Many famous men and women have been celebrating their 60th birthdays lately. I want to put in a good word for being 80.

True, there are disadvantages to being so old; the great thing is to count the advantages. When you are 80, there are all sorts of things you don’t have to do. You do not have to go out to dine if you can’t be bothered; a phone call in a whiney voice, a burst of sympathy at the other end, and you can stay in snugly and read Tolstoy. Things that might seem like disadvantages when you are young - say 70 — can be transformed into pleasures.

I tend to wake up at four or five in the morning. Instead of lying there whingeing about it, I shuffle downstairs and make myself a mug of tea. Sometimes I switch on the TV and discover a world that does not exist in daylight hours. The riches of Istanbul, a chap making friends with a crocodile, someone climbing the Himalayas in a wheelchair, the last orangutangs in Sumatra, dining off durian fruit. It’s wonderful! They didn’t have TV at four in the morning in my young days. In fact, they didn’t have television at all.

Many people feel old at 30. I still feel young in spirit. And there is a great abounding reason for that, though she has begged me not to mention her name. She is just the most empathic, intelligent, adorable woman I have had the luck to meet. My winter sunshine. In case it might appear that I wallow in the bright side of being 80, I had better end on a cautionary note. Don’t become 80 if you can avoid it; but remember the alternatives are even worse.

I require spasms of sleep during the day. I will be sitting in an armchair, perhaps watching television or perhaps reading — at present it is the TLS and John Heilpern’s magnificent biography of John Osborne — and I fall asleep. At least, that is what I call it. But, like those unfortunates caught on the wrong side of the Sittang Bridge when it blew, I find myself on the wrong side of consciousness. I have blanked out. Perhaps I come back to myself after half an hour. I reflect that a time may come when I blank out for good, there in the armchair, Heilpern’s book unfinished on my knee. Be warned, darling! This marvellous, unique lifetime will be over. But what an easy way to go...