Age No Barrier - Forever Young

Beryl Trebble

© Copyright 2023 by Beryl Trebble

Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo by ahmad syahrir at Pexels.

I've just received an E-mail photo taken at a recent Kenya Regiment reunion in England. My friend of many years is in the picture, looking very regal – rather like the Queen. Her hair is an ash brown, her eyes are clear, and she doesn't look her age. Her diamond and blue sapphire engagement ring makes people say "Oh, you've got a Lady Di ring!" This miffs her off because she received hers when Diana wasn’t even in gym slips.

In the photo a man and his wife are standing beside my friend. Obviously, he is ex KR, balding and rather sickly looking but she said he had nevertheless flirted outrageously with her. Old roués and ex boyfriends go up and pinched her bottom, held her in bear hugs, or in proprietary fashion flung an arm round her shoulders and wouldn't let go, and maddened her by endless repetition of the question "So where's your gorgeous blonde hair gone then?" followed by gales of laughter. Yes, she had been Grace Kelly's understudy for a short while, yes, she had been blonde, but her hair had darkened with the passage of time and yes, she had been gorgeous, but she is still a very fine-looking older woman who obviously takes care of herself.
She laughed at their audacity considering most of these men were going through the male menopause, were in an advanced state of paunchiness, and were boozy, bald, bent and banal. Some were clinging to their youth wearing ill-fitting toupees, flashing gold jewellery and wearing loud suits. So why didn’t these old soldiers recognize that they were no longer God’s gift to women and that time hadn’t always been kind to them either?

Another friend of mine regularly goes to the Regiment functions in South Africa and the same thing happens to her – despite not being blonde or having had Grace Kelly looks, or the fame of some other gorgeous icon clinging to her. She likes going because she can catch up with many of the wives with whom she was friendly in her teens. However, the conversations are the same each year and usually start with - “When we….”

On one occasion she asked me to join her and for a minute I was tempted, then declined. I was young, slim, and full of life back in the old days of the Mau Mau and the Kenya Regiment parties. I left school when Jomo Kenyatta was being tried in Kapenguria some 2O odd miles away from my hometown of Kitale. The place was awash with legal eagles, reporters from all over the world, and virile young men in their Kenya Regiment uniforms – it was party time.

At that stage in my life, I fell in and out of love regularly, but my broken heart mended with remarkable speed. My first kiss came from a dashing KR lad of about 2O and I once danced the night away in the arms of an Armed Car Commander who was resplendent in dress uniform with all the braid and medals to go with it.

When I was 17 my heart was breaking because I was going to the UK to study and had to leave a grand passion in its infancy. My young man was one of Kenya's top Polo players, an ex-boyfriend of a schoolmate and one of "the" most eligible bachelors in the country - I felt fantastic that he had even looked my way. He was serving in the Mounted Unit of the Regiment and was stationed in the Aberdare’s, near Mt. Kenya. I saw him infrequently, but he regularly wrote reams, often describing the horrors he was witnessing. He was every young girl's dream but with his reputation as a lady killer I think my father was terrified and very relieved I was going overseas in a couple of months.

Heart sore I flew off to the England but soon my studies, new friends and an exciting life in Liverpool took over and our correspondence soon petered out and my polo playing Romeo faded into the past. After I finished my Secretarial Course, I returned home. I had no further contact with him until two years later by which time I was married. My husband and I were at a dinner dance when a bloated red faced drunk staggered up to my husband and told him what a lucky b...... he was. I hardly recognized my once suave suitor. It was demoralizing.

Age is catching up with us all and after each Regiment function my friend tells me depressing stories of men having passed on between one reunion and another. My first-kiss boyfriend is dying of cancer and being pushed in a wheelchair and my dashing Commander is on a Zimmer frame. So, with 5O odd years down the line, I don’t want to be going to any reunions to see the doddering old veterans clinging to the colonial days, still thinking they are God's gift to women and quick to make disparaging remarks about my appearance. If my name is ever mentioned, age will be no barrier, as they can only remember me in my prime. As for me, my old beaux are forever young, handsome, dashing young men in their Kenya Regiment uniforms and I like to keep it that way.

Anyway, what do you talk about after all that time? 

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