The Thing Is with Steve Canavan

Japanese maples and Mount Fuji, Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Honshu, Japan
Japanese maples and Mount Fuji, Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Honshu, Japan
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You’re unlikely to be aware of this – probably because unlike me you’ve got what’s known as a life – but there is a heated battle ongoing to be the oldest living person.

There are three ladies – two in Japan and one in Italy – all 115 years of age and still going strong.

Kane Tanaka – who credits her lengthy time on earth to a diet of rice, fish and soup and a daily exercise routine which includes 100 vigorous press-ups followed by a five-mile jog and a brief cage-wrestling session (I may have made that bit up) – is out in the lead at 115 and 245 days.

She took over as the world’s oldest living person last month following the demise of 117-year-old Chiyo Miyako (also from Japan – what the hell do they put in the water there?)

Mrs Tanaka was born on January 2, 1903, so long ago Edward VII was on the throne, Albert Einstein was an unemployed teacher, Bury FC beat Derby County 6-0 in the FA Cup Final (still a cup final record – the one claim to fame us Shakers fans have), and Inspector Morse had just started on ITV.

Back then Morse was driving a horse and cart, of course, and not a burgundy Jaguar, but he was still just as good at solving highly improbable murder cases which generally involved a woman he’d had close relations with in the past.

I’ve never been too mithered about living a particularly long time, though don’t get me wrong I’m not keen on the idea of shuffling off this mortal coil any time soon. For one thing, I’m halfway through a good book, and I’ve a holiday to Scarborough booked later this year. I’m also keen to see who wins the Ryder Cup and whether Jose Mourinho will smile at any point before Christmas (Ladbrokes are offering 4,000-1 that he’ll laugh in early December, though only the most reckless gamblers are placing money on it).

Age is a funny thing. Once upon a time I looked … not handsome – my ears are too big for that and I’ve always had a small wart on the left side of my nose … but at least passable.

Now I can’t even claim that.

My eyes are puffy, my yellow skin wrinkled and baggy, and hair sprouts so quickly from my nostrils that I have to trim it three times a day (I carry a pair of scissors at all times).

I was also recently diagnosed with arthritis in the big toe on my right foot. ‘But doctor’, I said in astonishment, ‘that can’t be right, don’t you have to be an old person to get that?’ to which he looked me up and down – as though surveying a cracked tea cup– and replied, ‘well, you are 42, it’s not exactly young.’ I felt the same crushing disappointment as I had when I asked out Karen Battersby, the most beautiful girl in high school, and she responded, ‘you must be joking I’m not going out with a bloke with a face like yours’ – which was fair enough, though I wish she could’ve explained it in slightly gentler terms.

It’s the little things you notice as you advance in years.

Once I could play football, go for a swim, then jog home, for example. Now if I play five-a-side on a Thursday night, Friday involves setting the morning alarm 45 minutes earlier than usual so Mrs Canavan can help swing my legs out of the bed and give me a fireman’s lift to the bathroom.

It is quite depressing. I mean I’m barely middle-aged and yet I’ve aches and pains all over. Even getting in the bath is tricky (it’s so difficult to get your leg over, so to speak), so imagine the state I’d be in if I lived another 75 years?

I read about Mrs Tanaka to see if there were any clues as to why she has lived so long, but all I discovered is that she never smoked, always ate well, regularly went for long walks, and says she had a life filled with love. As I told Mrs Canavan, I tick all those boxes apart from the latter.

Reading about all these super-old people has, I must confess, prompted me to make more of an effort to improve my health and I have tried to lead a more healthy lifestyle of late. For example, I only have two rashers of bacon with my cooked breakfast each morning as opposed to three. I’ve also moved to Japan – the land of the long-living – which took Mrs Canavan by surprise (I guess I should have told her first), though I have promised to return home and visit her and the baby at least once a year.

Hopefully all this will help do the trick and give me a few more years, though whether I’ll be rivalling Mrs Tanaka any time soon remains to be seen.