You Know You're Over 40 When…

Archive for the category “1980s”

You Can Help Your Twentysomething Teammates In A Music Quiz

pub_quiz_cartoon

It was enough to strike fear in the heart of any fortysomething.

It was a work night out.

But this time, I was game. Because this work night out was a pub quiz.

Like any normal person, I enjoy pub quizzes. And like any normal person, I never organise myself or others enough to actually go to any pub quizzes. So while enforced fun – a work night out – is, in some ways, this fortysomething British person’s idea of hell, I don’t mind it if the fun being enforced is something which I am too lazy to enforce upon myself.

So there we were: my colleagues and I, about 35 of us in total, in a basement bar off Oxford Street hired for our exclusive use that night. There we sat, with our free drinks and free sharing plates – two things designed to make us talk and mingle with That Person Who Works In That Other Department Doing That Job Which You Don’t Fully Understand (which they did – I found myself reaching for cheesy nachos at the same time as That Nice Chap Who Does Design Stuff) – while the quiz masters quizzed us. Masterfully.

As far as I’m concerned, the only thing better than a pub quiz is the music round of a pub quiz – so imagine my delight when it turned out that this pub quiz was devoted entirely to music. Every round was a case of Name That Tune, if Name That Tune involved playing a song long enough for you to hear the chorus (and therefore usually the title), and didn’t involve people buzzing in when they could, in fact, name that tune.

Which probably makes it sound easier than it was.

I didn’t find the Noughties or the Nineties rounds that easy. But fortunately, four out of my five teammates were in their twenties, so they did. When it comes to Noughties music especially, I realise that it’s simply a case of me either not being familiar with the song in question, or being vaguely familiar with it, in the sense that I heard it once when I was walking around Primark but couldn’t tell you the title or the artist. (Similarly, I know the names of plenty of current pop stars and bands, but couldn’t name or sing a single tune by them – but I suspect that’s a subject for another You Know You’re Over 40 When… post).

But I knew I would come into my own. And that it would be during the Seventies and Eighties music rounds.

And sure enough, when those came along, my fellow fortysomething teammate David/Dave and I metaphorically rolled up our sleeves, took the pen and answer sheets, and prepared to do our worst. And by worst, I do of course mean best. Because a) we didn’t want to let our teammates down and b) as two of the oldest people in the room (my colleagues are, to a – young – man, in their 20s and 30s), I’m sure that we subconsciously wanted to show The Kids that old people do have a use, even if that use is only Seventies and Eighties music rounds in pub quizzes. Of course, I say ‘we’ but I can’t speak for David/Dave. Hell, I don’t even know what to call him. We’re pretty pally and he’s a nice bloke in his forties, so both of these things would indicate that he’s a ‘Dave’. And yet we’re not friends, as such, and he uses David in his work email address – both things which would make one err towards calling him ‘David’. As a result, I am permanently slightly terrified that if I call him ‘Dave’ I have overstepped a line of over-familiarity; but if I use ‘David’ I am being overly formal. Naturally, being British, I am most terrified of the former. I would rather David/Dave thought ‘Why doesn’t Andrea called me Dave?’ than ‘I wish Andrea would stop calling me Dave’.

But back to the pub quiz. Where, having played our joker on the Nineties music round, our team are comfortably, nay, smugly ahead; and where the Seventies and Eighties – aka the Fortysomething’s Specialist Music Rounds – are about to take place, and thus music-lovers David/Dave and I are about to be carried aloft on the shoulders of our younger colleagues.

The Seventies round included tracks by Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and other people not called Bob, such as Buggles. The Eighties one saw the likes of A-ha, The Human League and Bon Jovi – and the fact that the quiz masters played each song for so long was an utter delight, as our table sang and half-danced along to every track, easily the loudest and seemingly most joyous team, partly because we were comfortably in the lead, and partly because we were drunk. The fact that David/Dave is slightly older than me, and thus has older/darker/maler music tastes than me, meant that we complimented each other perfectly – him leaping on The Jam, me leaping up on hearing Flashdance.

But while the beers and questions flowed, the night was to hold two unfortunate surprises.

