You Know You're Over 40 When…

Archive for the category “music”

You Can Help Your Twentysomething Teammates In A Music Quiz


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 Like The Same Music As The Prime Minister


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…

The MTV Video Music Awards Are No Longer For You

*Note: by ‘you’ I do of course mean ‘me’

Now, in all honesty, the MTV Video Music Awards probably weren’t for you (me) in your (my) thirties, either. But if anything was needed to reassure me further of this fact, it was the sight of this year’s VMAs.

I say ‘sight of’ but of course I didn’t watch it at the time, not being a) American or b) 16. I caught up with clips and GIFs and photos not even the following day but the day after, being a) British (it was a Bank Holiday weekend) and b) 42. I wasn’t chomping at the bit to know exactly what had gone down – as I believe The Kids say – at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards and could quite happily wait until I was back in work on Tuesday. Because apart from anything else, my job involves me knowing – and being surrounded by people talking and writing about – what’s going on in the world, whether that’s the Middle East or an awards show. (Also: cat videos.) This means that I tend to have a slight knowledge of a lot of things, as opposed to a deep knowledge of several. As a result, I would make a terrible Newsnight guest, but, I hope, a good person to have at a dinner party, as long as I could keep the conversation flowing. If someone were to ask me to explain the intricate, complex details of the crisis in Syria or The Only Way Is Essex, I would have to make my excuses and grab another vol-au-vent. Or whatever it is they serve at dinner parties these days. I don’t know. It’s been a while since I went to one, as all my friends have children.

And speaking of children: back to the MTV VMAs. Watching The Artist Formerly Known As Hannah Montana shaking her bottom and sticking out her tongue, watching Lady Gaga strutting around in a G-string and a shell bra, watching the audience scream for N’Sync… all these things made me feel old. And while I’m aware that saying something ‘made me feel old’ usually has negative connotations, I don’t mean it in that way. It simply made me realise that I am most definitely far, far older than the VMAs target audience. I am most definitely over 40 because…

1.    Billy Ray Cyrus holds more cultural significance for me than Miley Cyrus
Can I name a Miley Cyrus song? No. Can I sing along to ‘Achy Breaky Heart’? Most certainly yes.

2.    Watching Miley Cyrus prancing around being sexually provocative in underwear slightly fascinates me – I’m only human – but it doesn’t shock me
Instead, it simply reminds me of this. Which is why I wrote this.

3.    I see Miley Cyrus twerking with Robin Thicke and think of her as a daughter I want to protect and him as a dirty old man
He’s 36, so he’s pretty much of my generation, and thus should know better, frankly. Pop stars, honestly. I also realise Miley is of course an adult and can do what she likes (she’s 20) – but I am old enough to be her mother. Which means I’m old enough to have married Billy Ray Cyrus. Which, frankly, feels odd. Moving swiftly on…

4.    I understand what ‘twerking’ is but have no interest in it
In this sense, I am old, but not yet John Humphreys. If this blog was called ‘You know you’re over 60 when…’ the title of this post would be ‘…you don’t know what twerking is’. Fortunately, I am young enough to know that it’s The Latest Craze (see also: Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake) but will happily let my knowledge rest there. Like I say: a little knowledge about a lot of things. This would be dangerous if only it wasn’t mainly things like ‘twerking’.

5.   I understand who Robin Thicke is but have no interest in him
And I think it’s a shame that ‘Blurred Lines’ has such horrendous lyrics because it actually has quite a nice melody line. And nothing appeals to an Eighties child like quite a nice melody line.

6.    I look at Harry Styles and Taylor Swift being all rude/coy/mean with each other and think “Ah, teenagers!”
Wait. They are teenagers, right?

7.    N’Sync reuniting means nothing to me
As per no. 5. above, I’m an Eighties child, not a Nineties one. I would only get excited if Bucks Fizz were reuniting. (NOTE TO BUCKS FIZZ MANAGEMENT: PLEASE MAKE THIS HAPPEN.)

8.    I am still slightly shocked that people just step out in clothes like this
How on earth did One Direction know where to look? Plus, she’ll catch her death.

2013 MTV Video Music Awards - Backstage

If I was to add a number 8 to that list, it would be this: that I realise the more things change, the more they stay the same. I may be surprised by Lady Gaga’s G-string (and note: I am not disapproving of it. I can’t abide the way some women criticise and patronise Rihanna/Gaga/Beyonce et al for their clothing/performances/photoshoots. This is, to my mind, slut-shaming, and we can’t lament teenage boys calling girls sluts if we, grown women, are doing it too) – but I also know that it’s been done before, a million times over. From girls screaming for Sinatra to girls screaming for One Direction, from Elvis’s pelvis to Britney’s schoolgirl uniform, young people will shock the old and make the establishment feel uncomfortable. That’s their job. Until they have actual jobs.

And as the VMAs proved to me, I am now ‘the old’, the establishment; and I watch a show like this (or at least clips or GIFs of it) feeling like an alien, like someone who is standing outside of something. I sort of get it… but that’s the whole point. I’m old enough to be the target audience’s parent – I’m not supposed to completely get it. And that’s just as it should be.

The VMAs has always been America’s version of the Brits: a popularity contest that rewards how many products have been shifted that year, and a live show that tends to be memorable for its shocking and/or car-crash moments. As a result, as an over-40-year-old, it is of course my duty to not take it too seriously, and to realise that I should leave it to The Kids. Maybe next year I actually will.

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.

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:


Here is Glastonbury in the rain:


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:


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.



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

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?)


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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