Thursday, 27 October 2011


In a conversation with a friend the other day, I mentioned my upcoming birthday. He made one of those comments which younger people (he's more than ten years my junior) are sometimes given to, gently poking fun at the fact that I'll be moving further away from youth. It was something like 'enjoy your old man-ness', if I remember. No offence was intended, nor was any taken, our friendship long having reached that happy stage where we may merrily rip one another to shreds all in the name of a cheap gag. We both know that's there's virtually nothing one can say to the other that would cause upset.

It got me thinking though. There does seem to be a perception amongst some younger people that older generations are, or should be, jealous of youth. Maybe there's some truth in that belief, but it's always seemed a strange idea to me. My reply was something along the lines of 'It's a fair system. We all get to be young. If we're lucky we get to be old too.' Of course there are advantages to being young. You are given more leeway - room to play, to experiment, and to make mistakes. There are fewer responsibilities for most. But those who are not young any more have already been young, and carry with them the wisdom and experience that brings, not to mention the joy and sense of fun they always had, even if for some it is exercised less often, or less extravagantly.

I've never had the slightest pang of jealousy of someone based on their youth. Youth is to be celebrated and lived and enjoyed. There's nothing more beautiful than seeing human beings develop through the whole gamut of experiences offered by our society, and by life. If there's any less than positive thought that enters my head regarding young people it's fear. Fear that the opportunities previous generations had will no longer be there when they are older. Fear that the mistakes the human race has made, and continues to make, will make the road ahead less clear, more hazardous, and potentially even impassable. It's important that those who used to be young give those who still are the space to grow, the basis for some optimism for the future, and the resources to take up the mantle when the time comes. If that cycle were ever to be broken... well, it hardly bears thinking about.

You may note that I categorise myself as neither young nor old. By most definitions, including statistical ones (in this country at least), I remain a youngster, at least for another couple of years, and certainly anyone who knows me well would describe me as childish. I've never yet been worried by a year being added to my age, nor a line to my brow, nor a pair of spectacles to my face. Unsightly nasal hair is another matter, but it's not such a hassle to remove it now and then. I'm not sure whether I was building up to a point here or not. I suppose I'm just saying that it's not youth that's precious, it's life. Whenever I list the things that excite me, interest me, make me feel most alive, I realise that hardly any of them require youth. That is one of my favourite, most comforting thoughts, actually.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


The day’s congregation was rocked
When a priest whose advances were blocked
Chased a boy from the choir
Halfway up the spire
And had to be quickly defrocked

To my mind, that's the best limerick I ever wrote. But for some reason, nobody wants limericks about paedophile priests.

Friday, 14 October 2011


I often think people take swivel chairs for granted these days. When I was a child, they seemed such exotic and grown-up items, and it was a real treat to be able to pilot one for just a few seconds. I was especially fascinated by the chairs which swivelled clockwise to raise the height of the seat, and anti-clockwise to lower it.

At school, the teachers often had swivel chairs, whilst the pupils were forced to make do with those moulded plastic ones with holes in the back of the seat. At least they came in a range of pleasing autumnal hues, oranges, browns and a sort of dusky buttermilk.

I would take every chance I got to leap into the teacher's chair and propel myself around by pushing against the ground with one or both feet, using the thing as a personal roundabout, trying to reach the highest possible speed before abruptly stopping and launching myself back in the opposite direction, in a misguided attempt to avoid dizziness.

I have a rather nice swivel chair in my office at work, my energetic use of which has led to one or two funny looks from my colleagues. But what, I ask, is a swivel chair for, if not for swivelling?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


I'm going to start a new blog. And keep this one. From zero to two in a fortnight - quite remarkable!

I thought about making it a series of posts on this blog, but after some inconsiderable thought, I've decided it probably belongs in its own space. The main reason to keep it separate is that I haven't made up my mind about how serious I am about believing the concepts the new blog will espouse. Another reason, the irony of which will become clear when I reveal the subject of the blog, is that I worry about what others might think of me. To mutilate a metaphor: I am an island, but I rely on certain supplies from the mainland.

The new blog is entitled 'It's all in my head'.

There is a theory that says all babies are solipsists; that it takes us as tiny humans a little while to work out that the people around us are separate beings with their own thoughts and experiences, rather than constituent parts of a private world generated subconsciously by the self.

