"I don't want you to be 50," wails R6 on the eve of my birthday, flinging her arms around my neck.
"Er, I'm going to be 44 tomorrow, not 50," I reply. "Why don't you want me to be 50?"
"Because 50 is old," she says from the depths of my hair.
"Not that old," I reply. It's just around the corner now for me so it doesn't feel 'old' any more. I know lots of people in their 50s and older - none of them are 'old'. "And anyway," I add, "It'll be six years before I'm 50 and that's your whole life all over again."
That's a long time for a six-year-old. She hugs for a bit longer.
"Daddy's nearly 50," I remind her. Well, he's 48. Fifty is not so much round the corner for him as on the horizon, nearly visible. The hugging arms relax slightly. "And Granddad's going to be 70 on Monday, is he old?" Small head shakes no against my neck.
"Tell me who's 50," she demands, face still buried. I give her a list of all the people I can remember. It's quite a long list. All busy, fit people, very young seeming too. When I was in my 20s, 50 seemed ridiculously old. To R6 it must seem like forever.
She lets go and skips off happily, fears of the '50 monster' allayed. I contemplate it for a second but it still seems far off; hiding around the corner.