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19 September 2013 @ 10:17 pm
some random thoughts about getting a bit older  

I once had the misfortune to catch an episode of the BBC programme Grumpy Old Men. If you haven't seen it, the show consists of a bunch of people in, I think, their 50s talking to camera about things that get on their nerves. It's intended to be amusing, Each week there's a different theme and the one I happened to see was a 'technology special' in which the talking heads (with a small t and h) banged on about their technology gripes. In some cases they kind of had a point (easy targets like 'choose from one of the following options' on the phone) but the bit that made really me wretch was when one contributor simply shrugged and said "well I don't know" and burst out laughing as though he'd amused himself greatly. I thought, you sad bastard, making a virtue out of not knowing something. The conceit of the whole series makes me think that agreeing to appear on that show must be such a heavy statement of abandonment of the world around us, a retreat into one's comfort zone (presumably padded with nostalgia) and a one-way ticket to the old-age home. As for technology, I must admit at this point I have a love-hate relationship with it and there's something about the new operating system at work, for example, that I find daunting. The 'love' part of the relationship is that I cherish the joy of the new when it comes to music. I'm just not very good at it. But any time I ever feel myself slipping into that feeling of pride in an ability to deal with new technology I try hard to stop myself and the remember the warning served by that episode of Grumpy Old Men.

At the other end of the scale, this article in the Daily Mash this week made it very clear that being an older person trying too hard to remain young is another salutary tale. It's written for humour but I found it also very thought-provoking: what are people my age (46) and above supposed to do? I don't think I behave in an undignified manner. Not least because plenty of older people go to gigs and music festivals these days, for example. I don't go to clubs any more, much as I enjoy dancing. The only time I ever dance these days is when I go to gigs.

Talking of which, I loved the Madness gig here in Luxembourg last weekend. I've reached an age where I can safely say that I know I'll always love dancing to ska. I'm not comfortable with the idea of retreating into nostalgia but I go to see plenty of new bands too so I'm entitled to an evening of wallowing in the past from time to time. Madness, of all people, are such a charming institution, as their songs - and their lovely depictions of growing up - will always remind me of where I'm from. There's a feeling of 'This is why pop music is great, 3-minute snapshots of life conveyed through lyric and melody'. The gig made me wonder at what point the members realised they were in the band for life, that it would be their career, when Chas Smash (who goes by his more sensible real name these days but really he's still Chas Smash) realised he'd be shouting 'Don't Watch That, Watch This...' for a living. Mike Barson went off in the mid-80s to live in Amsterdam as a Buddhist, if memory serves. For him it must've been like being in The Firm or Married To The Mob as he gravitated (despite himself?) back to the band.

So much for the band. They at least make music - and in Madness' case actually release decent new records, to their credit. What of the fans? It's odd when you go to ska gigs these days, and I'm referring to reunions of second-wave bands from my youth in the late 70s/early 80s. When I saw The Specials' Neville Staple in concert a few years ago it was like visiting a ska retirement home. I dread (dread) to think what people like these must think of the modern world. Are they the kind of people who go on youtube to say 'now this is real music, not like today's rubbish'? I do ask myself what it must be like to be a member of one of the pop tribes your entire life.

Being a goth, for example, is supposed to stand you in very good stead for future life, but the proviso is, I presume, that you don't stay a goth forever, however noble you may think the cause of gothdom.

Take the Rolling Stones. Whenever they play live there's always a debate between those who say how marvellous they are at 75 or whatever age and those who say it's time for them to retire. Of course they should play - they're a fine band and people are prepared to pay (ludicrous) money to go and see them. Just take it for what it is: nostalgia. They haven't been challenging or adventurous or rebellious for about 40 years, they've just been ploughing the same furrow. And don't let rock fans tell you otherwise.

I hope I'm aware of the dangers of, on the one hand, looking like a mid-life fool, and on the other, of sitting too comfortably, of failing to challenge myself. And yet despite being conscious of this, when it comes to learning new technology I sense the forces of 'pride in technophobia' massing on the horizon, waiting for their opportunity to laugh themselves silly at my stubborn refusal to learn. Technology isn't for everyone of course (unlike some - often very clever and charming - people, I frankly couldn't care less how things work) but my inner sulky kid, arms-folded, stubbornly refusing to 'get it' is a wretched side of my personality that in my conscious life want to fight, and that desire to fight is probably a good thing in itself.

If there's one thing worse than trying too hard to cling to youth, it's not trying at all. Just don't confuse 'doing what you've always done since you were young' with staying youthful.