Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Monday 27th March 2017

VETERAN Yorkshire racehorse trainer and farmer Mick Easterby, who is well into his 80s, has a great way of dealing with old age. “Never sell your boots,” is his homespun philosophy. In other words, never give up. Keep on keeping on. Stay interested in life.

Putting off retirement helps workers stay healthy, according to the chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, who believes those approaching retirement should consider working until their late 60s and beyond. And if you don’t fancy working any more think about volunteering or a new hobby.

Mick Easterby puts it bluntly. Dame Sally relies on science. And veteran film actor Michael Caine, at 84, just wants another 10 years, at least, so he can see his grandchildren grow up.

“I know my days are numbered,” admits Sir Michael. But the actor, who once swigged a bottle of vodka a day and got through a packed of fags, is now off the booze and eating a salt, sugar and gluten-free diet, all at the behest of his glamorous missus Shakira, who is 70 and doesn’t look half her age.

Sir Michael’s research spree has led him to conclude that living healthily is his best chance of seeing the grandkids grow up. He’s been acting since 1956 and has no intention of selling his boots either. “I’ve no plans to call it a day,” he said this week. “When the offers of work stop I will then say I have retired.”

I must admit that I’m sceptical about a lot of fancy diets and regimes designed to keep us oldies going. A lot of it is down to luck — and the genes. If your parents made old bones, chances are you will too, provided you don’t keep crossing the road when the little man is on red or anything daft like that.

I’ve known more than a few super-fit specimens who have conked out prematurely. Their lifestyles ought to have ensure them a long and active life, but fate can be a cruel mistress.

Dame Sally recently published a report on the health of the baby-boomer generation, us 50 to 70 year olds, which says men who live to 65 can expect to survive for 19 more years and women can expect another 21. Compare the latest figures with those of 2002, when it was 16 and 19 years respectively.

Twelve per cent of people who are older than state pension age still work. By 2020 it’s estimated that a third of workers will be over the age of 50 and research suggests those who stay in work will generally enjoy better health.

I suppose it all depends on the job you do. Any fool can sit, like me, hammering away at a computer keyboard. However, had I been humping bins around all my working life, or doing other backbreaking work, I would probably have a very different view of slogging on after retirement age. Face it, only Dixon of Dock Green was allowed to continue pounding the beat when he was nearer 80 than 65. And you would not want Mr. Godfrey turning up if you dialled 999 and your house was burning down.

Of course the Government, which is fast running out of money to pay pensions, would love everyone to carry on regardless, with an ever-increasing retirement age.

Still, a 30lb lighter Sir Michael Caine has another film out later this year and Mick Easterby has a bunch of lively two-year-olds to train. As for me, 70 in a few months, I hope not to be advertising my boots for sale just yet.

WEATHERING THE STORMS

IF you happen to be named Desmond, please don’t take this the wrong way. But was the worst, most damaging storm of my lifetime really worthy of the title Storm Desmond?

Any Desmonds I’ve ever known have been decent, honourable types with not the slightest wish to bring doom and destruction, descending along with Biblical rains, upon their fellow men and women.

When we get a storm of the proportions this part of the world suffered in December, 2015, surely those who accredit these so-called acts of God with names should think of something more appropriate.

Where’s Storm Kim Jong-un in the pantheon of great storms, for instance? Storm Putin. Storm Trump. Surely we should not be saddling perfectly decent Desmonds with a lifetime of blame for the chaos their storms caused when there are plenty of really nasty people out there we could choose from.

Without wishing to chance it, we’ve got away pretty well weather-wise this winter. We deserved a break after the big storms of recent years and, by and large, we’ve been lucky. Let’s face it, many Cumbrian victims of Storm Desmond are still clearing up more than 15 months after the event and, unless there are things happening that I’m not aware of, we don’t seem a great deal more certain that we are protected against the inevitable next Desmond.

Various storms have been presaged on television during the past few months, but mercifully they have not caused anything like a major problem hereabouts. Doris and Ewan passed us by with not much more than a whisper in the trees and a few hours of heavy rain.

Retired BBC weatherman Bill Giles may have a point when he says today’s weather presenters are “behaving like nannies” with their frequent predictions of storms that don’t amount to much when compared to the “real deal” Desmonds.

Giles says we’ve been inundated with weather alerts over the winter. When we receive as many warnings as we do, are they effective? Bill, who led a team of forecasters for 17 years from 1983, suggests that broadcasters should stick to the meteorology and stop scaring us unnecessarily.

When the 77-year-old Giles started his career on screen, it was forbidden to mention flooding. The Met. Office forecast rain, after that it was a “local authority problem” he recalls.

We certainly had a “local authority problem” on that fateful weekend in December, 2015. A problem for a lot of people. Somehow the Storm Desmond label, with no disrespect intended to Desmonds everywhere, just didn’t nail it.

Perhaps it’s time they set up a Government think-tank, a brainstorming committee, to come up with some names that are a bit more representative of the true impact of these major weather events which, we are assured, are once in a generation and yet seem to come along every five years or so.

But as for the rest of the storms that fall foul of the fashion for giving names when they are no more than bits of inconvenient lousy weather, I’m with Bill Giles. All I can say to our over-egoed TV weather boys and girls is this — calm down dears, it’s nobbut a laal spot of drizzle and a gust of wind.

SIX JOBS GEORGE NOT LOOKING BACKWARD

AFTER two Jags Prezza we’ve got six jobs George, although you can bet your bottom dollar that when the former Chancellor strode into his office at the Evening Standard this week, he wasn’t there to do the Looking Backward column or start editing the W.I. page. That sort of thing will be left to the minions, the ones who actually know a bit about journalism.

Osborne’s experience on the journalistic front line extends to a student magazine and a freelance piece about Christmas shopping bargains that any junior could have knocked out in five minutes. Still, as a biographer once wrote, “friends always suspected that he yearned to be the subject and not the author.”

George Osborne has been one of the great protagonists of the Northern Powerhouse. In his new editor’s role he will have to presumably put Londoners’ issues first. Not that the “Powerhouse” actually ever meant us in this part of the north.

One thing: Could Osborne’s new journalist pals please stop calling him an MP “for a northern constituency.” Tatton is Cheshire. That may be the north if you live south of Watford, but it’s distinctly Midlands to denizens of the East Fellside.

George Osborne has got the Standard post because he knows politics and he knows the right people, not because of his journalistic expertise. It’s a privileged platform from which he can express his views and dig at his enemies. In this era of “fake news” when the mainstream media is under attack like never before, reputable newspapers must hold people to account, the sort of people he deals with every day in his other positions.

Can he run with the hares and the hounds, this editor with a few weeks’ experience 20 years ago? One day, inevitably, a conflict of interests will crop up. I’m sure on Monday morning lots of scribes, including those who’ve worked their way up through the ranks in the Evening Standard, were thinking “where did we all go so wrong?”