not alone in this mystery. More and more I hear friends say ‘I can’t believe I’m in my mid-50s. Where the hell did that go?’

One friend even said that, while she hadn’t had any problems ‘embracing 50’, she was having difficulty reconciling herself to the fact that she’s fast approaching 60! (See – even talking about ‘embracing’ things puts you in a certain age group….)

But we’re not alone. Even TV celebrity, Richard Madeley, recently admitted that he can’t quite believe how fast his life has flown by and that the prospect of ageing is – for him – a daunting one.

‘Age,’ the presenter said, ‘sneaks up on you like a thief in the night, stealing away our years without us even noticing until it’s too late. One morning, we look in the mirror and ask, ‘Where did it go? How long do I have left?’

Now, I didn’t have to look in a mirror to wonder where life has gone….although a recent reflection showed me that, if life is measured in ‘laughter lines’, I must have been hysterical for about 20 years.

But no, I just had to go to a Barry Manilow concert.

Now before anyone starts to titter (and yes, you DO remember Frankie Howerd), contrary to public opinion, the great man still managed to pack the SSE Hydro in Glasgow on 14 June 2016 with 7000 screaming women (and a few men in pink boas, but there you go!) on his ‘One Last Time’ tour.

And it was on that night that I realised how much of my life – and his – had gone by.

On the positive side, the great thing about age, I realised that night, is that it happens to all of us.

To me.

To you.

To Barry Manilow…

As I watched him perform on stage that night, it was immediately clear to me that time has not stood still for either of us.

I first saw Barry in concert in 1982 in Dublin. Then, I was a fresh-faced seventeen year old with my life ahead of me. Full of plans for the future, full of hopes and dreams and, by the end of the evening, full of Pernod and blackcurrants (ugh -.even the thought…)

Barry, on the other hand, was in his prime. Thirty-eight, fit, lithe and full of energy, he was already a multi-millionaire thanks to hits like ‘Mandy’ and ‘Could It Be Magic’.

No matter what you think of his music, the man is – and was – a star, and was, in real life, way better looking than in many of the posters which adorned my bedroom walls.

Fast forward thirty four years and here I was at 52 standing in the gods at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow. In those 34 years – like most people of my age – I’ve experienced ‘life’: successes, failures, serious ill health, good health, relationships (good and bad), dreams (fulfilled and unfulfilled), births, deaths….that glorious mélange of tears and smiles that befalls us all.

Barry, meanwhile, was appearing two days before his seventy-third birthday. Due to declining health – including a bad hip and atrial fibrillation – he had decided to retire from the stage and was nearing the end of this tour – his global farewell.

I couldn’t miss it, could I? It was, for both of us, the end of an era. Even the name of the tour – ‘One Last Time’ – was poignant and I felt as if I was saying goodbye to a part of myself.

As I waited for Barry to take to the stage, I looked around at my fellow fans. I’ve never seen so many women in their fifties in one room (apart from once when I went to a meeting of the local Women’s Institute), and I was particularly struck by how many women were – like me – alone. Yet here we all were, in middle age, saying goodbye to someone who had once been blonde, beautiful and, well….Barry.

Looking at the stage itself, I was transported once again back to 1982 when I remembered being booted off the stage in the RDS, having scaled it to…well, I’ve no idea, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Thirty-four years later, there was no mission of me scaling anything thanks to my lower back problem, so Barry was safe. (Although if I had managed it, there was more chance of me catching him now thanks to his bad hip!)

When Barry eventually appeared, I – along with 7000 other people – woo-hooed and whistled my heart out and, for the next two hours, I sang at the top of my voice, waved my glow stick like a demented air traffic controller and boogied like it was…well, 1982.

Although a bit croakier than of old, there was no doubt that the man could still sing – and then some! We got all the old faves. We danced Latino to Copacabana. We swayed – glow sticks aloft – to I Write the Songs. And we cried to Even Now.

Yes, there were some notes that he would have needed a step ladder to reach and yes, thanks to some dodgy cosmetic work for a ‘facial cyst’ – ahem – he’d need to be careful if he sat too close to an open fire, but, for two hours that night, Barry Manilow was 38 again, doing what he loves. And I – and many of the other women there – were 17 years old again, looking forward to all that life had to throw at us.


Could it be magic? Yes. And for one magical night, it most certainly was…..  

So, here I am now in my 50s.

I’ve experienced life – the highs and the lows – and I’m still here with a wealth of joy and sorrow behind me and, I hope, ahead of me! I hope you’ll join me on the journey…..

Debbie Orme