GOOD old Peter Stringfellow, eh?
Seventy-two-years-old. Wife four decades his junior. Now, a baby on the way.
The Pitsmoor grandfather announced on Friday that he and Bella, 31, are to have their first tot together.
To which some people have tutted, some people have laughed, and some people, no doubt, have shuddered at the sheer logistics of what must have proceeded it.
But, either way, one thing’s for sure: you can’t keep a good man down. Quite literally in this case.
And, I admit it, I reckon Stringy is a good man.
Not a cool thing to say, perhaps. Not when you consider he supported Thatcher, runs a business empire entirely built on the commodification of women, and – most ghastly of all – once sported a mullet.
But I like him anyway.
I like his get-up-and-go which saw him rise from the slums of Pitsmoor to the penthouses of London. I like his honesty – asked why journalists hadn’t hacked him, he noted “I answer everything they ask anyway”. And I like how he once spent an hour telling me tales of bringing The Beatles to Gleadless, Hendrix to Shalesmoor, and his father-in-law almost to tears when Bella introduced them. But most of all I like Stringfellow because I reckon we could all learn from him and his attitude to age.
See, what followed his announcement that he is expecting his third child, was not universal congratulations as any couple surely has a right to expect. Rather, among columnists, commentators and online cretins was a cacophony of caterwauling about age and irresponsibility; a self-righteous sneering that this fit and healthy man, with a heart full of love and a pocket full of cash, could never be a good father because of advancing years.
Well, to take an expression possibly uttered in his clubs on occasion, what a load of arse.
Age is important, of course. It’s not only a number. Just ask the owner of that Woodhouse off-licence fined for selling booze to under 18s.
But just because one is getting old, doesn’t mean that one has to, you know, get old. Senior years doesn’t have to equate to a slippered, senile stereotype, right?
There is a growing understanding of this, I feel. The baby boomers have hit their pensions, and they’re refusing to stop booming.
That’s why legislation was passed last year establishing the right to continue working after 65. That’s why there’s disgust when talented BBC figures like Moira Stewart and Miriam O’Reilly are sacked because they no longer look hot in skirts or something. And that’s why there’s a backlash when our Old Etonian prime minister tells an accomplished MP like Dennis Skinner he should retire because he’s hit his ninth decade. If anyone should retire Dave, it’s the 40-something berk still blighting the economy.
Because such date-of-birth-based discrimination is as bad as any other prejudice - whether that be caused by race, gender or any other spurious notion. Because age, with health, is nothing but experience. And because in 2013, the old have never been so young.
And if a healthy couple - 72 and 31 - want to start a family then why shouldn’t they?
For surely Stringfellow is simply following a most civilised principle: that our right to live and work, to love and have fun should be judged on who we are, and not on when we were born?