Thoughts of This Middle Aged Writer

This fella was very unfortunate. He was hunted to extinction. He now lives in the Natural History Museum London, partly as a lesson to us to not eat those birds in such great numbers, whoops they’ve all gone. They were apparently docile flightless birds who more or less sat there whilst ‘hunters’ despatched them.  I’m saying he because I can only speak as a he and he looks like a he. Well I think he does. He most likely sat there watching two strange creatures approaching and before he could ask them politely their business, he was bumped off. Dead as a Dodo. There’s something very sad about those eyes. As if he knew his days were numbered but couldn’t do anything to prevent that.


Some days I wake up and I feel older. Not as old as him and certainly not stuffed and on display. But he is knocking on a bit. He probably never reached middle age. Mind you the alternative isn’t too appealing.

I can’t remember what it was like to be 20. Its further away now you see. Did I think, behave, act differently or have the years taught me something? I am reminded by some of how old I am. Some delight in telling me I’m past it. They have their own agendas of course. In truth I generally don’t see middle age as the descent to decrepitude. I lost my career too early. My close friends who remained in nursing have gone on to greater things although we all have experienced loss and hardship of some sort. They have careers though. I have had to reinvent myself (which at times doesn’t always feel like its going very well). I cannot blame anyone else only my lack of ambition. Early retirement is a curse in many ways. Yes its a new start but on the other hand it is a curse. No job, no status or identity that goes with a job, loss of respect. Respect is still associated with position, wealth, material accumulation.

Deciding to become a writer seems at times a foolish decision. There are thousands, tens of thousands of accomplished writers out there all chasing a very small and illusive market. We all want our work to be published and to earn money from it. Admittedly most of us also write because we have to because the alternative would eat us up. I enjoy writing enormously but it is frustrating and at times hugely disappointing.

It is hard to live with the feeling that you may have outlived your usefulness. Speaking from the male perspective, the prospect of becoming a grandfather does not reverse that. Grandfathers seem to have less status than Grandmothers, slightly  more detached. Having a growing family prepares fathers for this. Teenagers often detach from their parents which is and how it has always been. It is a preparation for adulthood. It is hard to be an active father to teenage children as they often fail to see your relevance. Why do you need a father when you’re growing up and becoming independent? Mum can be a taxi, bank and the other roles often carried out by fathers. Maybe that’s why some men take up golf or mend things in sheds. I don’t play golf and my handiwork is rudimentary at best. To top that of course, I don’t have a proper job. If I was a published author bringing in handsome book advances then maybe it would be different.

I’ve said before that none of my children have ever read any of my work. I don’t expect that to change. I am past worrying about that. I am in truth not worried about being over 50. It has its advantages (apart from Saga Holidays) and I haven’t died early. If I died tomorrow would it still be regarded as a tragic waste of one so young? No, more like he was only 52. To a 20-year-old however, that must feel geriatric. I still have all my limbs, my eyesight, hearing, majority of internal organs ( although cancer treatment did remove a few) and my mental faculties. I only have a couple of years left on my mortgage and debts only equivalent of a very small insignificant African state. I look around at friends with successful careers, lovely houses, new cars, endless foreign holidays and I’m not the slightest bit envious. I am also a terrible liar as you may have gathered. Yes they all have worked for their wealth and good luck to them. They didn’t decide that they were going to be writers. Maybe if I had started writing at 20, I would have been a success now? Maybe I would have ditched it and got a safe steady job instead. I think I’ve got things arse about-face frankly but it’s too late to change that now.

I’m not really sure what conclusions I can reach from this rambling stream of consciousness other than it is easy to feel lost, empty, invisible, forgotten by the world. I am lucky to have a significant other who feels otherwise about me and I her. It isn’t easy being a middle-aged unsuccessful writer. I won’t stop being a middle aged writer until I’m too old to qualify as middle aged but hopefully by then the ‘unsuccessful’ bit will not apply!



Too Old to be Young?

I’m in my 50’s. Well only just in my 50’s. There was much of my 40’s that didn’t float my boat. Illness, major life change and all that gubbins.

By the time I reached 50, I wished that my fortunes would change. That I was not too old to have some fun and live a little. The problem is partly however perception. The self perception that you are grey haired, lined, less vital. If I looked at potential partners based on their youth and vitality, I would have to show some of my own. And have a well stocked wallet. That’s not to suggest that younger people are driven by financial stability and fitness but it sure helps. The stereotypical mid life crisis where a man goes an buys a sports car and seeks the company of much younger women may exist for some. The need to prove your physical prowess and that you have the energy levels of a much younger man can be the route that some take. I don’t think I could get away with all that. I was never up to much in my twenties. Hardly a triathlon, white water rafting, climber. There’s no point trying to prove otherwise 30 years on. I have been a parent for nearly half of my life. The joys of parenthood do mark you down as older. You have children with friends who only see you as a dad. They tell you about the merits of vinyl over downloads. They listen to Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and The Clash and then steal the love of them away from you. Your children buy you presents becoming of an older person. They look at you and fail to comprehend that you may have once got drunk, been to a gig, got stoned or had sex. the last one is particularly baffling given that your children are the product of the aforementioned activity (and sometimes the product of the others too).

Then there’s the old at heart. These are the folk that reach their 50’s and put the slippers on. They accept that a walk round an art gallery and lunch counts as an exhausting day. The point where going to gigs is vastly improved with a good seat. The point at which putting a tour poster up on your wall is considered not becoming of a man in their 50’s. The need to remind one of how old we are and that we should be taking it easy.

You see that’s my problem. I believe I have an obligation to live. To still do the reckless acts associated with a younger man. I must embarrass my children with my exuberance and behave with abandon. Don’t tell me to grow old. Don’t suggest that settling down is good in any way. Don’t think Saga is an option worth considering. Next thing you’ll be signing up for life insurance and getting your free pen (as sold by a silver haired Michael Parkinson). You will be shopping at Boundary Mills, thinking about cruises as a holiday option and appreciating the benefits of regular health checks. I have parents in their 80’s. Often the only social life one gets by then is in a doctors waiting room so be careful what you wish for.

I know I’m not 25. I’ve been there and it was fun. I am still young enough to misbehave and not too old to dance badly at gigs. Don’t write me off as an old man before I get there. Don’t let me sink into decrepitude because others in their 50’s have embraced it. I am probably just having a moan. As a young fresh faced man, Roger Daltrey uttered the immortal line in My Generation – “Hope I die before I get old”. Given that him and Pete Townsend are in their 70’s and still regularly playing live, they have maybe dispelled the sentiment of that song lyric. I love music. I love the fact that an artist in his 50’s such as Nick Cave can strut with the presence he had when he was 25. Modern music is far more accepting of age than it has ever been. Rock and Roll in the 1950s was a long persons music. The sixties and seventies did little to broaden that view. I would suggest it is only in the last 15 years that music is now multi generational. The age ranges at gigs is often wide. Appreciation of good music is not the privilege of the young any more. We can all rebel against convention regardless of age.

It is the duty of our generation to hold on to rebellion, to frivolity, to exuberance. It is our responsibility  to not become old before we want to be. And if at 85 (if i get there), I misbehave with reckless abandon, don’t shake your head in disapproval. I would much rather be bad than old. So have a tattoo. Go to a festival or two. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too old. We have an obligation to look after ourselves, to make sure we are as fit as we can be but that’s where the obligations end.