As time goes by people keep getting younger. Dua Lipa releases tunes I will never listen to. The year of my birth starts to look somewhat Aramaic. Around me friends get older. They progress, mature, actualise. Me, I stay the same. Benjamin Button, Peter Pan, I can relate to those guys.
Them cats had style.
But I’ve been telling myself that since ’83.
And now in my fifth decade, stood there like Bilbo, trembling imperceptibly rolling the ring in my pocket between thumb and forefinger, a thought comes swimming through my head.
But put off what exactly.
It’s not like I have a concrete idea of what I’ve been putting off, or what I evidently need to put on. I could put on a jumper. What is perplexing is how the last ten years seem to have gone by in a haze of daydreams and baggy Y-fronts. And now I’m five years older than Napoleon was at the battle of Austerlitz and I still have a provisional drivers license.
In the immortal words of Dr Seuss.
How did it get so late so soon.
My first girlfriend sent me a photo the other day of her case-logic, one she’d been looking for for ages. In it were some killer mixes I’d thrown together from back in the drizzie. I mean, being involved in a whole case-logic situation in itself, makes one think one is definitively no longer part of the Zeitgeist.
But there was something comforting in looking at my wannabe gangsta album art. There I was, 19, belly full of fire, wanting to be rapper. Now I’m 40, still using that same wannabe gangsta lettering, still freestyling on the way to the shops. I might have replaced Pot Noodles with sun-blanched tomatoes from M&S, I might once have dropped 250 quid on a coffee grinder, but seeing that photo made me think the core of me, my interior, hadn’t changed that much at all, and something within that made me feel consistent.
To a certain extent we all stay the same age.
The only thing that moves is the Zeitgeist itself.
The video below of Gen Alpha is terrifying. These little guys are from another planet, a whole new species. My mate Alfie told me something weird, that his daughter Iris thinks of the 90s like we think of the 60s. How we thought of Woodstock and George Harrison’s beard is how Iris thinks of Ace Of Base. That is terrifying. The thought that knowing all the words to Ice Ice Baby might no longer hold any kudos, and worse, would make you sound like a dinosaur.
The turning 40 conundrum is so weird we made a podcast on it.
As if this particular milestone would bring forth the idea this won’t all last forever. That the final whistle might now be a thing. The reaper moving out of the shadows to clear his throat.
One day, wrote Paolo Coelho, you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do all the things you wanted to do. Do them now, he says. Was he speaking to me. Have I run out of time. Staring back from the mirror, do I see another squandered youth. I was so young and foolish, I thought those days would last forever.
40 is a confusing time.
When does checking out girls in their early 20s become legitimately pervy. Should I buy a beige anorak. Move to a hamlet in the home counties and have my say in parish council meetings. How about getting into lawn bowling.
Sat here looking over the laguna, pops tells me he sees a 45yr old staring back from the mirror. I tell him what I’m writing about. How childhood is mostly an unending paradise of hours and hours of endless hours.
When you learn, which is all of youth, he says above the birdsong looking out across the water, life slows down. It’s when you know what awaits you, it’s then that things lose novelty, that time starts to rush. Repetition is the great deadener.
When I was thirty I changed my life, it was a great jump, I came to Europe. Those next ten years were a grand chapter, because everything was new. When I married your mother and had a family, that too was another jump. It was a great listener. Building this house is a stopper of time also.
It might take him a bit longer to get from his temple of pillows to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or til 5pm most days to get out of a dressing gown, but pops is not slowing down. His mind is sharp. My mother isn’t due an oil change any time soon either, according to my brother her What’s Up response-time takes absolutely no prisoners. What kills us much faster than old age, apparently, is loss of enthusiasm.
(It’s WhatsApp mummy)
Is it time to resurrect my dormant rap career. Put down some fresh lyrics, D-sizzle on the mic. Do I need some hobbies, shall I embrace the monk vibe, grow out my hair, get a cassock.
It’s never too late to be who you might have been.
