You Know You're Over 40 When…

Archive for the category “hobbies & interests”

You Can Help Your Twentysomething Teammates In A Music Quiz

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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.

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You Like The Same Music As The Prime Minister

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They say that you know you’re getting older when the policemen start looking younger. Or as I will no doubt be putting it at some point: You know you’re over 40 when… the policemen start looking younger. And the doctors. And teachers. In fact, just about anyone in a position of authority.

Similarly, when you’re in your 40s, the Prime Ministers also start getting younger (as well as pluralised: the only thing worse than a Prime Minister getting younger? ALL the Prime Ministers getting younger). Yes, once you’re over 40, your leader is now statistically more likely to be the same age as you. Or at least the age gap between you is lessening. There was quite a gulf between me and Mrs Thatcher, for example – I was eight when she became Prime Minister, and as a result, I couldn’t relate to her very well. Chiefly because she wasn’t by all accounts a ‘pony person’.

But now? Now, I am 42 and our Prime Minister is 46. So I really shouldn’t be all that surprised that he and I share similar musical tastes. Although naturally I was surprised, and by ‘surprised’ I do of course mean ‘filled with a sense of disappointment bordering on horror’.

I imagine it was different in The Old Days. I doubt it was much of a surprise/disappointment/feeling bordering on horror – or quite such an indicator of the ageing process – to like the same music as the Prime Minister in, say, the 18th century. Back then, everyone listened to Music From The Old Days – or as it is known in some circles, ‘classical’ music – so your only sense of connection (or sign of age) would presumably come from liking the same classical music as the Prime Minister. I hear, for example, that Pitt the Younger was a sucker for a bit of Scarlatti.

That said, I’m sure that all our modern Prime Ministers have enjoyed classical music, too. Posh people tend to. And, modern or not, all British Prime Ministers are posh.

But back to current times – where the only thing worse than liking the same music as the Prime Minister is that the Prime Minister in question is David Cameron. Being reminded once again that I am now at an age where I could be ruling the country, but am instead mainly writing blog posts and watching cat videos, is galling enough. But, as a lily-livered, bleeding-heart, liberal egghead communist, learning that I share these tastes with Cameron is the icing on the cake that the Tories think the peasants should eat (while sitting in front of their massive TVs).

It’s only appropriate that I discovered this horrifying news through the most horrifying of channels, of course. The Daily Mail. It was this article which revealed Cameron’s musical tastes (and penchant for making pancakes of a weekend), and the first name that leapt out at me was First Aid Kit.

First Aid Kit are a wonderful duo who sound like they were born a) in the Sixties and b) in California, despite being a) in their 20s and b) from Stockholm. And I’ll be frank: the only thing more irksome than discovering that the Camerons like them (Sam is particularly keen, apparently) is guessing that they’re fans in exactly the same way that I am. I’ve listened to one First Aid Kit song over and over again, and their album a few times, but I’ve never checked out their full back catalogue or seen them live. I just know the Camerons are fans in this way too, ie. barely fans at all. I can’t even rise above them on this front.

But if the First Aid Kit revelation was a blow, the following extract was the knockout:

“Mr Cameron revealed his musical ‘guilty pleasure’ was listening to Bruce Springsteen.

Mrs Cameron ‘doesn’t like The Boss’ so he can only listen to him when she is away.

In 1985 he queued for hours to see Springsteen in France in ‘one of those concerts that went on for four hours.

‘That was my guilty pleasure. I queued for hours and I was right at the front and I just thought he was fantastic.

‘So, when Samantha is not around there is a little bit of Dancing in the Dark or something like that, or, Born in the USA, so that is my guilty…but actually I like his stuff like Nebraska and all the rather grim dark stuff, so that is my guilty pleasure I suppose.’”

As readers of this blog will know, I adore Bruce Springsteen. The man, the music, the person whose track Wrecking Ball has been covered so spectacularly by Miley Cyrus that it sounds like a completely different song. And so my thought process on reading the passage above went something like this:

1. David Cameron likes Bruce Springsteen. This is awful. Bruce is far too amazing to be appreciated by David Cameron.

2. David Cameron likes Bruce Springsteen. This is good. Bruce is amazing, and I’d like everyone to know and appreciate his music.

3. Except perhaps David Cameron.

4. Samantha Cameron doesn’t like Bruce Springsteen. Good. This gives me one more legitimate reason not to like the Camerons.

5. David Cameron thinks that liking Bruce Springsteen is a “guilty pleasure”. Good. This means I can go back to hating David Cameron again, and the world is in its rightful state once more.

Yes, with Cameron’s stupid, falsely self-deprecating statement – “that is my guilty pleasure” – balance was once again restored in the universe. To like a musician so much that you queue for hours to see him but at the same time be unable to wear your love for that music with pride – to feel that you can’t be seen to enjoy it without a veil of irony – is bad enough. But to do this about Bruce Springsteen, a man with more talent, smarts and empathy in his guitar-picking finger than Cameron has in his pancake-eating body, is staggering. And yet, of course, not. This is David Cameron.

May I suggest, Prime Minister, that the only thing you should feel guilty about is that, while listening to “that grim, dark stuff” of Springsteen’s, you don’t seem to understand its message (here are two handy links for you). Perhaps if you did, you wouldn’t dumb it down as a guilty pleasure – and, slightly more importantly, you wouldn’t be so inclined to push through policies that hit the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. If you want to feel guilty about something, may I suggest that it’s that – and not listening to ‘Nebraska’? Just a thought. Now, back to First Aid Kit: I’ve got an entire back catalogue to work through…

You Love Talking To Strangers

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*American voiceover* Previously on You Know You’re Over 40 When…
In a desperate bid to lose weight and get fit, Andrea has taken up running.
Now read on…

Before I started the Couch To 5k program, I couldn’t run for a bus. Now, 10 weeks later, I can run for 30 minutes straight – and were it not June, I’d be claiming this as some sort of Christmas miracle. It certainly feels like a Derren Brown mind trick – if Derren Brown was a woman called Laura employed by the NHS to talk in my ear and tell me to run over a soundtrack of library music tracks that sound a bit like The Lightning Seeds/U2/Nik Kershaw.

