FROM THE CRADLE TO THE GRAVE
Six people`s childhood memories
1 I used to like to do well just to see the look of pleasure on my dad�s face. He�d say �Pet, it�s like a tonic to me when you do well � I don�t know how I have such clever children!� But I never felt I was being pushed too hard. If I did badly he�d just say �Well what�ll it matter a hundred years from now that you failed your Geography exam!�
2 Whatever I did was just never quite good enough. I wasn�t very strong as a child � I used to get attacks of asthma, so I couldn�t do PE or games. Well, anyway, when I was twelve I was so thrilled because I was put in the second eleven for cricket. I was so sure he�d be pleased. D�you know what he said? �Second team? When I was your age I was in the first for cricket, rugby, and hockey.� I felt so crushed, I just crawled away and cried � in private of course!
3 Our house was always open to whoever came round. You�d never know how many people would sit down to a meal. My parents were always inviting people in, and my sisters and I brought friends from school. They used to love coming to our house because they were made so welcome. There were no petty rules, and as long as we tidied up they didn�t mind what we did. We called a lot of my parents� friends �Uncle� or �Aunt� so-and-so. We never used to know who were our real relations! But what was so nice for us kids was that we grew up surrounded by a lot of adults, not just our parents, so we heard what they had to say, and they listened to our opinions as well.
4 I think it started out of sheer boredom � I mean � they gave me every material benefit, pocket money any time I asked; I had my own brand-new BMW when I was seventeen. I wanted for nothing except their time � I mean � they were always so busy, always getting dressed up to go somewhere, and so wrapped up in each other. I really don�t know why they had children. They always said I was a mistake! Anyway I started hanging about with this bunch of �yobbos� and they said �Try it� � and I thought �Why not? Who cares?�
5 They finally split up when I was four. It�s one of my earliest memories � my dad sitting me on his knee and saying, �Mummy and daddy have decided to live in different houses and I want you to decide which house you want to live in.� Can you imagine asking a child of four? I hadn�t a clue what to say, but my very much bigger brother was standing behind him mouthing, �Say mum, say mum.� So I did, and I never saw my dad again except once when I was about ten � from the top of a double-decker bus. At least, I think it was him � I�m sure it was, that time � only I still keep thinking I see him all over the place. I�ve had three step-dads � it�s not the same.
6 She was like a sea of calm, nothing ruffled her, she always had time. Me and the others would be scrapping about something, and she�d say �OK, OK, let�s calm down, let�s go back to the beginning and sort it out � so we did, and it was sorted out!� I remember this schoolfriend of mine, she fell off her bike and completely smashed her front teeth. She didn�t cry because she was hurt, but because her mother was so particular about her appearance. She said �She�ll kill me, she thinks I have such lovely teeth!� I thought �Gosh � how weird, I couldn�t bear it if my mother was like that!� In fact this friend came to my mum first and she rang and told her mum what had happened. Fancy not being able to go to your own mum!
Extract from a talk by Dr Spock, the pediatrician
I think in previous centuries, and still in the first half of the twentieth century, parents felt they had to intimidate their children, just the way I was intimidated, scolded all the time, made to feel evil, threatened with loss of love, and maybe some kind of punishment. I used to be scared of my parents, I was scared of the policeman on the block, I was scared of my teachers, I was scared of barking dogs, I was scared of bullies. Now I think that it was Freud and Dewey particularly who changed that point of view. Freud said in so many words, it isn�t by disciplining or intimidating your children, it�s by loving them, then they love you, and they want to be worthy of you, and they want to grow up to be mature people like you. In other words it�s the love between parent and child that makes them mature, and become responsible. And I think it was Dewey who said, you don�t have to force children to learn, they�re wild to learn. I think both of these philosophers gave parents more trust in their children. I think my job was to translate this into ordinary language and apply it to ordinary home situations. And that what the book really says is, not only trust yourself as a parent, it says, trust your children. They will want to grow up responsible. So I think many fewer parents tried to intimidate their children in the last twenty-five years. And I think that�s why their children are that independent. So when the Government says, �Don�t reason about the war, go off and fight it because we tell you to�, young people say, �Wait a minute, maybe you�re not right. Maybe it isn�t the right war.� And I think that when universities say to youths, �Never mind your ideas about how you should be taught, we�re in this business, you take it from us.� And I think young people said, �Well, maybe it is our business. We�re the ones who are here for the education.� So I think that I had a small part in translating Freud and Dewey.
�How to live to be 100 or more� by George Burns
People keep asking me, �George, you�re 88, how do you do it? You make films, you do television, you give concerts, you record albums, smoke cigars, drink Martinis, go out with pretty girls � how do you do it?