One: we didn’t win. Despite having been ahead – and despite David/Dave and I being utterly confident in our answers – somewhere in between the second gin and tonic and fourth beer, somewhere in between the sharing plate of pitta with hummous and the sharing plate of nachos with cheese, something went wrong. We have no idea what. It would unfortunately appear that despite being over 40, I can still be guilty of an over-confidence one would associate with the young. That said, being over 40, I managed to console myself pretty quickly because I no longer sweat the small stuff in quite the way that I used to. Plus I’d had free nachos.

Two: the quiz masters named the Fifties/Sixties round the ‘Grandma and Grandpa’s Music round’. Yes, any pop music quiz which has rounds devoted to decades is bound to make any fortysomething with almost universally twenty- and thirty-something colleagues acutely aware of their age (and not necessarily in a bad way – we’d had a blast and our knowledge was definitely appreciated). But the assumption that the music of the Fifties and Sixties is what your grandparents listened to makes you acutely aware not just of your age but that you are living in a world where, rather like the one in The Truman Show, everything may look just as it always has, but occasionally you’ll notice that things have slightly shifted; that things aren’t quite as you feel they should be – because they’ve changed, despite you feeling unchanged.

Or to put it another way: you know you’re over 40 when the pub quiz masters are clearly much, much younger than you.

You Remember The First Comic Relief Single, And It Rocked Your World

Just to say: I done wrote a little ‘You Know You’re Over 40 When…’ piece for The Huffington Post UK (where I am gainfully employed) to mark Red Nose Day this coming Friday. You can read it here.

Living Doll

There’s Only So Much New Technology You Can Embrace

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This week, I was dragged kicking and screaming onto Google Plus. Or Google+, as it’s known by some. Or G+, as it’s known by people with busy lives.

I didn’t want to set up a Google Plus account, but had to because of my job. The place where I work is internet-based, you see, and extremely good at harnessing all the amazing internet-based things which make it one of the biggest and most successful websites around. Such as: getting everyone who works there to use Google+ (oh god, I’m starting to use the lingo already).

And the reason I didn’t want to set up a G+ (well, I do have a busy life) account is this: there’s only so much technology I can be bothered with these days.

***

In 1987, I sat my O Levels (younger readers: these are a bit like GCSEs, only harder. American readers: these are a bit like SATs, only harder). One of said O Levels was Computer Studies – which mainly involved writing essays about barcode systems and daisy wheel printers…

DAISYWHEELPRINTER

…and very little actual computer work. I’m sure that Computer Studies is very different now. Kids probably learn how to code, and create apps, and hack into government systems.

Similarly, the computer games I played were the very early ones: Space Invaders on an Atari, Pole Position and Track And Field at arcades (but only when on holiday), and of course, the ones where you’d put a cassette in a ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64 and wait half an hour for it to load, like Frogger, Pac-Man and Manic Miner. I hasten to add that I personally didn’t own an Atari, ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64, but was lucky enough to have friends who did. I have fond memories of spending school lunchtimes at Caroline Hughes’s house, for example, where we’d eat our sandwiches in five minutes flat, listen to Tears For Fears while we waited 30 minutes for a game to load, play it for 15 minutes, and then dash back to school. Good times. Especially if one of us had achieved a new High Score.

The Eighties weren’t just about computer games, though. The other significant technological advancement to enter my life came after my mum won £1,000 on the Premium Bonds and celebrated it by treating the family to a VCR. This was a particularly big deal as a) we were not a fancy, gadget-y household and b) VCRs were only just becoming popular in British homes. As a result of both these things, we bought a Betamax. It took many, many years – and the slow, painful dearth [sic] of Betamax rental films in our local video shop – to convince my parents that they should switch to VHS.

When I was at university, I wrote my essays by hand, of course, and research was limited to books in the library and searches through microfiches. And in my first jobs – which were working as the assistant manager of a virtual reality ride* in the Trocadero, and then as the assistant manager of an arthouse cinema** – I would cash up at night with the aid of a calculator, a sheet of paper and a bottle of Tippex, with background music emanating from a dusty little cassette player. And then I’d send through the details of the takings to head office via a fax machine. It was quite the day when we introduced credit card bookings, I can tell you.

