By Tim Porteus

IN MANY ways, old age is a relative concept, for as we get older we tend to push the goalpost of old age further up the scale. I’m not yet really old, as I’m still in my 50s, but relative to how young I used to be, I’m old by any measure I used in my days of youth.

And there seem few benefits in getting older.

As one friend recently told me, “If, at our age, you don’t have a pain or ache somewhere, then you’re probably deid”.

But I think there is a tipping point in all this getting old process, whereby you stop resisting the idea, and not only accept it, but embrace it. I think I have reached that point.

My age has become a kind of achievement given my lifestyle, and I have a deep recognition that every day is something to savour, even when, as is the case as I now write, the weather outside is cold, wet and just miserable.

And storytelling is a profession in which getting older is not seen as a disadvantage, because oldness in a storyteller can add a bit more authenticity.

But my storytelling profession also highlights my disconnection to what people call progress. Increasingly in my work with children, I am being made aware of the gap between what is going on in technological developments and my knowledge of it.

Often in accounts of daily life, things are mentioned by children and I have absolutely no idea what they are. Usually they are new computer games or computer technology.

These games are so much part of so many children’s lives that when I ask what they are they find it incredible that I have no knowledge of them.

One of them responded cheekily, but in an affectionate manner, “Tim do you live in a cave?”

In a sense I suppose I do. I am lucky to have a young family as well as a grown up one, and that keeps me young at heart. But so far I have managed to resist the computer game thing, although I know how addictive it can be because I recently I tried a game once in a friend’s house.

I felt a bit like Frodo Baggins when he put on the ring. Something took over my soul and for a moment I was being taken over by an uncontrollable desire. I didn’t actually say the words “my precious screen” when I was forced to leave, but that is how I felt.

In one way, my lack of experience with this kind of technology makes me feel old and disconnected from the modern world but, on the other hand, it makes me feel relieved and even privileged that I grew up in an age when such toxic distractions from living life were simply not available.

I remember climbing trees, mucking about at the beach, playing in the garden till it got dark, making dens, cycling on an old bike that had been thrown away, going round for pals; basically being almost constantly outside and usually dirty when I finally came home. No wonder children assume there was no electricity in the days of my youth, because when I describe it, there is an absence of devices.

I did, of course, watch TV, but programmes were limited, no morning TV for example, and children’s TV was over by teatime. The outdoors was “my precious” and being bored was a motivation to make a game with pals not switch on a screen.

Only now, looking back, do I realise just how much a privilege it was to have a childhood free of this screen addiction. It simply wasn’t an option so there was no sense of loss or missing out.

But now with a young family I wonder how much longer I can hold out.

After a trip to North Berwick the other day I was asked by my youngest daughter, “What are those things on the seat?” as she peered into a car parked next to ours at a supermarket car park.

They were the frame holders (don’t even know the names for them) for ipads, so the children can watch films or play games while in the car. I realised my daughter had no idea that such a thing was possible!

I explained how it was much better to sing songs, tell stories, play word games and look out the window and play “I spy”. She nodded her head, but I’m not sure she was convinced.

I know I’m coming across as an old self righteous dinosaur. I do realise, of course, that the “good old days” were not all good.

I also understand that kids, indeed life itself, can be hard work, and all this new technology can help make our lives easier. It can help us keep us entertained and connected in a different way, and make information easier to get.

But even still, when children look at me in horror when I explain the absence of technology in my childhood and they ask me, “but what did you do,” I feel a sense of sadness that we have allowed the giants of IT multinationals to steal the imaginations, and the precious childhood time, of our children and future generations.

In that sense I think storytellers are needed perhaps more than ever. I remain happy living in my “cave”. And when it is finally time for my own lights to go out, I hope I will have left a trail of stories and experiences.

In the end, surely, that legacy is worth more than a thousand computer games played.