Forty-Something: In Dog Years I’d Be Dead!


Nov 16, 2013
Forty-Something: In Dog Years I’d Be Dead! mid life crisis At 42 I’m hardly one of life’s great oaks – more of a sapling really. 

 However, the concept of age is inextricably linked to average life  expectancy. So despite my relative youth, after twenty five years around  death and funerals I bow to no-one’s counsel but my own on what  constitutes “young” or “old.” Likewise my attitude to growing older is  forged from a fairly unique standpoint. Whilst I witness a great deal of  sadness I also find other people’s struggles with the prospect of aging a  constant source of wry amusement.   

 In terms of the sadness, I’m often called upon to arrange funerals for  mature adults still taken too early in life – hapless victims of what I call  the “post-50 lottery.” That made you sit up didn’t it?! I’ve concluded that once you hit your late 50’s through to 60’s you have to navigate a perilous hinterland where medical and lifestyle dangers and sometimes just the sheer bloody unfairness of fate lurk round every corner. But that said, if like the majority of folks you can navigate that period unscathed then you can probably expect to motor on into your 80’s, 90’s and beyond. Which is fine….funeral directors are very patient people!

But even before any of that comes your way, you have to go through the bit I’m now rapidly approaching: mid-life. For the reasons stated above, I like to think I have a fairly well-adjusted attitude to hitting my 40’s. And so I should, because turning 40 really is an irrelevance nowadays. Much as I loath clichés and trite truisms, 50 is very definitely the new 40. The age of 40 is “younger” than it was a generation ago – that’s official. Take it from someone who should know: a funeral director.

So maybe that’s why, now I’m into my 40’s, I’ve yet to feel any inclination to take up with a female twenty years my junior, or go out and buy a Harley Davidson motorbike. I’m reliably informed they’re noisy, high-maintenance, extremely unreliable and best kept in a securely locked shed. I’ve heard the same said of Harley Davidsons as well…

I’m sorry, I can’t resist it – I suffer with perspective-induced prejudice towards ownership of Harley Davidson motorbikes. I vividly recall doing a funeral for a Harley fan. Rather sadly, the deceased had once again been taken too soon by terminal illness, but that wasn’t the reason his funeral stuck in my mind. We had an honour escort formed by his fellow Harley riders. As we passed through town women, children and the elderly all retreated into the shops in terror, convinced our sleepy little haven was being invaded by Hell’s Angels. Meanwhile, at the head of the invading force, a certain funeral director was seething with embarrassment at being surrounded by a group of leather-clad men on their shiny Harleys, all old enough to know better than to declare their mid-life crisis in the most excruciatingly public manner possible.


But whilst writing this article and happily losing myself in poking fun at men getting out and enjoying themselves in later life, Ashley’s recent blog about his run-in with prostate cancer stopped me sharply in my tracks. To be precise, it was his undoubtedly vital and timely advice to all men of an age that I too am rapidly approaching. Apparently we should: “Have a jiggle on a regular basis to make sure there is nothing untoward going on down there – and go to the doctor if you have any symptoms or concerns.” 

I still shudder at the memory of reading it. I had no idea that reaching mid-life could be so….biological. But humour aside, that little collection of words Ashley chose to use carries profound implications for all men. I see the ones who ignore the advice.

It’s Remembrance month and Winston Churchill said on the eve of World War II: “We must not underrate the gravity of the task which lies before us… We must expect many disappointments, and many unpleasant surprises…” Ashley, like Winston, has clearly mastered the art of the meaningful understatement. 

Oh dear, suddenly I’m feeling more sympathetic to older men who go out and enjoy themselves on Harley Davidsons!


James Baker owns and runs Fred Stevens Funeral Directors of Nailsworth, Glos.



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