ALL ageing men (and this columnist is 67) will sympathise with Ricky Ponting's ignominious ending to his great career. He finished with a series in which he, a batsman, failed and failed again with the bat. How he must wish, now, he had retired when he was younger and was still a willow-wielding champ.
For the ageing sportsman, as for the ageing newspaper columnist and, perhaps, for every professional man other than the drooping male star of pornographic films, there is always the risk one will delude oneself that one is still capable of sparkling form when, in fact, one is over the hill.
For the male porn star, the proofs that his career is over must be unmistakable and undeniable. By contrast, men like Ponting are still able to bat a bit and elderly newspaper columnists can still sort of write a little.
I'm lucky that, unlike Ponting and his batting, I'm improving with every critically acclaimed, award-winning, thought-provoking, compelling column. It will be a sign of my writerly decline when I start resorting to cliches but there's no sign of that yet. But the very thought of it one day happening to me leaves me ashen-faced and tight-lipped.
Coming to a pretty pass
A READER in touch with his inner social anthropologist notices a Canberra phenomenon that has, too, been nibbling away at this easily nibbled at columnist.
''I have been amused,'' he writes, ''at the seemingly increasing display by Canberrans of their [workplace, security] building passes in public. The passes are beginning to look like an important status symbol and fashion accessory.''
This columnist became especially aware of Canberrans' pass-flaunting while, in very recent times, being semi-unemployed and green with jealousy of the strutting employed who you could tell, from their passes, had jobs and workplaces.
But, observing them, I deduced that this pass-flaunting is a form of subconscious sexual display, as subconscious in those yearning humans who do it as it is in the sex-crazed birds and fish and mammals that show themselves off in ways explained by Sir David Attenborough.
Everywhere in nature, breeding creatures look for signs, in potential mates, that they will be suitable mates with qualities essential to furthering the species.
In my experience males, and especially male public servants, are especially likely to wear their passes like jewellery and to flaunt them.
What's happening is that these chaps are, like the male moose brandishing his antlers but especially like the male peacock when he displays his tail, showing off their assets and plumage to females. The Canberra male public servant's security pass, provocatively waggled at females, says: ''Look! I will be a good provider because I have a secure job and and a superannuation scheme unrivalled anywhere in Christendom.''
This theory explains the otherwise inexplicable way in which so many women mate with and marry male public servants even though to the rest of us they (APS men) seem so drab and dreary.
They have so little plumage but the little they do have (their workplace security passes) is extremely exciting to pragmatic females.
Finding fountain of youth
JUST as we insist on proof of age for juniors who play sport (for, before we did, our little under-10s boys found themselves playing football against teams containing ''under 10s'' with deep voices, moustaches and with their pregnant girlfriends there to watch them play) I begin to think that we may also have to require it of senior citizens who claim to be very old.
As a reporter whose role involves meeting and interviewing people who claim to be of a great age (and in recent days, I've interviewed a women claiming to be 90 and a man claiming to be 99) I'm finding some of these oldies suspiciously youthful.
It might get an interview off to a bad start to demand proof of age from a living treasure but the day is at hand when I may do it. What if these machiavellian codgers are having a lend of me, exploiting my boyish naivety?
And yet, it occurs to me again that perhaps these suspiciously well-preserved souls of Canberra and its region that I'm interviewing are so well-preserved because they are of Canberra and its region.
As I never tire of harping, the ''battle of the sites'' among those places keen to host the federal capital city quickly became a battle exclusively among sites that were ''sanatoriums'' with a ''bracing'' climate (very frosty in winter) that would ensure good health and long lives for those living and working there. In Tuesday's paper, writer Nicholas Stuart was bemoaning the way in which the parliamentary ballots of 1908 didn't result in the choosing of a site at the seaside, but, you see, Nicholas, there were no seaside places in the ballot to choose. Every contender was somewhere far enough inland to be healthily frosty.
It may be that the golden oldies I'm meeting (the lengths of their associations with this place often what makes them so interview-worthy) are living proofs that our old site-seekers were right to look for sanatorium sites like this one and Dalgety's.
Whenever I visit my old friends at Dalgety (how I love to hear them reminisce about their exploits in the Boer War, their skirmishes with the Kelly gang, their recollections of the ALP having a social conscience), they point out to me that there is no cemetery at bracing Dalgety because no one there ever dies.