My running route is usually laps of my local park. Because I tend to run in the same location at roughly the same times (weekday evenings around 8pm, since you ask), I do, of course, occasionally see the same people. A lot of these people are the brave souls who take part in the local boot camp fitness groups (there are often two groups in the park simultaneously, in fact, and I am already penning a ‘Dodgeball’-style comedy in my head about the rivalry between them, which will star Owen Wilson and Kristen Wiig as the two instructors). And some of these people are fellow runners. Normally people who can run far better than me, and by that I mean faster and without looking as if they’re about to die.

But there’s one chap who I see more often than others – he would appear to like running on weekday evenings around 8pm, too – and he doesn’t run much better than me. He is middle-aged, stern-faced and he never, ever seems to be enjoying his run.  He looks as if he’s running because someone put a gun to his back, or at least the medical equivalent of that metaphor, ie a doctor put a gun to his back.

I clearly feel an affinity with this fellow because if anyone saw me running they’d probably think that I, too, was doing it under duress (which is true, to a certain extent. I love my runs, but only in the sense of love meaning ‘simultaneously hate and find incredibly difficult’). Plus, I’ve noticed that he a) runs as slowly as humanly possible, like me and b) tends to look at the ground when he’s running, like me.  The latter is a habit I have to constantly haul myself up on – although I realise that no one’s ever shown me how exactly I should be running. Should I be throwing my head back, like the young Sebastian Coe or Ian Charleson playing Eric Liddell in ‘Chariots Of Fire’? Should I run barefoot, like Zola Budd? It’s a minefield. (Note to self: try running like you’re in a minefield.)

I’ve passed my reluctant running friend many times in the park (despite our affinity, one thing we don’t have in common is the direction in which we run). So many times, in fact, that it feels that we should now be reaching the point when we acknowledge each other. With a nod, perhaps, or a raise of the eyebrows. Or a rueful ‘Here we are again, eh?!’ smile. That sort of thing. Hopefully we would build up to “Hello”.

Now, if as a child you were lucky enough to be taken on country walks with your family, as I was, then you’ll no doubt remember the feeling of slight embarrassment when grown-up strangers said “Hello” to each other (coupled with possible confusion: after all, we were explicitly told not to talk to strangers). Like talking about our emotions or not talking about the weather, being friendly to perfect strangers (note to foreign readers: mumbling “Hello” is friendly for us) isn’t in our British genes. But there’s an unwritten rule that one does this when out for a walk in the country. And while I realise that ‘a local park’ isn’t ‘the country’, and ‘running’ isn’t the same as ‘walking’, there’s something about running in my local park which makes me want to do the same.

Of course, it’s not just the situation – it’s my age. Now I’m the grown-up, not the embarrassed kid; and more than that, now that I’m in my forties, something has unwittingly kicked in and I am just one curler away from being Les Dawson’s Cissie/Ada. In my 20s and 30s I was happy to people-watch; these days, I love to people-engage. At a bus stop. In a queue. Walking down the street. I am becoming that person, the Person Who Talks To Strangers Because She Can’t Help Herself, the person who would happily chat to a neighbour over the garden fence, if only she had a fence, or a garden. Whether it’s due to growing confidence, lessening self-interest or both (also known as ‘maturity’), I am more myself in strangers’ company than I ever used to be, and find other people more interesting than I find myself. I want to learn about others and hear their stories, whatever their age and background (indeed, the more different they seem from me, the better). I want to both ‘only connect’ and talk to them about ‘Only Connect’.

But back to my running friend.

I was doing my usual park circuit the other evening, eyes down and ears tuned into library music, when a woman running in the opposite direction stopped to talk to me. Well, to tell you that I was excited, dear reader, is an understatement. AT LAST! A FELLOW PARK RUNNER – A PERFECT STRANGER – HAS STOPPED TO TALK TO ME!

“Have you dropped a set of keys?” she asked – pointing out a set she’d just found on the ground. Quick check – no I hadn’t. A chat ensued, during which we decided it was best that she left said keys in the park café. Already thinking ahead, I said: “There’s another guy running around the park right now… I could ask him if they’re his.” While thinking to myself: “YES! YES! I’ve found the perfect way to acknowledge that middle-aged bloke who always runs when I do.”

“Great, thanks,” said the young woman. “Sorry to interrupt your run!” Yes, not only had a total stranger chatted to me, but she was genuinely NICE and FRIENDLY. And this, for me, is why we strangers should stop and talk to each other. Because each time it happens, it reaffirms your faith in humanity, makes the world a better place, and gives you a bit of a breather from a workout.

So I resumed my run around the park, and sure enough, fast (or rather, slowly) approaching me was my soon-to-be friend, the Middle-Aged Reluctant Runner.

Here was my chance.

“Excuse me,” I said. He didn’t stop.

“Excuse me, but have you dropped a set of keys? Only…”

“NO!” he barked, scowling and not missing a beat as he ran past. Slowly.

“Oh.”

Turns out that not everyone wants to talk to strangers. Not even when they’re over 40, too.

You Pack A Dressing Gown For A Weekend Away

(And slippers, if it’s going to be cold.)

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I last went to Barcelona 10 years ago. And the last time before that was 10 years before that. Clearly, Barcelona and I are only destined to see each other every 10 years – like relatives who live on the other side of the world, or in my case, Bristol.

Ten years ago, I was in Barcelona to celebrate a friend’s 30th birthday. It was a weekend fuelled by mojitos and as a result, my memory of it is a little hazy, although I do remember that a) it was a lot of fun and b) the Sagrada Familia still wasn’t finished.

