Monday January 04, 2016

Bill Richardson on "late middle age"

 Bill Richardson is at peace with becoming "incontestably old"... just don't call him Gramps. (House of Anansi Press)

Bill Richardson is at peace with becoming "incontestably old"... just don't call him Gramps. (House of Anansi Press)

Listen 16:54

Bill Richardson can seem ageless — some combination of little kid and older guy all wrapped up in one. But since hitting 50, Richardson has noticed he suffers from what he calls a "cloak of invisibility" — the tendency people have to treat older people like they're over the hill, or simply fail to notice them at all. As a CBC broadcaster and Stephen Leacock Medal–winning humour writer, Richardson has made a career of not being age appropriate. He spoke about his new book of poetry, The First Little Bastard to Call Me Gramps, to his friend and colleague Shelagh Rogers in Toronto.

ON REFUSING TO ACT HIS AGE

I've always been a little concerned about aging, really from the time I was a very small child. I think that I've always kind of skewed old. I remember my mother would say to me, "You really should start acting young." I even found report cards from the first grade where my teacher said things like "Billy is a worrywart. Billy needs to learn how to have fun. Billy needs to relax." I've never been able to do that, and I think part of it is that I carry a lingering awareness of a dark shadow sitting in the corner... we all know we're moving towards that, but I think I've just been more obsessed by it than is necessarily healthy. I've always kind of thought of myself as being old, and now that I incontestably am, I feel great ownership of it.

ON WRITING NURSERY RHYMES FOR GROWN-UPS

I found the poems in A.A. Milne's Now We Are Six very affecting as a child. Before I worked at the CBC I was a children's librarian, and in that role they took on a second life for me. They've always followed me along. They're very connected to my dad and remembering his voice, because would read them to us when I was a child. He read them to us, not my mother, and that was what he did that was special. And so for me, this kind of thing — poems that are rhymed and metred, that don't take more than a couple readings to find a purchase somewhere in my brain... there was a kind of pleasure principle connected to his voice that was always very operative there.

Bill Richardson's comments have been edited and condensed.

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