Des Wilson Rediscovered

Des Wilson is a tireless campaigner.

He may not be popular in the same mould as the celebrities of today, but by golly he out-paces them all through his determination not to be overlooked simply because he belongs to a different generation.

He still bats in all directions, despite acknowledging that old age can be a bloody nuisance that won’t go away peacefully.

But the fight to keep it at bay, not only does it energise him; it gives him the tools with which to turn his life into a new dimension where discovering new outlets for his vast experience of human frailties as well as its strength brings him the sort of contentment that he finds almost hard to define.

However, he has not given up on some of his lighter entertainments – and believe it or not his yearly jaunt to Las Vegas, where he spends his time perfecting his poker game, is one that invokes a variant today in his less stressful existence.

He has now the best of two worlds: one to bring him serenity in his advancing years, and the other to maintain his verve in challenging his mind to pit against the best of them in the gambling arena.

The review of his new book, Growing Old, by Austin Mitchell MP which appears in the House magazine sheds a lot of light on the author himself and describes him as a man of vision  who has accepted old age without a rambling murmur, and has found the secret of a new dawn.

Read the book and find out for yourselves. In the meantime, I have taken the liberty of producing the review in full.

First the bad news. Des Wilson has grown old.  Now the good news.  The great campaigner, founder of Shelter and PR for the Liberal Party, is still campaigning. Against death his toughest opponent in the long life of struggle the Oomaru kid has waged since he arrived in this country. Des feels in his heart that though his campaigns so far have nearly all been successful, this is one he’ll lose in the end. Yet  his book does outline some pretty effective battle plans and reveal several weaknesses in the enemy’s case. So I wouldn’t put money on the outcome. Not just yet anyway. 

Our 73 year old hero sets out the terms of the battle, explores his enemy’s weaknesses and his own and brings out the fact that his campaign is a day by day struggle because that’s how old people must live, with each day a triumph over the enemy. He calculates the odds and his prospects of another eleven years of healthy living and concludes that death isn’t the real problem. It’s old age. And that there’s even a possibility that God (wearing a T-shirt and playing golf) is watching the process. 

All very interesting to an oldie like me, though it begins sadly with Des’s 70th birthday party surrounded by friends in London. “I don`t look old do I?” he begins his speech. “No” they roar back. He feels fit, healthy, top of the world, but then immediately afterwards realises that he’s crossed an invisible line. The faxes and emails dry up. The invitations stop. No friends come to visit and all the usual excitements fade. “I seemed to vanish from view” Des says. “In my London days I had been in demand. The phone rarely stopped ringing…letters and emails piled up…invitations came by the armful…I was on the inside track…in demand…I was a player. Now…days went by without a phone call…More often than  not the letter box was empty.  Emails and invitations there were none. If it were not for Spam I would have felt completely abandoned…To sum up, I seemed to be becoming infirm and invisible at the same time.” 

A sad and moving transition and one which reached me too late. I read it only after telling a heartbroken Grimsby Labour Party that I’m going to retire at the next election. If only Des’s book had reached me a few days earlier I might have tried to stay on. As it is the only possibility now is to read, learn and thoroughly digest Des’s formula for not going gentle unto that goodnight.