I’d first seen the Sagrada Familia when I was 20 years old. I made several trips to Barcelona around that time because my then-boyfriend had moved there to teach English as a foreign language, which I think was a legal requirement for all language graduates in the early 1990s. I remember the buzz of a city preparing to host the Olympics; the construction of tower block flats down by the sea; the dusty parks and the flower stalls on the Ramblas; the fact that the Sagrada Familia still wasn’t finished.

This time, I’m taking my boyfriend on an Obligatory Couple’s City Break – because while I’ve not been to Barcelona for 10 years, he’s never been at all. I’m looking forward to discovering it with him – and it will, I’m sure, feel like discovering rather than rediscovering. Partly because of those mojitos, but mainly because a lot can change in a city in 10 years. Look at London, my hometown, for example. In the past 10 years, Oyster cards and Boris Bikes have arrived, the South Bank has become a wonderful place to hang out, and Jamie Oliver restaurants have popped up everywhere. Sadly, not everything is progress.

The other thing that’s changed in the past 10 years is, of course, me. When I was 30, a suitcase packed for a late spring jaunt to Barcelona would have included Alka Seltzer, strappy sandals and not much else. But now?

Now, I pack a dressing gown.

(As well as Alka Seltzer and strappy sandals.)

This is partly because I’m staying in an apartment rather than a hotel – another change from 10 years ago, when apartment rental sites like AirBnB were few and far between, and a city break was synonymous with a hotel stay. Now, it’s possible to live like a local by talking to that local online and staying in his or her place – and to do so for the fraction of the cost of staying in a hotel. A hotel where, yes, you might get a dressing gown – but it won’t be your dressing gown, will it?

And that’s the thing. A dressing gown is the adult equivalent of a comfort blanket. It gives you a sense of home – of self – wherever you are. If I don’t take my dressing gown with me to Barcelona, I will simply be staying in some stranger’s flat. If I do take it, it will suddenly be my place that I’m padding around in. It will feel as if I live in Barcelona. And yes, this fantasy might only last for four days (the required length of an Obligatory Couple’s City Break). But for those four days, I’ll be opening the balcony shutters, looking down on the narrow street below, drinking real coffee, flicking through the channels on Spanish TV… all in my dressing gown. I’m already picturing Frank and myself like David Hockney’s friends Mr And Mrs Clark, only without Percy. Unless we managed to pick up a stray gato from the streets of Barcelona – and even then it’s going to be tricky, because we’ll have to find a white one.

Of course, it helps to have the right dressing gown. I’m sure that most dressing gowns, if you wear them regularly enough, will give you that sense of self and comfort wherever you are. But the very fact that my dressing gown is goddam blooming lovely is another reason I want to take it with me wherever I go.

I bought it five years ago at Singapore airport. I went there for 24 hours (Singapore, not the airport – the Tom Hanks film The Terminal may be based on a true story, but it’s not mine) while I was working as a jazz singer in a hotel in Malaysia. It’s a long, patterned Chinese-style silk dressing gown in midnight blue and I fell in love with it at first sight. I’d always had a soft spot for this type of robe – it’s a classic, after all – but it was only now, while staying in South East Asia, that I suddenly felt I could justify owning one. As a result, I padded around my Malaysian hotel room in my classic Chinese-style dressing gown and classic Chinese-style free hotel slippers, feeling even more like… well, a jazz singer working abroad than I ever did.  All I needed was to have a good cry while wearing too much mascara to truly turn into an ageing Judy Garland-esque diva. (Reader, it never happened.)

In short: my dressing gown makes me feel both comfortable and glamorous. It’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer (it’s almost like those Chinese people knew what they were doing when they designed it). And as result of all these things, it’s now a must-have when I pack a suitcase: whether that’s for an Obligatory Couple’s City Break Somewhere On The Continent or a Week With Family Over Christmas In Various Parts Of Britain. And when it comes to the latter, I now also pack slippers. Which is no doubt another idea that my 20 or 30-something self would have been horrified by. To which I say to her: “Just you wait”.

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The Sagrada Familia. Estimated completion date: 2028.

Operation Yewtree Is Tarnishing Your Childhood Memories

Robin Williams once said that if you remember the Sixties, you probably weren’t there.

I don’t remember the Sixties because I wasn’t there. I do remember the Seventies, however – not only because I was there, but also because I was a young child and thus hadn’t yet taken any substances liable to induce memory loss (although I suspect Space Dust came close).

I was born in 1971: the year of decimalisation, the year that Britain voted to join the EEC and the year that Jim Morrison died (clearly Britain joining the EEC was too much for him). I am the same age as Winona Ryder, Ewan McGregor and Disney World Orlando. Sadly I’ve never met Winona or Ewan, but if I did, I’m sure we’d have a lovely time, especially if we all went to Disney World Orlando together.

My childhood holidays in the 1970s were more likely to centre around static caravan parks than exotic sun-drenched resorts, but they were no less happy for that. I grew up in a safe, middle-class home where my siblings and I were loved – even if that love extended to taking us not to Disney World Orlando but to Butlin’s Minehead, instead. So, you know, we at least felt liked. In short, I was lucky enough to have a happy childhood.

Unlike some in the 1970s.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which I really wouldn’t recommend, unless you’re doing some sort of Bear Grylls-style endurance feat, in which case: hats off to you!) or living abroad (again, I really wouldn’t recommend this), you will have seen the almost daily headlines as a result of Operation Yewtree. And if you’re in your 40s, it’s likely that each of these headlines will have hammered a small but perceptible, unexpected nail into the coffin of your happy childhood memories of the 1970s.

Operation Yewtree was launched to investigate allegations of child sex abuse by Jimmy Savile, of course – a man whose life as a DJ, TV presenter, charity worker and marathon-runner had always seemed, until the abuse came to light, glittering. Literally, given those gold jackets of his. After the initial shock of the news wore off, many of us moved into “Actually… Jimmy Savile? That makes sense…” territory. But the initial shock was exactly that. Shock.

