Posted by Ian
It appears not only is Britain the fattest, most unhealthy and drug-addled country in Europe, replete with a plague of illiterate sign-writers, it is also failing the one hope for its future: its children.
One of the benefits of growing old is being able to say quite confidently you’ve seen all this kind of stuff before. It’s perhaps one of the only benefits, to be sure, but it’s one hell of a fallback position. Age might rob you of many things, including looks and peace of mind, but not the right to be dismissive.
Indeed, once you’ve turned 30 – as I have – "I’ve seen it all before" becomes one of the nicest phrases in the English language. Better still is "I’ve heard it all before", something you can apply to almost any form of popular music. Tonight’s Brit Awards will be bursting with exponents of "new music", none of which, to my ears, is particularly new, and precious little of which could be classed as music.
The curse of over-familiarity, of finding yourself revelling in the luxury of detecting echoes of the past in the sights and sounds of the present, diminishes the efforts of the likes of Lily Allen, James Morrison, Muse and Corinne Bailey Rae still further. There’s really nothing in what they’re doing that hasn’t been tried and tested before, albeit not packaged in the same way. To adopt a phrase, it’s the same notes but most definitely not in the old order.
Age acts as a check on impressionability at the same time as compounding instinct, and in this instance the two combine to leave you resoundingly nonplussed by their various achievements, all of which will quite probably be surpassed come another twelve months or so.
If I was ten years younger I’d probably feel completely differently, yet that would be OK because I’d be ten years younger. Back then, what I knew of the world then was, well, a world away from what I know now. The same thing that qualifies twentysomethings to make music that can purport to be universal enough to go to number one is the same thing that qualifies other twentysomethings to send that music to number one.
One of my homepage colleagues, Dom, turns 30 this weekend. For what it’s worth, which is surely not much, I didn’t enjoy reaching this ostensible milestone. I’m sure it was something to do with my oldest memory of my parents being from when they were in their thirties. Consequently I found myself approaching a point in age which I’d hitherto only ever associated with my mum and dad, and hence with families and mortgages and cars and pensions and a slew of other things I’d had no experience of whatsoever. Which made it all the more terrifying.
By 30 you’re supposed to have, well, settled down – aren’t you? You’re supposed to have roots, to have savings, to have prospects. Again, these all seemed alien to me, and in a way still do. Not to some of my peers, granted, but then they were the ones who managed to find their way out of school straight into a career which launched them onwards and upwards into domesticity and family and joint bank accounts. By rights they should be settled by 30 – some of them were married, for heaven’s sake.
Even so, I read in the papers of how 30 is the new 20, just as surely as 40 will be the new 20 in a few years time. But just because we, as a population, are living longer, it doesn’t follow that we want to dwell in certain periods of our lives longer than before. There are others to do that for us: the young, who like it or not will make the world what they want it to be, just like my generation have done and likewise those older than me. And good on them. Children always know more than you think. It’s their prerogative.
Equally, despite the hurt, it’s foolish to fight the consequences of growing old. Nobody is truly safe from the ravages of time. "Age cannot wither her," Shakespeare famously wrote of Cleopatra, a tribute which resounded unchallenged down the centuries…until being somewhat undermined by the recent discovery of a Roman coin which showed her looking more like Sid James than the most beautiful woman in the world.
And if you don’t know who Sid James was, count yourself lucky: you’re under 20 and don’t have to worry about any of the above. Yet.