LsIKE MANY PEOPLE Of circumspect, not to ay melancholy disposition, I found myself reflecting last year that I was eaving the century of my birth and entering that of my inevitable demise. No matter that in the run-up to the previous, much hyped New Year's Eve I had been not so much Y2K non-compliant as downright bolshie about the whole deal: there was still the irresistible sense of a gradient peaked, a milestone passed, a Corner turned into the home straight.Then 1 remembered a news item that had surfaced briefly over that alleged millennial weekend, and thought again. For it had been reported that a gentleman in Nepal was claiming to have reached the age of 167, and had documents to prove it.
Friends often remark on m.v youthfulness, their use of the words "immature" and "infantile" merely betraying their envy at my defiant lack of girth and grey. So, I thought, even if the medical advances of the coming decades cannot quite match the effects of the Nepalese diet, with reasonable care I ought to be able to make it to a paltry 142, and see in 2101 with a half glass of effervescent sterilised grape juice. Then the last part of the item hit home; documents to prove it. Clearly, if I urn to enjoy the early years of the 22nd century as a geriatric celebrity. I shall need some form of accreditation. But what?
Some years ago, while hunting for a refill sachet of oregano, I found my birth certificate, and immediately put it in a safe place. Enough said. And in the borderless global Eurozone that awaits us all it will be illegal for me to hang on to my old black passport, even as a souvenir, on account of its subversive reference to someone called Her Britannic Majesty. Instead, we will all be wearing citizens' electronic identity tags. At least 1 shall be able to explain to the younger generation why these are known as lls, or Johnny's Jailers, after the field test conducted by Jonathan (later Bishop) Aitken but general knowledge of this kind, though rare, will not automatically attest to record-breaking age. Physical evidence will be required.
Sowhat documents might I be able to stash away, sufficient to validate my claim to unusual longevity in the future? Perhaps today's Times with (by then) a completed crossword? One of the last ever copies of the Daily Express, complete with a signed dedication from Rosie Boycott? Neither of these would constitute conclusive evidence, entitling me to a special award from Madame hi Presidente Weidsfuhrer, (sic) or endless interviews on a myriad channels of plasma holovision.
But maybe I'm missing the point. With educational standards now in freefall, surely it cannot be another hundred years before literacy as we know it becomes a thing of the past. The writing is on the wall, which, after environmental legislation has outlawed the use of paper, will be the only place you ever see it. But even the days of the spray-painted slogans are numbered. By the time another 10 decades have flipped into oblivion, "writing:" will involve merely the use of a keypad consisting of variations on the smiley face combined with a system of airport pictograms, while "reading" will be the process whereby the software converts information into the sound of a soothing synthesised voice.
So it isn't going to matter what documents I can produce in 2101; the fact that I possess documents at all will make me a veritable Methuselah, while my ability to read them without moving my lips will be proof positive that I was educated, privately, in the 20th century. And of course, if I can still recite my multiplication tables my claim to have spent my infancy in the 1960s will be irrefutable.
Perhaps I'll go back to contemplating my morality. It was less depressing.