Do those reading this have a clue what they’re up to. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, says the sunscreen line. But live it forward, I suppose the general idea is. This waiting for divine providence to come floating through the window is a definite plan C.
It hasn’t been all bad.
I’ve put some savings in the memory bank. Accrued some habits that make me happy, beers in the bath, seeing the divinity in all people, the peace of mind from a nokia 301 that turns a walk to the shops into a Netflix special, resisting the urge to line up my books in colour coordination. They say youth is wasted on the young. But nonsense, a place of relative peace requires screwing up a few times, to get us closer to the grail, the removal of our need to give a shit.
We didn’t realise we were making memories, we were just having fun.
I had a weird vision the other day.
Of standing in a circle charing a group of Hackney kids in their late teens on some deep theme like love or ambition. It was very crystalline and informed. Having mentored an eleven year old for the best part of three years now, this could all be a pipedream. Seeing as every time we’re chilling all he does is mentor me.
Stop saying sorry all the time Domingo, it’ll be calm.
Pipe down and guard me dweeb.
Every one needs a dream, we just need to lose the pipe bit.
My father’s sister Mercedes told me years ago how unfathomably quickly life goes once you get older. In the blinking of an eye hours become days become years become lifetimes. Is this a rocket up our asses. In a famous Borges story called La Señora Mayor, pops recounts, an old lady goes gaga, forgets everything. So every day is a new day, literally, since she remembers nothing of the previous one. Era en suma feliz, writes Borges.
She was, all in all, happy.
I wrote once how I’d put a photo in my flat of me aged eight, so when I brushed my teeth in the morning and saw the little guy looking down at me it would be a daily reminder not to let him down. It’s harder than it looks, I’d say to him. But what I really needed, I figured, was a photo of me aged 80, surveying the life I was giving him to look back on. They’d both be saying don’t screw this up. But old man Domingo would have edited the refrain slightly.
Calm down, he’d be saying. It’s easier than it looks.
My mate LG obliged me. With some thing called FaceApp he worked some magic, just so happened he chose the most ridiculous photo on the planet. But who doesn’t look good in a sombrero.
I thought back to a time in France one year, around 28, having lost some friends in a market I went for a pootle down a side alley and found a ball, started hitting it against a wall with my hand. The bounce was just right, I zoned in. A few minutes later an old lady rounded the corner, stopping. Monsieur, she said with slight consternation. I looked back, worried I’d done something bad like stepped on her lap dog. T’es comme un enfant.. she said. You are like a child.
It took a few years to land but I liked it.
Up in the Andes last week with a gaucho called Jesús, picking our way along a river valley in the heat of the mid-morning, we got deep. Nearing the end of the ride, he said something that stuck with me. After explaining the shittiness and hardship of life at times up in the altiplano, he turned and shrugged, smilingly. Y bueno, la vida es un juego.
Hey-ho, he said, life is a game.
When you really don’t know where you’re going with something in the slightest, there’s always Pooh.
Climbing a tree together, Christopher Robin tries to tell his friend he might not always be around. But that this didn’t mean goodbye. As if this talk with Pooh might in some way be waving his goodbyes to childhood itself. You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. Might be the greatest clip in the history of the internet.
Do we really ever leave anything behind.
Happy is he who still loves what he loved in the nursery. He has not been broken in two by time. And he has saved not only his soul but his life.
G K Chesterton
When Jung dropped his immortal line, life begins at 40, he was speaking in the early part of the last century. Everyone grew up much faster then. Stick 2024 in the mixer and you can delay this whole schlepp by 35 years at least. Abraham didn’t get moving til he was 80. Lived with his folks in a tent. What’s the rush.
Might as well give it another decade, mull it over.
Why not tire life out, I figure, ropadope that sucker til it’s all punched out, hit it with all I’ve got in the twelfth.
Be like Guiseppe.
When Giuseppe walks through la piazza la nonnas they stop their yabbering.
One more thing, that photo of me aged eight. I couldn’t tell you why, but it felt like I was beginning to make him proud, for maybe the first time in my life.
And so we beat on,
boats against the current,
borne back ceaselessly into the past.