Sunday, 21 February 2016


Katharine Whitehorn's discussion today with Michael Berkeley over her taste in music had no revelations for someone who had followed her career even after giving up The Observer on a Sunday. She has been rather more candid in previous BBC features. However, it is a good starting point for someone unfamiliar with the journalism she pioneered. (Is there any chance of BBC repeating on Radio 4 Extra her original reading of her autobiography?)

One thing I would object to is Michael Berkeley's assertion (and her apparent acquiescence) that at the time of the Beatles, "when I'm sixty-four" was generally seen as an age when one was doddery. It is true that when the first state pension was introduced* it was payable at age 70 when "only one in four people reached the age of 70 and life expectancy at that age was about 9 years" (Paul Lewis, Setting the virtual retirement age so high is seen by some as a cynical move by the Treasury to save the taxpayer and employers money. From just before she was born, though, the pension age was reduced to 65 which clearly recognised that people had active life after retirement. In the early 1960s, when "When I'm 64" was written, in large part because of the NHS, it was already a cliché that there were people who were busier in retirement than they had been during their working lives.

* by David Lloyd George, in that great pre-war Liberal government which also included Winston Churchill, who had brought in William Beveridge as a senior civil servant.

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