I DIDN’T know I was old.
My face has gone baggy, and my hair has sunk back through my scalp to reappear as wire in my eyebrows, ears and nose, but I don’t count any of that – I can still do more pull-ups than any of the 21 people in my family.
But yes, I’m old. How? Why! I didn’t agree to this! The clue is in the previous paragraph: lavatory. No-one calls them lavatories anymore; they’re toilets. When I mention the lavatory small children smirk from the safety of the back seat in the car (I can see them in the rear-view mirror).
It’s losing touch with the modern world that makes us old. I thought I’d signed up when I bought a mobile phone. But apparently you have to do more than just phone people and talk to them. So I learned to take photos, send texts (why do people laugh when I use semicolons – that’s another thing that’s vanished from the modern world). And did you know that mobile phones can now tell you how to get to where you’re going? Marvellous! Who needs a partner? And the phone doesn’t argue, either.
But none of this has anything to do with discovering you’re old. I’m old because if you ask me to name a pop star the most recent I can think of is Lonnie Donegan. I’m old because I think it’s cool to say cool; and because I didn’t know ‘merch’ was 13-year-old-speak for merchandise. I’m old because I use a fountain pen (you can look them up on google) and because I use bicarbonate of soda, as my granny did, instead of bleach to clean the lavatory. Sorry, toilet.
I’m old because I thought Dustin Hoffman, Clint Eastwood, Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock were part of the latest round of up-and-coming movie stars; and because I thought Rak-Su and Mash-Up were a Thai curry and an English breakfast. They’re not; they’re bands. What happened to The Who!
As we grow older we grow further and further out of touch. If you’re any age under 50 you’ll be thinking: “I won’t let that happen to me. I shall remain current.”
No, you won’t; I promise. And it won’t be entirely your fault. Young people (anyone under 50) have a hand in it, too. They don’t want you to be a part of their life (food and laundry excepted); they don’t want you to know what they’re saying or doing. The generation gap doesn’t exist only because people my age didn’t see the crack appearing; it’s also because young people have dug it, deep and wide. How else can we explain the foreign lingo they speak (I bet the word ‘lingo’ doesn’t appear in their lingo) or the way they walk with their legs apart to stop their trousers from dropping off their hips.
And be warned: becoming part of history starts long before you’re my age. I was 51 when one of my daughters had an 18th birthday party. I did my best to close the generation gap; I joined a bunch of teenagers on the verandah, picked my moment, and said: “Hey man, I really dig these groovy scenes.”
Two of them threw up.