(Fun fact: A projectionist at the cinema once handed me a cassette demo made by one of our front-of-house staff and his mates. I put it on as I totted up the day’s takings, and as I half-listened, thought to myself: “They’re pretty good… they sound like Primal Scream”. They were The Beta Band.)

By the time I was working as a comedy promoter a few years later, things had improved tremendously. I had a computer. Oh, yes. Although given that I’d attended typing classes as a teenager, it’s a wonder I didn’t do this when I first used one:

And we didn’t just have computers in that office. Oh, no. We also had internal email. Still, that was nothing compared to my friend Jill, who had begun work at a big conference company where you could email people outside the building. I couldn’t quite get my head around such futuristic nonsense.

But fast forward later still, and I’d got a DVD player, seen The Hamster Dance – and the rest is all a big, internet-shaped blur…

***

When Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, I read a piece which made the point that the team of people who were moving into the White House were the first generation to really embrace – not avoid, or reluctantly learn to use – all sorts of new technologies as part of their day-to-day lives.

And while Obama’s a little older than me (happy 52nd birthday for August, Mr President!), I think the same holds true for us fortysomethings. In fact, off the top of my head, here’s what I reckon I’ve adapted to/learned to use over the years, in chronological order. As far as I can remember. The electronic waves from all the gadgets might have addled my brain:

Cassette tapes, computer games, VCRs (Betamax and VHS), personal stereos, word processors, the PC, CDs, the Gameboy, remote controls, email, the internet, mobile phones, texting, DVDs, the iBook, iTunes, the iPod, Flickr, the Macbook, digital cameras, blogging, html, MySpace, Facebook, Skype, podcasting, mobile phones that can take photos and stuff, emoticons, Spotify, Twitter, wifi, the Kindle, 3G.

While it’s no Blitz, it’s quite a lot for one generation to have gone through, learning how to use all that lot. Well done, everyone.

But now I want to shout “ENOUGH ALREADY!”. And I’m not even American. Or Jewish.

I have Spotify playlists and an (increasingly redundant, thanks to Spotify) iTunes library – I can’t keep up with 8 Tracks, too. I have a Flickr account to store my photos, and a digital camera and mobile phone to take them with, so do I really need to bother with Instagram? And I’m afraid I don’t have time to see what someone’s pinning on their Pinterest board (although I hear it’s likely to be a picture of a cupcake) because it’s all I can do to check my emails, comment on my friends’ Facebook statuses and tweet on Twitter.

I’m not about to go off and live in the woods. Partly because there’s a distinct lack of electricity out there, plus I’m not the world’s greatest camper. But as I stare at the ever decreasing circles of Google Plus, I would rather like it if everyone just slowed down a bit with this whole technology thing, please. I’d just like to catch my breath, have a sit down, and get my head fully around the things which I’ve probably still only got it half around.

Maybe it’s because my brain is now full.

Maybe it’s because I’m over 40.

Or maybe it’s just because I was badly burned by the whole VHS/Betamax thing.

*Virtual reality ride – n. A really rubbish experience that you were overcharged for in the mid-1990s, chiefly aimed at Italian teenagers wandering around Leicester Square.

**Arthouse cinema – n. A type of independent cinema which showed films no one wanted to see throughout the 1980s and early ‘90s, until ‘The Usual Suspects’ came out in 1995, which was a hit and thus confused everyone.

You Like A Bruce Springsteen T-Shirt In H&M, Then Realise It Isn’t Actually Intended For You

(Note: the situation I’m about to describe can also be applied to a Fleetwood Mac Rumours T-shirt in TopShop.)

I was 13 when Born In The USA came out. But – being 13 – I didn’t quite ‘get’ it. In 1984, I was listening to Wham! and Duran Duran, and I didn’t understand why a sweaty, shouty man in a bandana was dancing in the dark, let alone on fire. (Mind you, I didn’t really understand Duran Duran’s lyrics, either. But then, who did?)

