Old age has its advantages, according to Fay Weldon, at 81 the author of more than 30 novels, who has been given the honour of being Golding Author at the forthcoming Marlborough LitFest in September.
The title celebrates Marlborough’s link with William Golding, the Nobel Laureate and Booker Prize winner, who grew up in Marlborough and taught at its original grammar school.
Fay’s 34 provocative novels include The Fat Woman’s Joke, Growing Rich and What Makes Women Happy, and her work for film and TV includes the original Upstairs, Downstairs series, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil and Pride and Prejudice.
And interviewed in the June edition of The Oldie magazine, Fay, now living with her third husband in Dorset, is asked whether wisdom comes with age?
“Yes, if only because you know what’s going to happen next inasmuch as something like it has happened before,” she replies. “Some people think it makes you cynical, but you’re not.”
Before you reach 80, you pretend you’re younger, but when you’re 80 you realise there are advantages to age, she insists.
“You can babble on at parties. Once upon a time you’d go away thinking, ‘Oh my God, did I make any sense?’
“Nowadays you know it doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t feel any different but the world looks at you differently.
“The natural thing is for the young to wish the old to be dead. But more and more we just won’t die. So many of us.”
Indeed, Fay, whose latest historical novel, Long Live the King, was published last month, worries about attitudes today compared with the world in which she grew up.
“One only knows one’s own little pocket of the world,” she says. “Mine seems in a worse state then when I arrived (from New Zealand) in 1946.
“There was a feeling, then, of building things, of hope and change, and people working together to survive, far more than there is now.
“The world looks very gloomy to younger generations. We had the best of it.”
Once an icon for feminists whom she has also outraged, Fay is asked where she stands now.
“I didn’t set out to preach,” she explains. “I was writing novels in which there was a view of the world around me dictated by the society we were living in.
“Life was grossly unfair and insulting to women in the 1970s. You think everybody must think the same as you but they don’t. Later on I realised I was a middle-class woman trying to impose my opinions on women who really just wanted to get on and have babies.
“I think the vast majority would rather stay at home and be kept by a man and chatter to the neighbours than go to work. If I didn’t have a particular sort of work that’s probably what I’d do.”
Fay will be interviewed by Valerie Grove when she takes part in the Martlborough LitFest.