Today’s image is one that was shot and printed in 1966, over half a century ago. It was one of the very first times I used a darkroom while I was an undergraduate at Cambridge University. Many of you will recognize the unmistakable facade of King’s College Chapel.
At that time I was one year into my medical training: a six-year course to obtain the necessary qualifications to be permitted to work as a Doctor. And to work in a particular speciality (including General Practice) took a minimum of another three years. A long haul.
I’m in reflective mood for two reasons. Firstly, earlier this month I reached 70 – my three score and ten – a milestone I would prefer to ignore, as it inevitably raises the concept of additional years being time added on for good behaviour.
Secondly, the latest issue of CAM (the Cambridge Alumni Magazine) clattered through our finger-biting letterbox earlier this month. It’s a magazine I tend to skim through rather than read, but I was attracted to one particular article titled: ‘On Age’.
‘On Age’ was an article that asked a question: ‘What is it really like to work beyond the normal span?’ and provided answers from four Alumni.
The very first sentence of the article set the scene: ‘Forget the slippers, give up your idea of a quiet cottage by the sea and prepare to release your inner grey panther.’ And a few lines down there was a quote from one of the contributors, Historian Roderick Braithwaite: ‘We are not all automatically extinct the moment we reach 65 and there must be many of us who are continuing to ‘produce’ way into the so-called grey panther stage.’
I am retired from Medicine – and therefore I’m not actually ‘in work’ – but I still have a desire to ‘produce’ as Roderick Braithwaite phrases it. Not simply for the end result, but because I relish a challenge and I enjoy working on projects and ideas. Which is why I produce this blog and why I continue to speak at camera Clubs occasionally. Somebody once said or wrote that inside every Scientist there is an Artist waiting to escape. The space and pace of retirement finally provided the opportunity for my artistic interests to evolve.
Thomas Carlyle (Scottish philosopher, essayist, satirist and historian) wrote that ‘A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.’
I am delighted to say that I am neither extinct nor rudderless. I am happy to declare that I am a Grey Panther, and long may my Grey Panther state continue.