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No, Born In The USA only came to life for me three years later, when it became the soundtrack to a school exchange trip to Germany (turns out the Germans liked Bruce Springsteen, even if I didn’t). Forced to listen to Immersed in tracks like Glory Days, Downbound Train and Bobby Jean – under the summery skies of Bavaria, and occasionally through the PA system of a coach – Bruce, and his songs, suddenly began to make sense to me. Of course, this might have been due to the fact that I was now a wiser, more musically sophisticated, hormonal 16-year-old… But whatever the reason, I grew to love what is, of course, a glorious album. Although Bruce was still a little too sweaty for my liking.

And then later in the same year, I gained an American pen friend – a brooding, intellectual type from Massachusetts – who worshipped Bruce Springsteen and sent me cassette tapes of all his earlier albums, along with an end-of-year essay he’d written about the meanings and imagery in Jungleland.

As a result, I fell hook, line and New Jersey fishing boat sinker for Springsteen. More specifically: for his music, which was unlike anything else I was listening to at the time. The energy of songs like Rosalita and Badlands, the sheer sexiness and lowdown dirtiness of tracks like For You and The River, the plaintive cries of troubled smalltown Americans who wanted to flee their small lives – whether forever or just for one night – in songs like Born To Run, Hungry Heart and Atlantic City… Springsteen’s music was exotic and familiar all at once. I too wanted to leave my small town (Wombourne, Staffordshire), although unfortunately I couldn’t drive, which all of Bruce’s protagonists seemed able to do. And while I’d never known what it was like to make love in the dirt – let alone to do so with a girl called ‘Crazy Janey’ – I dreamed of it happening some day soon. Preferably with a boy wearing a denim shirt and a guitar slung over his shoulder… sigh…

Sorry, where was I?

Ah, yes. Standing in H&M. Looking at a Bruce Springsteen T-shirt.

I’d owned a Fame T-shirt as a girl, but never a Bruce Springsteen one. So imagine my delight when, as a fortysomething, I spotted one in H&M. bruceT As I stood there handling this cheap-yet-magnificent item of clothing, my delight turned to admiration as I realised what excellent taste the people at H&M head office had. “Wow, like me, they realise how under-appreciated Bruce and Born In The USA are!” I thought to myself. “Good for them! They’ve made a T-shirt for people who love Born In The USA, like me!”.

And then it hit me.

Standing in H&M, surrounded by H&M’s core demographic, it hit me.

This T-shirt wasn’t meant for me. It was meant for girls whose parents owned and appreciated Born In The USA. It was meant for girls who probably thought that this was quite amusing. That Bruce Springsteen is cool but only in an ironic, my-parents-like-him, way.

They say that if you remember a fashion the first time around, you shouldn’t wear it the second time. Thus the resurgence of Eighties looks in the Noughties was not aimed at people like me, but at kids who found it cool and ironic to wear Eighties fashions and had no idea how we suffered for our crimped hair and puffball skirts.

Likewise, this T-shirt wasn’t made for me, or any of my fellow fortysomething Springsteen fans. It was made for 21 year-old actresses:

graphic-tee-emma-roberts(That’s Emma Roberts, niece of 45 year-old Bruce Springsteen fan Julia Roberts.)

And 23-year-old fashion bloggers:Screen shot 2013-02-02 at 14.28.31

For me to copy this phenomenon – ie to wear a T-shirt resplendent with the cover of an album my parents owned when I was growing up – I would have to walk around with this on my chest:

Beethoven-SymphonyBeethoven’s Symphony No.6, as never seen on any T-shirt

And so I left H&M feeling slightly sad, and really rather old, because (a) I really wanted to wear that Born In The USA T-shirt, but (b) I realised that it was intended for girls young enough to be my daughter or niece. And to add insult to injury, (c) it then dawned on me that those clever people at H&M’s head office who had come up with the idea probably weren’t my age, either. That H&M’s head office is staffed by ironic twentysomethings whose parents like Bruce Springsteen.

Good old – and by old, I do of course mean young – H&M.

Oh, and that’s the other thing. You know you’re over 40 when it’s something of a struggle to call it H&M. Because in your heart, it was, is, and always will be: Hennes.

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