Today, I am 45.
I was born in a snowstorm.
If I had gone backwards since then, rather than traveling forwards in time, It would be 6 years after the First world war, three years before Al Jolson spoke in the first talkie, and Stalin would be busy purging his enemies after Lenin’s death.
Middle age is a good time to start getting a perspective on time. Times the length of my life by ten and we’re back in the reign of Elizabeth the first and the nearest equivalent to BBC3 is a an occasional mystery play, a dancing bear, or laughing at a victim of the latest plague. Horticulturalists expertise was often centred on suspicion of an unmarried woman with skin blemishes.
When I told Alan Moore that I was now 45, and thus definitely middle aged, he suggested I was a tad optimistic.
When I was a child, I imagined there was some state of adulthood, some vast psychological change, a new brain state that was “grownupness”. One night, I would go to sleep a child and wake up a man. I would pick up my toys and comics and throw them in a bin, or donate them to an impoverished Bash Street Kid, incinerate my T shirts and be embraced by suits and ties and Times crosswords.
Fortunately no. Many of my generation still have their toys, but rather than playing children, they define themselves as “collectors”, much as they want to Brmmmm Brmmmmm their tanks around their worktops.
And comics became graphic novels, so they are all grown up too. I never read graphic novels, I am happy to stay with comics. Others stay down with the kids by reading the NME, even though it mainly seems to be read by 40 somethings, the youth having found new media to read about their new haircut gods.
I remember a time of playing at being an adult, fearful that “the change” should have happened. You talk in a lower voice and have serious eyebrows. You feign feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders when actually it may be at its lightest. If you are earning money, it can be the time that you fritter it most. You learn Backgammon, thinking it is the behaviour of maturity.
I think back to my 18th birthday. I went to the cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue and saw Nicholas Roeg’s Castaway and received the vinyl of David Bowie’s Tonight and some Eurythmics album. I thought it highly unlikely I would ever go out with a girl. By the autumn, I would be buying The Velvet Underground’s Andy Warhol album, another act in my eyes of throwing off these childish things. I still thought it highly unlikely I would ever have a girlfriend.
On my 30th, I stood on stage in a subterranean club on Tottenham Court Road that celebrated the Rat Pack and their iconography. I went through my jokes with a glass of whisky in my hand. That was possibly the night that ABC’s Martin Fry complimented me on a pun. At 45, now teetotal, I sit on a train to the west country, listening to Nico’s Chelsea Girl and eating Tortilla chips and guacamole.
I wonder what my child mind sounded like. When we remember our previous selves, apparently our memory recalls a fabrication. Each time it seems real, but is a changing narrative with each recall.
I am relieved that I can still be childish and silly. In the last few hours of being 44, I was standing on stage, loudly singing songs in a made up language to an, at least partly, confused audience. Should I suddenly wake up as an adult in the next few days, it may well jeopardise my career.
When reading a neuroscience book recently, I was surprised to see that you don’t even have an adult brain until you are somewhere between 21 and 24 years old. Think of all those decisions you have made before then, even life changing ones, and it wasn’t even with an adult head. You choose your career when still “a child”, then wonder why mid-life may bring regret.
I know I am lucky to have known pretty much what I wanted to do since I was ten or eleven. Twelve year old me would have been pretty impressed that I supported Alexei Sayle, but he might have thought old him would at least have had an Oscar or great writing prize. He would have imagined a few novels would have been written by now. Fortunately, the 45 him doesn’t give a damn. Oh hang on, I think I’ve got an idea for a story…
I am off on tour with a new show about the mind, paranoia, OCD, reality tunnels and blah and blah and blah. Falmouth, Sheffield, Chorley, Birmingham, Bristol and a whole heap more. Details HERE
My new DVD is just out too HERE