David Beckham did it early. Alex Ferguson did it late. And Bruce Forsyth still hasn’t done it despite it being very obvious that he should have jacked it in decades ago. It depends on your job, of course, but exactly when to retire is a decision that vexes many people who think they have still got what it takes to do what they do. Or not.
And there is nothing like a big burstday to make you have a good long think about your future – and, of course, what a pig’s ear you’ve made of your past and how you would do everything so very differently if you got your chance all over again.
So I would like to wish a very happy birthday to everyone who is this week celebrating the many big anniversaries they have celebrated since their own birth. Oh, and a special shout-out to Norman Angus Macdonald from Great Bernera.
Some call him Puss. Some call him Big Norman. Others have been heard to come up with even saltier references to the battling Berneranian who has lit up God’s own wee island with his colourful bids to set up two wind turbines to generate enough money for him to invest in some reliable agricultural equipment.
“People assume I’m wanting to put up wind turbines to make a fortune. All I want is a decent tractor out of it,” he told me recently. “Potatoes, turnips, carrots. I like them and I want to grow them. Is that too much to ask?”
Oh well, if you put it that way.
Sadly though, former fisherman Tormod has had to contend with various planning officials, government pen-pushers and conservation bodies who, he believes, have been working round the clock to snooker his turbine and tractor plan.
The bane of his life now are buffer zones, which nobody here had ever heard of before, but which Norman Angus has been told exist around all ancient monuments.
So anyone trying to put up an erection that can be seen from the other side of Loch Roag such as, for example, a wind turbine, within five kilometres of such a monument like, for example, the Callanish Stones will have all those busybodies spouting all kinds of rules and regulations to block it.
Hence the big fellow’s grumpiness of late. His turbines, which would have stood proudly on the hill at Kirkibost across from Earshader and Crulivig, would have been about four kilometres off the stones – so they have had the kibosh put on them.
The chances of a gleaming Massey Ferguson any time soon have been cruelly dashed. He was fizzing when he heard the news. He is not so grumpy now though. No, he is in absolutely splendid form. Yesterday, he hit the Big 6 O.
So will he now slowly withdraw from his battle against the allegedly over-zealous officials who, he is convinced, are now set to blight our beloved islands with even more made-up rules and regs to harass local people and justify their own jobs?
Not on your nelly. Realising that much else needs to be done in the war against red tape, Tormod Mór has decided to hone and tone his tried and trusted weapon. Himself.
He has embarked on a health kick and celebrated his big day by taking the first step – quitting the fags. Never thought I’d see the day. Big Norman has been giving out awful, noxious fumes for nigh on 50 years. In fact, it’s a lot longer if you consider the non-tobacco variety.
But why is he getting fit at this particular milestone? It’s all because he wants to extend his lifespan as he thinks it may take a bit longer than he initially thought to undo the damage being done by planners and government officials putting buffer zones round our ancient monuments.
He wants to make it to the age of 80? Nope.
Norman Angus has figured out that being from big, strong and healthy people, he would probably make it to 80 even without giving up the filter tips. Unless he has an accident, gets in the way of a bolt of lightning from the heavens or upsets his beloved Maggie again, I suppose there is a fair chance he could make the four score.
However, he is worried that the battles to come may take more than 20 years and if he does get a new tractor meanwhile, it could turn out to be so reliable that it could keep ploughing furrows well beyond his 80th birthday. It really would be such a shame to waste the best years of a fine tractor by popping his clogs. Well, obviously.
So now he wants to aim for the century. The Big One O O. You know what, I have never seen him so determined. Well, not since they used the rules about the buffer zones round old monuments to knock back his application.
If this health kick pays off, he could become so ancient that they’ll need to put a buffer zone round Big Norman himself.