Sitting, staring into space and drinking very good coffee are three of my very favourite activities that I habitually combine into a singular act of imitating a work of still life. During one of my recent episodes of eyeballing space on a sunny terrace in Valletta in Malta, I happened to fix my gaze on a splendid statue of Queen Victoria. Many thoughts passed through my mind about the days of the Empire, British naval superiority and cucumber sandwiches.
The most telling thought I had was that Victoria lived for a very long time indeed. During which time she managed to reign for over sixty years. My thoughts then moved towards QE2. Like Victoria, she is also making her heir wait around a very, very long time. Poor Charles. Now over sixty years practicing to be king, and no hope in sight of his mother falling of the perch just yet. If he thought about his grandmother, the Queen Mother who managed to live to 102, he would probably come to the conclusion that all his practicing will be to no avail. He will be lucky to get a promotion before he is eighty years old.
It was then that another thought came trundling into my mind. Women in general do tend to live for a very long time indeed. A quick run through my descendants is more than enough proof I need to continue with this lumbering train of thought. Is it that women live a long time, or is it that men reach their use by date, and hence usefulness, much younger? The most immediate and simplistic answer I leapt upon was that men get fed up with playing bingo every Tuesday and Thursday evening. Then there was the possible explanation that men wear their bodies out by taking out too much garbage, mowing too many lawns and watching too much football accompanied by too many cans of beer. Another possibility was that women look after themselves better and for longer. Walks, moisturisers, vitamins, fruit and vegetables, doctor’s appointments plus informative and life changing magazine articles.
Somehow, none of these rational explanations satisfied me. More sitting, staring into space and drinking very good coffee was needed before I finally came around to what was somewhere near a logical thought process. The key was mystery, enigma and unsolvable puzzles. Just as one jettisons The Times after attempting its crossword puzzle over a period of agonising weeks, the same could be reasoned for men. After spending all of their breathing days trying to solve the puzzling mystery that women present, they finally give up. No closer to an answer than Douglas Adams came with his answer of 42, men just roll over and die in frustration.
Women on the other hand have men all figured out by age twelve, so they can live into old age happy in the knowledge that they know everything they need to know. Except that they now have to learn how to take out the garbage by themselves.