It�s simple. For instance, a Martini. You fill the glass with ice; then pour in some gin and a touch of dry vermouth, add an olive, and you�ve got yourself a Martini.
Today you don�t have to worry about getting old; you have to worry about rusting. So I also do exercises and walk a lot. Walking is even easier than making a Martini. I take one foot and put it in front of the other foot; then I take the other foot and put it in front of the other foot, and before I know it I�m walking. And you don�t even need an olive. Every morning, I walk a mile and a half. My advice is to walk whenever you can. It�s free; you feel better and look trim.
If you want to live to be 100 or older, you can�t just sit around waiting for it to happen. You have to get up and go after it.
There�s no point in kidding yourself. When you get older you slow down, you wear out a little. But right now I�m 88, and there isn�t a thing I can�t do today that I couldn�t do when I was 18. Of course, I was pathetic when I was 18. I wasn�t so hot when I was 25 either. I saved everything for now. I hate to brag, but I�m very good at �now�
Here are my other secrets for long life:
Think positive. If you ask me what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it�s avoiding worry, stress, and tension. And if you didn�t ask me, I�d still have to say it. Worry, stress, and tension are not only unpleasant but can shorten your life.
My attitude is, if something is beyond your control, there�s no point worrying about it. And if you can do something about it, then there�s still nothing to worry about. I feel that way when the plane I�m on is bouncing around in turbulence. It�s not my problem. The pilot gets a lot of money to fly that plane; let him worry about it.
I can honestly say I was not even uptight about my heart bypass several years ago. It was beyond my control. It was the doctor�s business.
When I came round from the anaesthetic, I heard the surgeon say, �George, you did great. You�re just fine.�
I said, �Doctor, I wasn�t the least bit concerned.�
�Really?� he said. �I was a nervous wreck.�
Even that didn�t bother me. Then he handed me his bill, and I passed out.
Stay active. I know that for some people retirement works out fine. They enjoy it. I also know that for a great many others it presents lots of problems. To me the biggest danger of retirement is what it can do to your attitude. When you have all that time on your hands, you think old, you act old. It�s a mistake. I see people who, the minute they get to be 65, start rehearsing to be old. They practise grunting when they get up, and by the time they get to be 70 they�ve made it � they�re a hit they�re now old! Not me. When you�re around my age you�ve got to keep occupied. You�ve got to do something that will get you out of bed. I never made any money in bed. Yes, find something that will make you get out of bed � like an interest, a hobby, a business, a pretty girl � there we are, back in bed again. At my age at least let me talk about it.
Challenge yourself. When my wife Gracie retired in 1958, I could have retired too. Even today I don�t have to do what I�m doing. I don�t have to travel round giving concerts, making movies, doing television specials, recording country-music albums, being a sex symbol.
I firmly believe that you should keep working as long as you can. And if you can�t, try to find something that will interest you. Don�t wait for it to happen; make it happen. Remember, you can�t help getting older, but you don�t have to get old. I look to the future, because that�s where I�m going to spend the rest of my life.
I feel sorry for people who live in the past. I know it was cheaper then, but you can�t keep looking in a rear-view mirror � unless you enjoy having a stiff neck. If you really think your life is over and you have no place to go, I advise you to take very short steps. It�ll take you longer to get there.
I don�t live in the past; I live in a house in Beverly Hills. It�s more comfortable. Actually, you may not believe this, but I don�t waste time looking through scrap-books of my career or rereading my old reviews � they were painful enough to read the first time. I find it�s best to fall in love with what you�re doing today. The things I did yesterday I was in love with yesterday. But that romance is over. I�m very fickle.
There�s an old saying, �Life begins at 40.� That�s silly � life begins every morning when you wake up. Open your mind to it; don�t just sit there � do things. Swim the English Channel; find a cure for the common cold; be the first to go over the Niagara Falls in a rocking chair. You see, the possibilities are endless.
If all else fails, try doing something nice for somebody who doesn�t expect it. You�ll be surprised how good you feel. The Scouts have the right idea. Many�s the time I�ve helped a young lady across the street and over to my place. You should see all my badges.
The point is, with a good positive attitude and a little bit of luck, there�s no reason you can�t live to be 100. Once you�ve done that you�ve really got it made, because very few people die over 100.
A short conversation
W = Woman
M = Man
W We had a lovely time at Jim and Chris�s last night.
M Did you? That�s nice.
W Jim always cooks such wonderful meals.
M Does he? I didn�t realize he could cook.
W He�s just finished a Cordon Bleu cookery course at night school.
M Has he? Well, I hope we get invited for dinner soon!
W They said they were going to invite you and Sarah next weekend.
M Are they? That�s great � I�ll look forward to that.