Because Savile had been the nation’s uncle. The creepy uncle, sure. But our uncle nevertheless. To those of us born in the early Seventies, our memories of him aren’t dominated by his Radio 1 work or even Top of the Pops, but by Jim’ll Fix It, quite possibly because it was a show which centered around us: children. Jim’ll Fix It made kids’ dreams come true and thus, as kids watching it every week, we were all touched by its magic. We giggled at the Boy Scouts eating their lunch on a rollercoaster. We gasped at the slow motion demolishing of cooling towers. We were, in short, green with envy at every kid who was lucky enough to get on the show. Everyone had a Jim’ll Fix It wish, even if they never wrote in. Mine was to perform the kid’s speaking part on The Land Of Make Believe with Bucks Fizz. Sadly, it never happened. Mainly because I never wrote in.

(Of course, we now know that Savile was displaying behaviour typical of an abuser. He actively sought positions where he was around young people; and he deliberately made himself appear exemplary – and thus, in theory, unquestionable – through his charity work. I highly recommend reading this fascinating New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell about an American sports coach who behaved in a not dissimilar fashion.)

As Operation Yewtree’s investigations have widened, what we’ve seen is nothing short of an unraveling. An unraveling of behaviour that at the time, if it was seen, was either swept under the carpet or considered acceptable; or if it remained unseen, was kept that way until now in part due to (understandable) fear. It’s also been an unraveling of names – a “who’s next?!” roll call of male celebrities who were at their height of fame in the Seventies and Eighties. Celebrities who mean a lot to you if you grew up in those decades – although some more than others, of course.

The naming of Freddie Star, Jim Davidson, Jimmy Tarbuck, Gary Glitter and Dave Lee Travis – and I hasten to add that it’s only accusations against these men at the time of writing, and that they deny them – hasn’t affected me greatly because I don’t have fond childhood memories of any of them. As a kid, each of those men either gave me the creeps (Glitter), had a career aimed more at adults than children (Tarbuck) or both (Freddie Starr). That said, my first memory of observational comedy was Jim Davidson on The Comedians remarking that you always want to have a wee when you first step into a bath. I’m not sure my remembering this means that I was destined to work in comedy or simply that I did always want to have a wee when I stepped into a bath. Either way, I don’t think Davidson’s career ever improved on that high.

Rolf Harris – who has also been arrested, and who also denies the allegations against him – was something of a horrible shock, even for a nice middle-class girl who was more from the Tony Hart school of art. Rolf Harris, who delighted generations with his drawings of half-men, half-kangaroos. Rolf Harris, who pretty much single-handedly introduced the didgeridoo to the northern hemisphere. Rolf Harris, who seemed like the long-lost relative from Australia that we never fully ‘got’ and always vaguely baffled us. And by ‘us’, I do of course mean ‘me’.

But my biggest “Oh no! Not HIM!” moment came – as I’m sure it did for many others – with the arrest of Stuart Hall. Jimmy Savile might have been our creepy uncle, but Stuart Hall? Stuart Hall was our fun uncle. We all delighted in his irrepressible laugh at the shenanigans of It’s A Knockout – a family show that we did all sit round to watch as a family, and all enjoyed equally. And who could blame us? What’s not to love about grown men and women dressed in enormous Frenchmen/ogre/penguin outfits carrying buckets of blue or red water, falling over and spilling most of it? It’s A Knockout gave us lessons for life. Sometimes you will slip up. Sometimes you will do your best, but still spill most of the metaphorical blue water. Sometimes you’ll get beaten by a Belgian.

But the sheen has been taken off these memories by what we know now about these men, and it’s impossible not to feel betrayed somehow; or at least to think that we were naïve or impossibly innocent. And while we were those things, of course – we were only children, after all – our parents were innocent to it, too. Not only did we trust these men, our parents trusted them to ‘look after’ us through the medium of the television. And television – especially in the pre-satellite, three-channel era – was the source of so many shared experiences, not just with our own families but with our fellow Brits. As such, it was a hugely important and formative part of our growing up, of learning how to navigate the world and the people in it.

Of course, the tarnishing of our memories is nothing, nothing at all, compared to what the victims of these men actually went through – people who truly had their childhoods robbed and their lives ruined. Unlike some, I don’t regard Operation Yewtree as any sort of witch- hunt and I am, above everything, gratified to see arrogant, monstrous abusers being exposed and punished for the crimes they committed.

And I also don’t want to allow these revelations to affect my memories of what was a happy decade. For me, the Seventies were days spent watching Take Hart and reading (la la la la la) Look-In magazine; days spent roller-skating up and down – mainly down, to be honest – our little cul-de-sac; days spent recording the Top 40 by putting a cassette player in front of the radio and trying to cut out Tony Blackburn’s voice. Sunny days (quite literally – remember ’76?) and sunny memories.

Partly to remind myself – and my fellow fortysomethings – of this, I compiled a gallery this week for Huffington Post: 30 Great Things About Growing Up In 1970s Britain. I’ve included a few choice examples below (just click on each image to read its full caption). Yes, there might have been bad things about the Seventies – clogs, for example – but sometimes I thank my lucky stars that it was the decade of my early childhood. And given the recent revelations, I thank my lucky stars that I was safe.

A Pint Glass Is No Longer An Acceptable Vase Substitute

I wouldn’t say that I try to impress my boyfriend’s parents, but: if you’re reading this, Robert and Mary, you’re totally brilliant!

I jest, of course. I don’t try to impress Robert and Mary – as I am over 40, feel totally able to be myself around them, and they are very forgiving people. But I confess that I hope they like me, that they know how much I love and care for their son, and that they realise I am a Grown-Up who is capable of keeping a Nice Home.

Not least because I am possibly still trying to prove the latter point to myself.

As I flatshared through my 20s and 30s, never truly able to make a place my home because it was always someone else’s, I always hoped that I had it in me to be such a Grown-Up. And since buying my own little flat two years ago, I confess that I’ve found great joy in both creating my own home, and feeling house-proud as a result.

I’ve bought furniture. I’ve découpaged some of that furniture. I’ve framed photos – and not even in clip frames, oh no. I mean properly, ie like grown-ups do, ie with mounts.

