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.


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Ben:
Upon consideration, we cannot in all truth call ourselves young. Sadly the wisdom and experience, of which you write, and which should come with the onset of the years appears to have passed us by.

Like you we rejoice in the youth of today, without in any sense wishing to be one of them, but also fear that the opportunities which we were so fortunate to enjoy may well not be theirs. Of particular concern are exorbitant tuition fees for a university education, something which was free to us, and the dismal prospect of obtaining employment, again something which was not a problem when we were of an age.

All of that said, on balance it is good to be the age one is and, surprisingly, to be able to accept, with a degree of relief, that life here does not last for ever!

Birthday wishes!

Ben said...

Jane and Lance:
You don't fool me - there's wisdom and experience oozing from everything of yours I've read to date. A class act, if ever I saw one!

I deliberately avoided getting too political, but those are certainly some of the opportunities to which I was alluding. Right now it's clear that had I been born just ten years later, even the modest progress I have made would have been all but impossible.

Your birthday wishes are most gratefully accepted.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Ben:
Alas, we have no love of football nor, indeed, any sport whatsoever, nor have we ever visited a gymnasium. We have, happily, never shopped at Asda and have seldom had occasion to visit a toy shop in Bath or anywhere else. This year we were, most mercifully, deemed unfit to serve on a jury and, somewhat sadly, we find ourselves all too often at funerals. As for family, we have none to whom we might feel close.

That said, we have delighted this afternoon in reading through your past posts which we have found to be thoroughly enjoyable, often amusing, highly spirited, acerbic, remarkably informative, grammatically correct [take note Mr. Morrison] and wonderfully entertaining. Thank you so much. We eagerly anticipate more of the same.

MadeInScotland said...

I would not go back to my youth. It's promoted all around. Beautiful young people on the side of the bus, on the side of the building, in magazines, on the television.

In my youth I wanted all the things I have now. I prefer to have them, not want them...


Ben said...

Jane and Lance:
Adopt me?!

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement, and apologies for any light swearing you may have encountered.

Ben said...

You're absolutely right, of course. I probably would go back, purely to go through it all again, and on the strict proviso I could return to this very point.

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday! Otherwise 'No comment' :) Love, Alec xx

Ben said...

You are too kind. Muchas gracias.