Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Shades of Grey on My Head That Have Captured My Interest; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Shades of Grey on My Head That Have Captured My Interest; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Bernard Trafford

WE are not alone. No, I'm not quoting a line from an old science fiction film. I'm celebrating the satisfying announcement by researchers at Warwick University that it's not only humans who suffer from midlife crises. Our near-relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas, do the same.

I thought it was just me! I can't deny I'm now middle-aged. My midlife crisis has not brought about any particular periods of misery, but has wrought dramatic changes.

When my wife and I passed 50, we went wild carrying out improvements on a country cottage we'd bought some years before. Shortly after, I changed job, moving from the Midlands (where we'd lived for 27 years) to Newcastle.

And I bought a sports car. Nothing grand, just a second-hand Mercedes, somewhat battered and ageing like its owner, almost worthless in monetary terms, but possessed of awesome power and a soft top (also like its owner?) Occasionally my daughters query how many midlife crises I need. I assure them I've stopped now.

Returning to those chimpanzees and gorillas, researchers sent out questionnaires to zoo keepers who knew their charges well and could accurately judge their state of mind and sense of wellbeing.

So far, so good. But until we can communicate directly with the creatures, I don't see how we can claim really to know how they're feeling. We cannot comprehend precisely how the female chimp feels when she reckons her figure's starting to sag, all the weight heading south to the hips.

Nor can we judge whether an anxious-looking middle-aged gorilla is asking her mate whether her bum looks big draped in that banana frond. Besides, what's the primate equivalent of middle-aged hair-dyeing? Do gorillas worry about turning grey? Does additional grey hair strengthen a silverback's position as a patriarch? Hair colour raises questions for me. My hair is brownish and I like to think that my more recent grey tints add a hint of gravitas. I'm the youngest of five children, and one of my motivations for getting on in life (so my therapist assures me) has been an urge to be taken seriously. …

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