I’ve also started buying flowers for the place. And by ‘the place’ I naturally mean ‘myself’.

I’ve bought flowers for myself before, of course, and not just because I was single. But now that I’m in my own place, I’m buying more – because I regard them as pretty much the easiest single thing you can do to a home to instantly make it a more joyous, more pleasurable and more pleasantly smelly place to live.

I don’t go crazy – I don’t always have flowers in the flat; when I do it’s limited to one bunch; and that bunch is probably made up of lilies, tulips or daffodils, ie flowers that cost between £1 and £7 and never more than a tenner. Yet because they’re ostensibly one of life’s luxuries, rather than necessities – even when they only cost £1 – I feel like I’m treating myself every time I buy them. Which only ups the pleasure rating, of course. If I earned more money or lived in a larger place, I could see myself buying flowers for every room – in fact, I could easily become like Elton John, who famously racked up a £290,000 bill for flowers because, as The Independent pointed out, he could. Although obviously I’m not saying I’d spend £300k on lilies – imagine the smell! – but merely the same equivalent percentage of my income as Elton John’s. Which is probably about, yes, a tenner. Clearly, for now, I am a poor man’s Elton John. The Phil Collins of flowers, if you will. (“I can feel it coming in the air tonight… because I can smell it as soon as I walk through the front door. It’s lilies, isn’t it?”)

But I digress. Because the point is: now that I like to have flowers, I’m wishing that I’d held on to more vases over the years.

During The Flatshare Years I often left vases behind or gave them to charity shops. And the only reason I had any in the first place was because I’d been given them. Without wishing to sound like a terrible ingrate, back then, vases felt so grown-up to me. TOO grown-up. They felt a rather unnecessary item to have in one’s home; a frippery that I couldn’t really justify owning. Not only because I only ever seemed to have flowers to put in them on birthdays – which was, conveniently, when I’d receive the vases – but also because I quite honestly thought: what’s wrong with a pint glass? Or a half-pint glass? Or a wine bottle? The latter makes a fine stem vase for a gerbera, for example.

Now, in my defence: not all pint glasses are created equal. When I talk about putting flowers in pint glasses, I don’t mean this sort – which you probably had several of in your kitchen cupboard if you were ever a student because you’d nicked them from pubs (well, you didn’t, obviously. Your housemates did):

pub-pint-glass

Classic pint glass (from ‘The Hare And Hounds’)

No, I mean this fine figure of a pint glass:

habitat-pint-glass

Modern pint glass (from the ‘Fancy-Dan’ range at Habitat)

Now, not only does that latter not look like stolen goods but it also, to an untrained eye, looks not unlike a vase. And a few years ago – nay, a few weeks ago – I would have considered it to be a perfectly fine vase substitute.

But then Robert and Mary came to lunch.

Ahead of this event, I bought some daffodils. Because, as we’ve established, I now buy flowers; and secondly, I knew that these daffs would make for a pleasant table decoration come Saturday lunchtime.

Not having a vase of the right size – because I own precisely one vase, and it is huge – I put them in a pint glass. Thus:

daffs in a pint glass

Before

Initially, I thought this was fine (and look! I wasn’t kidding about the découpage). But then over the next few days, something rather strange happened.

I found that, the more I looked at these flowers, the less they looked like an arrangement of daffodils in a glass vase and the more they looked like a bunch of daffs shoved into a pint glass.

I suddenly realised how pathetic they looked – and how, at the age of 41, with a home, a job, and curtains (not a sheet or duvet or ethnic throw) for curtains, I no longer had to choose which of my drinking glasses I was going to have to sacrifice for two weeks while it doubled up as a vase. A pint glass is no longer an acceptable substitute for a vase, I realised. Even if that pint glass cost £1.50 from Habitat.

So the next day, I bought a vase from, yes, Habitat. (Look, there’s one right next to my office. In fact it’s one of only a handful left in the country now, so I consider it my duty to help keep it going. Plus, it’s a good place to spend 20 minutes on a lunch break. Every lunch break. There’s nothing I don’t know about their bedding range.)

I chose one which I liked and which I thought my boyfriend would like, too, because this is how I think now (ie. unselfishly, thoughtfully, and with one eye on living together). And I put the daffodils in it. Thus:

daffs in a vase

After

My satisfaction at how much better this looked was equalled only by my satisfaction at knowing that I had successfully passed some sort of rite of passage. I was now a Proper, Over-40 Grown-Up: capable not only of hosting a lovely lunch, but also of realising what was no longer socially acceptable.

Lunch went without a hitch, and I don’t think Robert and Mary noticed that they were drinking out of vases.

And what’s more: the next time I was killing (lunch)time in Habitat, I found myself spending more time in the vases department. (I think it’s a department. It might be a section. I think the differentiation between the two is rather like biological classification: class/order/etc. I think a department is bigger than a section, but not as big as a floor. But I’m not sure. And I digress.) It was if some sort of spell had been broken: I no longer saw vases as dull, unnecessary household items but rather, as beautiful objects that were necessary to make the joyous, happy, smelly presence of flowers even more so.

I particularly coveted a round, glass vase in the Habitat collection (a collection being part of a section) – and in fact, I realised that the seed of Vases Being OK Really was planted some months before Daffodillunchgate, when I went to a house-proud friend’s for dinner, and she had one such round, glass vase with white roses in it, and it looked gorgeous.

So imagine my delight when, in one of my other lunchtime-killing activities, I found exactly such a round, glass vase in a charity shop near work. It cost £5, a mere fraction of the Habitat price – and if there’s one thing more satisfying than helping to keep Habitat afloat it’s helping to keep the YMCA going.

And here it is:

vase

The only thing more delightful than how it looks, how little it cost, and how that money went to the YMCA, is the fact that the lady in the shop thought it was a goldfish bowl.

Which is sweet – but I had to laugh. Because as we all know, a goldfish bowl is not an acceptable vase substitute.

