McLauchlan observes life’s last phase

Dunedin-born journalist and author Gordon McLauchlan. Photo: NZ Herald
Dunedin-born journalist and author Gordon McLauchlan. Photo: NZ Herald
STOP THE CLOCK
Gordon McLauchlan
Bateman Books

REVIEWED BY  GEOFF ADAMS

Gordon McLauchlan started his journalism life writing obituaries in Palmerston North in 1950. He has ended his career as a New Zealand author by revealing his own inner self and showing fine character in this memoir on ageing. It is the last of more than 20 books that he wrote or was a contributing editor to.

This one was written when he knew the end of his life was near - signed off on Christmas Day 2019 before he died, aged 89, in January 2020.

Fighting doggedly against drifting dismayed and disgruntled into “old-old age”, McLauchlan successfully followed his plan to make it a “new career move”. He studies it and tries to cope “with nonchalant dignity”. The author says he kept a “commonplace book” of quotations collected from philosophers and authors that he thought illuminated typical human problems. These voices are used liberally.

“In this book I have only made up a bunch of other men’s flowers,” says the author (quoting the 16th-century Michel Montaigne.) They had been collected over more than 60 years and cleverly reinforce McLauchlan's argument that he was ascending into his golden years – not going into descent.

Old age does not guarantee wisdom. McLauchlan suggests that while there is no fool like an old fool, it is also true that there is no sage like an old sage.

The book is essentially the story of the author's personal encounter with ageing, “but it is palpably obvious that politicians are refusing to help shape a future in which society could use the talents and experience of all citizens.”

A former Director General of Television New Zealand, Allan Martin, advocated in his book Older Adultood, Education and Change “a return to the once popular concept of life-long education’’, “a concept never fully realised in this country” observes McLauchlan.

There are many other sensible observations in the book and some lighter quotes. I liked one from the prodigious Anon: “As a beauty I am not a star. There are others more handsome by far. But my face - I don't mind it, for I am behind it. It's the people in front get the jar.”

Geoff Adams is a former ODT editor.

 

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