I'm not sure I ever grew out of this phase. On one level it's clearly a ridiculous belief system. But then in order to function properly and maintain some level of satisfaction with perceived experience, wouldn't solipsism have to seem ridiculous? And frankly, I haven't come across a belief system that isn't ridiculous. Many people make fun of Scientologists, but are their theories really any less plausible than those of any of the mainstream religions? Don't answer that.

I've never quite been able to rule out the possibility that everything exists only in my perception, and lately I'm leaning slightly more in that direction than I have for a while. So I'll be exploring the implications of this over on the other blog. Let me know what you think. Not that I care of course - none of you exist.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Here's an interesting mental exercise:

Think of someone you love. A partner, or close family member. Picture them in an uncomfortable situation. A time when they were in a job they hated, or a situation when they felt out of their depth. Perhaps an occasion where they were humiliated or made a fool of themself. Don't you feel an overwhelming urge to rescue them? To hug them and take them away and make them feel safe? I know I do.

Now picture yourself in a similar circumstance. What are your thoughts now?

Mine are something along the lines of: "You IDIOT! How could you be so stupid? For pity's sake stand up for yourself!"

Self-loathing? Being one's own harshest critic? Perfectly natural self-defence mechanism? I don't know.

Monday, 3 October 2011


Not having a blog isn't working out, so I'm kind of back.

I'm still not going to post very often, but there doesn't seem to be any harm in slapping in a paragraph or two when I do have something to say.

And it's been an exciting few days. I've socialised twice in the last week, which is positively unheard of. Okay, I'll go to the pub once a week, maybe twice, but these were full-blown, special occasion-related nights out, and I really can't remember when I last did one of those. I should point out that they were, respectively, a retirement do and a wedding, so hardly scenes of outrageous debauchery, but given that my idea of a late night has become staying up for the end of Match of the Day on a Saturday night, two seven-hour sessions in a three night period ranks as something of a blowout. Honestly, my diet coke intake this week has been monumental.

The retirement drinks took place across a number of pubs in town. There were more than 30 people in attendance at various points during the afternoon and evening, only a smattering of whom I know well enough to talk to. There was a time when integration with the unknowns within the group would not have been an option. I don't know whether I'm less shy nowadays, or have simply learned that I don't give a shit. There remains much awkwardness, but I seem more comfortable than I used to be with proceeding into the unknown. It helps that after a couple of hours everyone is drunk except me.

To my pleasure and surprise, midway through the day I found myself having one of those conversations. You know the kind - you end up sitting next to someone with little option but to talk to them. Mutual friends have drifted home or off to another table, and you have no choice but to engage with the individual next to you. I say 'one of those' conversations, meaning one of those which seems natural and easy from the outset, despite initial unfamiliarity with the other participant. You seem to share interests, use the same kind of language, and, crucially, make one another laugh. There is some level of attraction. You're not sure whether it's physical or emotional. It doesn't matter, because it feels unusual and exotic and unfamiliar and, well, just plain great. I don't have these conversations very often. Perhaps I've only had five or six in my life. I'd forgotten how it felt. The only equivalent I can think of is the sort of crush you develop on a friend you admire at school. For only the second time in my life, the other participant in this conversation was female.

This ties in rather nicely with the second night out of the week, since the previous female subject of 'one of those' conversations was the bride at the wedding I attended (for those who are new or have not been paying much attention, I wasn't the groom). I distinctly remember, since it was as unusual then as it is now, the speed at which we connected ten years ago. It briefly felt like some sort of romance, and it felt necessary for the first time to tell someone outright that I was gay, lest my eagerness to become friends be misconstrued. In fact I sometimes wonder if, were I perhaps 20% more heterosexual, I might have become her husband myself some day. Thankfully, I was always clear-thinking enough never to consider shoe-horning myself and others into a life that wouldn't fit.

It was a great wedding: Medium-sized guest list, lots of good food, no speeches and a chocolate cake. The choice of song for the first dance was almost scarily like a tune I'd have chosen myself. I have no doubt that they will be jolly happy together for many years.

I don't think I'll pursue the new friendship too far, although we have since exchanged e-mails. Our paths may cross again at work, but the truth is I don't really have a vacancy for a close friend right now. I'm settled, comfortable with my routine, and, by any conventional definition, happy.

Hmmm.... didn't expect this post to go where it's ended up.