You Have To Work Your A*** Off To Lose Weight

Or to my American readers: You Have To Work Your A** Off To Lose Weight

Birthday-Cake--PigMe at my 30th birthday party (artist’s impression)

Now, first things first: I used to be a bit of a porker. And before you say “Don’t put yourself down, Andrea!”, trust me: there was a time when nobody could put me down. Because I was too heavy to lift up.

My first noticeable weight gain as an adult (as opposed to as a baby, when it’s positively encouraged) came when I was a student. Looking back, I don’t really know how this happened, because I was a vegetarian – and like all good vegetarian students in the ’90s, I consumed mostly lager, Hob Nobs and chips. But amazingly, put on weight I did (as Yoda might say, if Yoda ever became a porker) and this pattern continued gradually, continually, throughout my 20s.

In my mid-30s, it finally hit me what had happened, thanks largely to every woman’s friend: holiday bikini pictures. Fortunately, around the same time, I stumbled upon a book called ‘The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet’ (a sort of precursor to the Atkins Diet) and the shock that I wasn’t just fat but also, apparently, some sort of addict led me to shed two stone and three dress sizes, merely through changing how I ate. Well, not the way, so much – I still put food in my mouth, like some kind of crazy homo sapiens – but by the kind of things I ate and when I ate them. I was no longer eating in my sleep, for example, and this made a huge difference.

But since the age of 40 – ie for nearly two years now – the weight has crept back on. This is partly due to the cliché of being in a happy relationship – something which is very lovely, of course, except that this happy relationship has in turn led to me having one too many celebratory ‘fizz and chips’ nights. Frank and I would initially have these evening meals of Prosecco with fish and chips to celebrate special occasions; but then we’d start celebrating the end of the working week; and then the fact that it was a Tuesday; then we’d celebrate being alive etc etc. It was a slippery slope, largely due to the amount of mayonnaise.

In short, my inner glutton escaped, went on the run and was impossible to recapture, despite being fat and thus unable to go far. I couldn’t look at a cake without putting weight on. Mainly because after looking at the cake, I would eat it.  In fact, my desire to eat Evil Carbs started to feel like a Pavlovian reaction (fun fact: this phrase comes from an experiment in which a group of dogs were fed pavlovas!) and once again, I realised I needed to rein myself in. The final straw was the zip bursting on not one but two pairs of trousers, in some sort of comedy, Looney Tunes fashion. You can ignore the slowly growing muffin top; you can ignore the fact that jeans feel a little tighter. You can’t ignore the fact that your clothes are physically turning against you.

But hey – as I’d lost weight in my 30s as a result of simply changing my diet, I thought this was all I would have to do this time round, too. And apart from anything else, I’d seen Lorraine Kelly, Carol Vorderman and a whole host of other… well, female daytime TV presenters, mainly, slim down quite dramatically in their 40s and 50s. So obviously I thought: how hard can it be? The media is full of women d’un certain âge going from un certain weight to a much lower one. In fact, I’m sure that this was what subconsciously kept me going through my early 40s’ weight gain: the knowledge that when I decided to shift it, I would just have to change my diet again and soon enough I would be wiggling around London in a wiggle dress, solving highly complicated maths problems and winning Rear Of The Year.

But guess what? It’s not that simple. Especially the maths problems.

Because I tried, but the fat simply would not move. I’d eat only healthy carbs. I’d cut carbs altogether. Then I’d realise that was stupid, and eat healthy carbs again. I’d try truly drastic things like walking up the escalators on the Underground instead of letting them move me through the twin miracles of science and engineering. But none of it worked.

At first I wanted to blame Lorraine and Carol for making it look so easy. But then I realised I should blame cakes myself. And then it occurred to me that I shouldn’t blame cakes myself. Because the simple truth is: losing weight once you’re over 40 isn’t as easy as losing it when you’re d’un much younger âge. Instead of simply altering your diet it requires a change in physical habits. It requires something apparently known as ‘exercise’.

When this slowly dawned on me, I was initially filled with cakes horror. My relationship with exercise isn’t so much estranged as ‘Look, we never even had a relationship, exercise!’. But then I realised that this new need for physicality was actually as it should be. Because now, in my early 40s, I have occasional lower back pain. I have knees that can’t stay in one position for too long. I have a general lack of girlish sprightliness – as demonstrated all-too clearly on a recent country walk with my boyfriend, during which I tackled each stile with a slightly laboured 10-point turn.

Yes, there’s no denying it: in its reluctance to shift weight and its small aches and pains, my body has been telling me that drastic action isn’t just desirable now, it’s actually necessary. My body has been telling me that I finally have to, in the words of Reel 2 Real, both move it AND move it.

So I thought. I thought about how many hours a week I spend sitting in an office. I thought about how I want to form a new habit that I can make part of my life and do anywhere. I thought about how much I hate gyms. I thought: ‘What would Carol Vorderman do?’

And I decided to take up running.

Now, before you go saying: “BUT YOU CAN’T RUN AWAY FROM YOURSELF, ANDREA”, let me say: you’re right. I can’t run away from myself, mainly because I can only run for about 60 seconds at a time, and it’s not at a terrific pace when I do so.

But I can run away from the fat me. From the fat, future me with respiratory problems. It’s like Sliding Doors: if I go down one path in life, I will end up a hugely overweight middle-aged woman with severe health issues. If I go down the other, I’ll be Gwyneth Paltrow in a brown wig. See? Scary.

So now I’m running. I’ve started the Couch To 5K program – which will give me £5k if I get off the couch, or something – and already, I love it.

I love doing something completely different from my other activities, which are generally cerebral/computer-based/alcohol-related. I love knowing that I’m doing something nurturing for myself. I love running in my local park – which has views of London stretching from the Shard to the Millennium Dome, and which is full of other runners, children playing and dogs walking their owners. I love seeing the buds coming out on the trees and I love the long shadows those trees cast in the evening sun.

I also love the fact that one day, I’m going to be able to levitate.

