One of the biggest positives has been my grandson's birth three years ago, which puts things in a fresh perspective and considerably alters the optimism-pessimism graph. Another positive is that one is gaining in experience all the time, and this is put at the disposal of one’s writing.

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Learning to forgive has released huge amounts of creative energy that were imprisoned by anger and resentment. I used to think that forgiveness was some sort of magnanimous favour you bestowed on those who had wronged you. It needed the maturity that comes with age to see that, most of all, it is something you do for yourself, something liberating and healing.

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I enjoy spending time with my grandchildren, and although it can be exhausting, their expectation that I can match their levels of energy is a great boost. Reading to them and just watching them are both great and less demanding pleasures. Something I have learned as I’ve got older is to accept the things that are beyond my control and that there is no point in getting upset about this.

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Some of the positive aspects of ageing have been: I’ve spent years in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, trying to attain greater self-knowledge. I suppose I am a little further along the path. But, in many ways, I am still a mystery to myself. I’m less obsessed with presenting a version of myself that I think other people will like. I’m a little less afraid of doing what I want and saying what I like and of being disliked for that. Also, I am more aware of the tiny spot I inhabit in the vastness of time and space; of the paradox between my self-importance and insignificance in relation to all other people living on the earth. I am now very aware that my point of view is a limited view. I have learned to be grateful that I was born on a part of the planet that is at peace and that I have enough money to live comfortably. I am very aware that this is pure luck and that I should, as far as I can, help others who are less fortunate.

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I have time to cherish the people who are important to me. There’s a poem by Clive James about enjoying the cosmic blaze before it’s taken away. When I’m on the hills I notice that kind of beauty more than I used to. Gratitude, I feel gratitude.

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The most positive aspect of ageing for me has been the freedom to try new things and not feel that I have anything to prove; and finding that I can still make new friends. The most negative things are the obvious physical frailties. I may have to give up driving and that will change my life significantly and not for the better because it will make a lot of things I do impossible.

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The big black birds sitting in the branches of the tree of my mind have become smaller and less fierce. And that’s a great boon. And just being able to say ‘No’ for the first time in my life. I used to agree to things and take on things purely so that people would like me – well, not purely, but that was a part of it. Now I don’t do things, or spend time with people unless I really want to, which is a great positive factor of ageing for me.

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First snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, the greening of one’s garden and the countryside, the first swallows … These feel more significant, more demanding of attention. They alert me more than ever to the rhythms of life and time, to the pleasures of being alive. It used to be the case that the cries of geese and duck flying overhead in early winter sounded like an urgent, desperate, melancholy, and dissonant music, like a piece by an unmelodic, contemporary composer. Now it strikes my ear as a heartening, and exciting, note of continuity.’

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A sense of serenity.

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Having read quite a lot of the work that these writers have produced since passing seventy, it is clear that these ‘unexpected gifts’ have influenced their writing – the subject matter, the perspective, the mood and tone, the reflective nature of it, a rediscovered playfulness and a new freedom that self acceptance and the dismissal of the internal censors brings.