Dining with a youngish health freak recently, I was asked the inevitable question: "What's your secret for good health and mental fitness?"

This is a familiar conversation for anyone who has become a living fossil, merely by virtue of still standing vertically.

I have fielded many questions on this subject since joining the octogenarian club - particularly from anxious health nuts, all eager to know if I have some magical elixir, like carrot juice mixed with manuka honey.

I can only lamely respond, "sadly, it's all down to a steady diet of bacon and eggs, hamburgers and fries, alcohol and lots of stress that's got me through".


This, naturally, only raises smiles of disbelief.

It's impossible in these health-conscious times - especially for those religiously stuffing themselves full of muesli, sunflower seeds and fresh fruit after their morning jog - to think otherwise.

But other than giving up smoking in my early twenties, I really have stuck to a typical old-school journalistic diet, which means several lost decades patronising the White Lady, the celebrated pie cart stationed close to the old Auckland Star building in Shortland St.

I wish I could hold out a straw of comfort for those hoping that wholesome living will grant them a good innings in the long-life stakes.

I recall three friends I worked with in the 1950s, who dined daily in a Queen St vegetarian restaurant, scornfully called the nut-cutlet factory.

The trio glowed with good health and well-meaning righteousness, and on one occasion persuaded me to join them and sample the fare. I recall consuming some sort of meatless sausage, something so diabolically constructed, I was convinced it would pass through my alimentary system without changing composition.

My vegan workmates spent a great deal of their time smugly warning me about my going to an early grave if I didn't knock off eating meat pies and cream doughnuts daily.

As you can probably guess, I attended all three of their funerals decades ago.


It really seems to be more a matter of luck and having had the right DNA passed down through the family.

One of my favourite New Yorker cartoons sums up the subject. It shows two ancient cavemen asking themselves: "Something's not right - our air is clean, our water is pure, we all get plenty of exercise, everything we eat is organic and free-range, yet nobody lives past thirty."