That’s right. When you’re a really good runner, you start levitating. I know this because all the photographic evidence points to it:

woman_running_jogging

Woman-Running-on-Beach

running woman

Incredible, no? And yes, you might tell me that these snaps are merely the human equivalent of the famous Sallie Gardner At A Gallop photographs – which not only proved that horses have all four hooves off the ground when they gallop but also led to the development of motion pictures, most notably the motion picture Seabiscuit.

But I prefer to think that these women are so happy, so joyous and so bloody fit that they’re levitating.

And someday soon, cakes god willing, I will be too.

Your Glastonbury Stage Of Choice Is The Acoustic Tent

glastonbury-pyramid-stageNot the Acoustic Tent

I have been to the Glastonbury Festival three times: in 2002, 2003 and 2004. I had to double check that those were the dates (thanks, Wikipedia, for your memory-jogging lists of stage line-ups) because, not unlike the Sixties, if you remember Glastonbury, you probably weren’t there.

Not that I was high on drugs, you understand. It was, I imagine, the beer and wine – consumed in large quantities from paper cups – which destroyed those key brain cells. And at the time, it seemed worth it.

Because there’s no place – or rather, experience – quite like the Glastonbury Festival. The combination of non-stop live music, good friends, green fields, and overly priced food and alcohol makes it a delight.

When I popped my Glastonbury cherry in 2002, it wasn’t just some cheap two-night stand – it was love. I spent a blissful, sunny weekend with my then-new boyfriend (and some other people, apparently) watching the likes of Coldplay, Alabama 3, Nelly Furtado, Manu Chao and, of course, Rolf Harris. I’ll never forget Chris Martin opening Coldplay’s Pyramid Stage-headlining set with the pounding chords of Politik; nor Rolf’s incredible didgeridoo solos.

Having enjoyed the experience so much, I eagerly returned in 2003. Once again, it was a wonderful combination of sunshine, music, friends and overly priced food and drink – and I saw terrific sets by the likes of Radiohead, REM, Moby, Souad Massi and Jimmy Cliff. If there’s more fun to be had in life than sitting in the blazing sunshine with a paper cup of beer in your hand while Jimmy Cliff plays live, then I’m not sure what it is. Possibly doing all that and then returning to your luxury caravan in the VIP area… I don’t know. I’ve never done that.

But despite my lack of VIP experience, I still loved the festival, and went back the following year. Only: two things changed.

The first was the weather.

Never listen to a Glastonbury old-timer who assures you that the festival is just as much fun – maybe even more so! – in the rain.

It’s not.

Here is Glastonbury in the sun:

040624i

Here is Glastonbury in the rain:

glastonbury_mud

I’ll make no bones about it: it’s rubbish. And even if you have wellies and jumpers and at least one cagoule, it’s not so much the damp or the cold that gets to you, but the tiredness that ensues from the fact that you can’t sit down anywhere. You walk around and around and around… endlessly, achingly. During a sunny Glastonbury, you’d just park your denim-shorted bottom on any available patch of grass, but you simply can’t do that when it’s a rainy year. Mainly because grass doesn’t exist anymore. Because it’s mud.

Secondly, popular music was entering its Quite Difficult To Listen To Blokey Guitar Music Phase (this is as opposed to the Very Easy To Listen To Blokey Guitar Music Phase, which took place in the Nineties and was dominated by Oasis). In 2004, Kings of Leon, Muse and Franz Ferdinand were all main acts on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage – and over the next few years, they would be joined by likes of The Killers, The White Stripes, Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys, none of whom are my cup of warm beer. The acts I enjoyed most at Glastonbury in 2004 were Paul McCartney, Sister Sledge, Keane, Bonnie Raitt and Amy Winehouse. Clearly, I would be more at home listening to that sort of music at, well, home, than being at Glastonbury listening to bands I found it quite difficult to listen to.

But mainly, it was the mud. I wasn’t high enough, mad enough or tough enough to enjoy the mud.

01_mainNot me

So the love affair was over. Glastonbury and I were through. I had been badly burned – unfortunately not by the sun – and I vowed that I wouldn’t return, lest the weather was terrible again. It’s not been a decision that I’ve ever really regretted. Especially during the years that it’s rained.

Besides, as I say, mainstream pop music and I were seeming to part company. I mean, I was always really a Jazz World Stage kinda girl (Bonnie Raitt, Souad Massi and some of the others I mention above all played that stage, for example) – and so, when the line-up for this year’s Glastonbury was announced, I looked through the list below, and wondered who would be playing my favourite stage – the Jazz World one – this year:

glastonbury-2013-lineup

Except, as the eagle-eyed among you might have noticed, there’s no Jazz World Stage anymore! I have no idea when this changed – presumably when someone decided that it was possibly quite patronising to call anything other than white Western music ‘world’ music; or perhaps Jazz and World had some sort of big falling out due to musical differences – but realising this made me feel rather out of touch.

Still, that was nothing compared to my next realisation: that the only stage I’d be really interested in hanging out at at Glastonbury this year, if I was going, would be the Acoustic Tent. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I’m TOTALLY hip and down with The Kid – I like First Aid Kit and Alabama Shakes and I know one song by Frightened Rabbit. But really, look at the line-up at the Acoustic Tent:

Screen shot 2013-04-06 at 19.39.28

The Proclaimers? Martin Stephenson & The Daintees? Stev(i)e Winwood?! NOW you’re talking!

Yes, siree. You could plonk me down in that tent – and I would have to be sitting down, I just can’t stand for that long any more – and I’d be as happy as Larry. With ‘Larry’ being the 18-year-old me.

And it’s not just that it’s the music of my youth. It’s also that I’ve realised I enjoy music by older people – in my heart, I think I always have – and as I’ve got older myself, it makes more and more sense to me, in an unconscious, instinctive way. I listen to James Taylor, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell… and in the case of jazz musicians, sometimes they’re so old, they’re dead. As a result, unsurprisingly, I’m now more drawn to the likes of Lucinda Williams (60), Gretchen Peters (55) and Stev(i)e Winwood (64) than I am to a band whose collective age is one of those numbers. So the Acoustic Tent would indeed be my Glastonbury stage of choice – and I’d probably only have the urge to leave it when The Rolling Stones and Kenny Rogers were performing over at the Pyramid Stage.

