Ch-ch-changes (with thanks to David Bowie)

What is a job for life? I keep reading “no more jobs for life”, usually on the same page as living for longer, saving more, sex at seventy and sentimental claptrap about how many more of us will be living to a hundred, as if that were desirable.

I can’t think of anything worse.

sun masks

Yes, I have the personal acquaintance of two ladies, both over 90, in reasonable fettle, borne up by various kinds of help and family.  And my own mother died at 89 with little marked decline, thank heaven.


But it is a sight too long if you are ill or alone, or can’t-buy-the-basics-without-wincing poor – and increasing numbers of us are going to be all three.

Recently employed by a TV show, I met various well meaning souls who said bracingly “But you’re still working aren’t you?”

There are all sorts of inferences in this.

To which I replied “Only here.  Eight jobs last year, ten this.   I read a lot of books.”

|I don’t enjoy the mixture of shamefaced apology and jollying along that seems to accompany the expectation of endless employment.

Nothing is forever, and certainly not work.

So, the other day walking home, I reflected on the idea of a job for life.

How long is life?

Because – setting aside 10 years as a secretary – I worked more or less continuously for 35 years, with two unplanned breaks of about 8 weeks or so – in regular fulltime employment, regular part time employment, and freelance – in women’s magazines, newspapers, on radio and TV with the odd speaking engagement thrown in, all running at much the same time.  I was married, we had a child, there was help in the house, the shirts went to a service and we took turns at walking the dog.   That was a life and things change.

One of the best things I was ever taught is that change is inevitable – change in working practice, change in one’s field of work, life change, change in expectation and situation.

You can spend a lot of time trying to maintain the status quo and things will still change.  It is revealing that the man who insisted I get to grips with the idea of change hated it when it came to him because it was not under his formidable control!  Change was OK for other people.

We often talk about change resentfully because change for the worse is easier to categorize than change for the better.  So I remember with affectionate respect the old lady whose shopping I carried as we trudged home through the snow, who suddenly said “They weren’t good old days you know, for most of us.  They were bad old days.  Today is better.”   Change, you see.


The actress Cherie Lunghi (whom I have seen close to on a Saturday morning shopping, with a bit of lipstick for makeup, her enviable figure in jeans) is the first “popular” woman to be quoted as saying “Forget the Botox and embrace your bus pass” (Daily Telegraph 07.04.2012, quoted from The Lady) while some Simple Pleasures for the Over 70s made it to the second page of Times 2 (same week) including a break, thank heaven, from all this relentless “keeping busy”.

Of course you don’t have to abdicate everything you used to do but there might be something specific you are longing to stop.  Or take on.   In listening to other people’s problems for years and having given appropriate attention to my own, I contend that people who make themselves artificially busy are usually avoiding something – along the same lines are those endlessly hard workers who retire and are dead in a year to eighteen months.

Change has to be learned.  It is governed by need, health, disposition, income and imagination.

Change makes me revisit books and without exception I get something different out of them, the second time around.  They haven’t changed but I have.

A devotee of the print, I have reduced my newspaper habit to three a day and I have learned to love crosswords.

Change has made me cut back on cheese: the mouth loves it but the stomach doesn’t.

I am not a cat with nine lives.  I am a woman who cherishes tracts of time but who recognizes this is different – a change – to another life.

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