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Peter Corris, AuthorRecently I turned 71. My sister emailed a greeting and apologised for reminding me of the number but I didn’t object at all, not as I did when I turned 70.

Had a lovely day – nice presents, email greetings from local friends, my agent in the Big Apple and daughters and grandchildren overseas. A little family party with champagne, a good dinner. I had a very good writing day, too, solving a knotty plot problem and getting a glimpse of the next few scenes.

I hated turning 70, it made me feel old, past it. I had a sense of a downward slope ahead dotted with bad medical news and more medications. There were contributing external factors. I was still recovering from a broken leg and having difficulty with a piece of writing. It was during one of my periodic medically-enforced spells of abstinence, which I had broken and felt bad about.

‘Seventy, is he?’ I could imagine people thinking, ‘Well, he’s done all right. Doesn’t look too bad.  Can’t expect much more of him.’

I felt completely different about turning 71. It was as if a hurdle had been jumped and, instead of the downward slope, there was flat land ahead of me. Seventy-one-two-three and four didn’t hold any terrors. They’d come and go and I’d be just getting on with life.

Seventy-five might create a pause for consideration. Halfway between 70 and 80 and a milestone of sorts. Five years past the biblical three-score and ten and somewhere near the average age of death for white Australian males.

Seventy-six would be something different altogether. It would mark 60 years of life with type-one diabetes. Insulin-dependent survivors, on racking up 50 years, are awarded a bronze Kellion Medal by Diabetes Australia. I’ve got that. A friend joked that with no AO in sight I could call myself Peter Corris KM. At 60 years’ survival the medal is silver and I could be KM with bar.

These are the random pre-bed thoughts of a contented man. Not a complacent one, I hope. More than most people I have reason to be deeply grateful for medical advances without which I would have been blind or dead long ago. And I’m aware that looking ahead like this is dangerous. ‘Life is fragile,’ as journalist Matt Price, dead at 46, said, ‘Hug your loved ones.’ I do that.

My friend Bob Gollan announced when he was very ill some weeks before the 2007 election that he was determined to live to see the defeat of John Howard. Sadly, he didn’t make it. But there’s a life-prolonging thought – I’ve seen off Bob Menzies, John Gorton, Billy McMahon, Malcolm Fraser and John Howard and, should bad come to worse for (let’s hope) a short time, I’d like to be around to see off Tony Abbott.

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