But while (a) liking the acts playing the Acoustic Tent and (b) not knowing the music of approximately 70% of the rest of the festival line-up are both good indicators that I’m over 40, another, of course, is that I’m not going in the first place because the whole thing seems like too much of an effort.

I like to think that I’m fairly hardy. I’m not some dreadful figure of a pampered, city woman like Carrie in Sex And The City when she spends a weekend at Aidan’s house in the woods, tottering around in high heels and complaining about nature. I like going for country walks as much as the next person who has walking boots they wear every six months.

But the fact remains that these days, I’d rather spend £200 on a weekend in a boutique B&B which gets good reviews on TripAdvisor. These days, I like my home comforts. I like a good night’s sleep. I like a hot shower. I like a nice duvet. I like an indoor toilet. I like sitting down.

In short, really, it’s about the mud.

Glastonbury_2005_Mud_at_Other_Stage

 

You Realise It’s Increasingly Unlikely You’ll Be The First Person To Do Something

thatcherMargaret Thatcher, Dream Snatcher

Maybe it’s because I’m a relentless optimist. Maybe it’s because people – not you, other people – say life begins at 40. Maybe it’s because John Lennon called me a dreamer (he did. He said “People say I’m a dreamer/But I’m not the only one”, which was clearly a reference to me. Well, people like me. And him).

Whatever the reason, a part of me still clings on to the belief that I will Achieve Something Momentous In Life. And it’s a fact that once you’re over *whispers* a certain age, the feeling that you’re going to do this begins to diminish somewhat. And the feeling that you’re going to be the first person to do this thing doesn’t so much diminish as laugh in your increasingly lived-in face.

When Margaret Thatcher got into power in 1979, I was fuming. Not because I was a leftie – I am, but I was eight at the time and didn’t have strong political views – but because Thatcher, the Iron Lady, had instantly scuppered any dreams I, the Iron Baby, had of becoming Britain’s first female Prime Minister. I was incensed! The only way I could console myself was to listen to Roger Whittaker’s children’s album really loud.

As life went on, I tried to put that early defeat behind me (and to be honest, the Roger Whittaker albums helped). I dreamed of being the first person – not just the first woman – to do all sorts of things, or at least to feature in one of those ‘Ones To Watch’ pieces in newspaper weekend magazines. Amazingly, though, these features weren’t paying close attention to The Ones To Watch In Independent Cinema Management, or The Ones To Watch In Digital Television Companies That Are Clearly Heading For Failure, and focused instead on things like British theatre and entrepreneurial business. BORING!

I soldiered on. I switched from career to career – each time getting older as I started a new job, but each time feeling just as young and full of hope, because I was starting afresh. But I had, I now realise, a personal glass ceiling. I would reach a certain level of success in each field… and then move on. This wasn’t down to a dreadfully short attention span, I hasten to add, but rather a form of self-sabotage. I understand now that – even if I had the wits and talent to do so – I was afraid to succeed at A Grand Level, afraid to be ambitious. I’d constructed this glass ceiling myself, and it was following me around like Charlie Brown’s rain cloud.

Now, I may not have completely smashed that ceiling, but I’ve at least punched a great socking hole in it, and continue to try and do so with every new challenge or opportunity that I face (although as we all know, the former is actually the latter in disguise – right, kids?!). But to a certain extent, it doesn’t matter how less afraid or how more ambitious I am now – because the fact remains that one’s chances of being The First Person To Do Something aren’t just diminished by age but by the fact that in order to be The First Person To Do Something, you usually need to be Jolly Good At Something by the point at which you hope to be the first person to do it. Or at least you need to have discovered and then channelled your focus, passion and ambition before the age of fortysomething.

The London Olympics, for example, might have inspired us Brits to get off our fat arses and… watch the opening and closing ceremonies. And maybe go and see some sport. But the fact is: no matter how many Jessica Ennises and Chris Hoys there are (there might be a few – I’ve not checked the modern phone book, LinkedIn), we, the average Joe/Jess/Chris, are unlikely to achieve their records because they’ve worked bloody hard at being brilliant at running/jumping/cycling/stuff for years. Similarly, Daniel Day-Lewis, who’s just become the first man to win three Best Actor Oscars, started acting at school and got his first lead film role at the age of 14. What’s more, according to Wikipedia, at school “he was introduced to his three most prominent interests: woodworking, acting and fishing” – so who knows what Day-Lewis could have gone to achieve in carpentry, too. Probably make amazing fishing rods.

In short, you have to Get Your Shit Together And Work Really Hard At Something For A Long Time if you want to achieve great success. Which is how it should be, of course. I don’t expect any shortcuts in life – except perhaps from Charing Cross station to the Embankment, along that little walkway thing. But I’m increasingly fearful that I’m running out of time. Increasingly fearful that not only has that ship sailed, but I wasn’t the first woman to captain it.

For example, here are a few things I’ve realised that I can never be the first person to do. (Or you. Sorry about that.)

  • First person in space
  • First woman in space
  • First dog in space (thanks a bunch, Laika!)
  • First woman to swim the Channel
  • First woman to guest-star on The Muppets (that’s still going, right?)
  • First female Chancellor of Germany
  • First black President of the United States

I realise, of course, that I can never be the first person to do any of those things above because I was born just that little bit too late and/or just that little bit too British. And crucially, I’ve never had a strong enough interest or ability in astronomy, swimming or politics (The Muppets, on the other hand…).

But as I said at the start, I’m still holding out hope. That glass ceiling is increasingly full of holes and looking more and more precarious. Plus, as I explained here, I’m definitely one of life’s late starters. Who knows what I’ve still got it in me to do… after someone else has done it?

roger

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