I received a couple of reminders of mortality this week. The first involved a rather freakish separation of my bicycle from its handlebars and the resultant separation of me from the bike. Handlebars are one of those things I’ve always taken for granted – like slippers and toast. I cannot imagine them behaving in any way out of the ordinary but a few days ago a pair of handlebars defied a three-line whip and split from the rest of the Bicycle Party.
One skinned knee and bruised ego later I was contemplating the perfidy of fate and handlebars and also what a fierce handy yoke a bicycle helmet is.
The other reminder about finite nature of this mortal coil was that suddenly everyone seems to be talking about pensions. There was a court case for Waterford Crystal workers, the OECD talked about forcing people to pay one, everyone’s talking about a pensions timebomb – as if old people are dangerous. As I turn 35 tomorrow (no, there’s no need for anything extravagant, maybe a card – or a pension) it’s that time of life when a getting-less-young man’s thoughts turn to pretending he’ll never need a pension.
I have one somewhere – a relic, along with a stapler and a couple of ill-fitting suits, of a time when I had a proper job. I have no idea where it is now. I suspect it’s tied up in something owned by NAMA – maybe an abandoned factory on the edge of town where one of Batman’s nemeses is plotting a dastardly heist. I know that in the attic – of my house, not the old abandoned factory – there is a folder optimistically entitled ‘Pension Options’. I’m afraid to look at it in case it demands I use a part of my brain that has long since shrivelled up: The bit that used to be able to fill out the numbers in Balance Sheet, Profit And Loss accounts during double Business Studies. Even now I shudder as I think of stultifying Spring afternoons where the heating was still on even though the sun was streaming in through the windows. A teacher struggling to disguise his sympathy as twenty-eight teenage boys lethargically tried to get Expert Electricals’ accounts in order for an auditor who was never going to turnup.
Rather than take any personal responsibility for it, I’m choosing to blame Junior Cert Business Studies for all of my subsequent financial decisions – like the house with a mortgage that’s so under water we could rent out the spare room to Spongebob; or buying that gym ball.
It’s inevitable that in the current climate, the ads will start up again. You know the ones with a young-sounding voice will query the need to look after the future. The near-sighted whelp is swiftly overruled by the guy who does all the ads which require a voice that evokes Your Father-In-Law The Doctor. “Isn’t it about time you secured YOUR future?”
It probably is – although I have trouble enough with the present. Luckily I’ve got a helmet.
This article was first published in the Irish Examiner on May 25th, 2013