Thursday, 4 October 2012

In which I turn 55

Or not, depending whether you use the Polish or British way of counting. Poles would say I turned 55 on 1 January 2012, as the year of my birth, 1957, is the key to the question of how old am I. In Polish, today I have 'finished 55' (zakończyłem 55, i.e. the 55th year of my life has reached an end). Poles put far less store on birthdays anyway, tending to remember names-days (imieniny) as the big, age-independent, celebration for friends and family. St. Michael's Day (Michaelmass as in 'Michaelmass term', which traditional English schools use to name the first trimester of the academic year) falls on 29 September; so, close to my birthday. (St. Edmund's Day is in late November).

Grammatically, Poles 'have' their years, while English speakers 'are' their years. "Mam 55 lat" (I have 55 years - or indeed 55 summers), rather than "I am 55". I wonder whether that's telling.

I must say I do feel in fineft fettle (that Polish word samopoczucie being rather inelegantly translated as '(general) physical and mental state' - Wielki słownik polsko-angielski PWN-Oxford). Better than at 50; more relaxes, more (ahem) distinguished, more of an (ahem-hem) authority (was on telly today and the radio yesterday) and as a result more self-confident and comfortable within myself as a person.

Much, much, happier. My mother was absolutely right when she told me before I turned 50 that 'the best is yet to come'. (It's great reaching 55 and still having two parents in good physical and mental health.)

Since my 50th, for the first time ever, the US and then the UK elected leaders who had the bare-faced cheek to be younger than me. (I was rooting for John McCain for this very reason in 2008 - the guy was 72 then!). 

As I approached the Dread Milestone, I asked my good friend and fellow-blogger Krzysztof (Toyah), what it was like being 52. He said "Still a long way to 60". Another memorable - and true - statement.

And if someone asks you "how old do I look", the correct (politically and otherwise) answer is: "too young to have complexes about your age".

For the record, the day was sunny and warm (21C daytime high), as happens often in early October in Warsaw; I can't remember a sunny birthday in my Grey English Childhood.

A big dziękuję to friends and family for SMSs, chocolates, a throughlion*, birthday cards, e-mails- and imagine my delight when I returned to the car at P+R Ursynów this evening to find the message (above) on the windscreen - many thanks to 'Student SGH', the author of the Politics, Economy, Society blog, (who for professional reasons must remain anonymous!) for surprising me in this pleasant way!

What lies ahead? I still want to know more about why it is I get these flashbacks (just got one to summer holiday in France in 1967, a Panhard 17L car... quite unbidden) and in particular those anomalous familiarity events which I get as often today as I ever did, back to the USA or Scandinavia in the late 1940s/early 50s. There are so many mysteries of the universe yet to unravel... This and the art of the Sublime Aesthetic, linked inextricably to our human sensibilities, to that which drives our spirits, to the intangible - the Great Unknowable, that which no scientific experiment can ever touch. I would like to have got much closer to it by the time my body gives in to the ravages of Time.


Turning 54

Turning 53

Turning 50


adthelad said...

Sto lat nich żyje nam!

Sigismundo said...

And many more happy birthdays ahead!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Michael - 60 is not bad either.

I view it like golf - we are now on the 'back nine'


AndrzejK said...

Happy Birthday!!! The reason Poles celebrate namesdays more than birthdays is that in the old days the two fell on the same day i.e. you were named after the saint on whose feast day you were born. Good thing that is no longer the case as some of us would be lumbered with ridiculous names such as Cuthbert for instnace. Mind you preferable being named after an obscure saint that being called Tinkerbell or Chelsea!!

Wilkbury said...

I wish you a very Happy Birthday!
Sto lat!!!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Michael, from another 50 something.


Decoy said...

Belated Happy Birthday!

Michael Dembinski said...

Many thanks Gentlemen!

Marcin said...


No to zdrówka.

Hehe, translate this. :)