Good day to you, readers.
How are you today? I am old.
I’ve suspected this for a while (wrinkles; generally being asleep before midnight; interest in gourmet chutneys) but in the last week my advanced years have become impossible to ignore. By way of evidence I’m including a picture of me hanging out with old people on the Seine last week.
This blog details the changes I am noticing in myself.
So. I had dinner in a fashionable restaurant in Soho last night. I attired myself in what I believed to be a voguish ensemble. My sister (who actually is voguish) greeted me with a warm smile and the chilling words: “You look nice. Very grown-up.” I went downstairs to the loo and checked myself out. Dammit! She was right! At home my button-up blouse tucked in to slacks with a vintage scarf and up-do looked youthful and cool. In the cold light of the bog it looked like I was off to a Young Conservatives convention. Or possibly even a Middle-Aged Conservatives convention. Whichever, I looked matronly and in no way voguish.
I pondered this state of affairs on the tube home. Because, obviously, I was on the tube. It’s been a very long time since I was on a nightbus at 3am clutching a kebab from Dionysus (remember that place? Opposite Centre Point? The day it burned down was one of the saddest days of my life.)
And, as I pondered, my thoughts turned to my recent little birthday bash. And how it compared to my 22nd birthday, ten years ago in 2002. Two very, very different affairs. Let us start off in 2002. I am having a house party. I live on Blurton Road in Lower Clapton. (My housemates and I lived there before Hackney was trendy; we lasted six months and then moved after someone was shot to death fifty metres from our front door. But things, as I recently discovered, have changed around Lower Clapton: good heavens above have they! Back then you didn’t make eye contact with anyone on the Chatsworth road; nowadays there’s fashionable eateries that sell buckwheat crepes and advertise poetry groups. Extraordinary.)
Anyway, I’ve just turned 22 years old which means I am firmly in The Rat stage of my life. The Rat is one of those clip-in pony tails from H&M that costs £7.99 and lasts about twenty wears before it begins to resemble a synthetic hay bale. I am addicted to The Rat because I have recently suffered the worst haircut EVER. And I mean, EVER. Two weeks before I had gone to vidal sassoon training academy and made the terrible mistake of asking for something ‘trendy.’ The reason for this misdemeanour was that I was about to start my first proper really grown-up full time job and wanted to look cutting edge. Unfortunately I left the salon looking like a podgy little transexual punk. There was something about that haircut and its shaved sides, duck-tail and fluorescent yellow colour that made me look suspiciously like I was not born – in a biological sense, at least – a woman. Hence The Rat. It didn’t completely solve the problem but it made me look a damn sight more like a bonafide female.
So, with The Rat I will almost certainly be wearing a faded black skirt, pointy knee high boots (cheap ones with nails coming through on the heel) and a large brown faux-leather belt. My make up will look like it has been applied by the cloven hoof of a visually impaired goat.
The house is lit with cheap candles that go out after about 45 minutes and my catering efforts are not wildly aspirational. There will be one bowl of kettle chips displayed somewhere prominent and then about twenty bowls of Tesco Value ready salted crisps elsewhere. A few dips are congealing quietly on the coffee table and there is a large dustbin of ‘cocktail’ in the kitchen, in the style of ‘CocSoc’ – a popular student night back at University which vended cups of cockatail served directly from giant vats at 50p a go.
The music at my 22nd is a combination of DJ Shadow (me trying – and failing abysmally – to be cool) and Take That, for which I developed an ‘ironic’ penchant at University. It’s 9.30pm and my guests are beginning to arrive.
Let’s move forward to 2012. It’s my 32nd birthday and I have chosen my own abode to host my friends once again, only nowadays things are little different. There is art on the walls; ironing boards live in cupboards and the crockery is not a wonky conglomeration of chipped rubbish stolen from university halls. There is mood lighting and a bath that you would choose to bathe in, rather than a bath that you’d barely consider washing a dog in.
My clothing is neat and (actually) quite stylish. There are no spiky nails wearing through cheap high heels; there is no faded black skirt. I look like a woman, not a jumble sale.
I’m throwing an Argentinian asado (BBQ). I’ve spent a small fortune on Argentinian beef, special sausages, empanadas, chimichurri, helado y dulce de leche and have made a f*ckload of rather exceptional ensaladas. Everything has been planned and so by the time people arrive I am dressed, made-up and able to converse rather than running round sticking hairgrips into my Rat.
The music is pleasant and Argentinian. The food is outstanding and The Man is doing an excellent job manning the two large barbecues on the balcony. Everyone is drinking good-quality malbec; there’s not a £2.99 chianti in sight – let alone a vat of alcoholic horror being served into plastic cups with a ladle.
Everyone is in great spirits; no one is wasted. The food continues to come out at regular intervals and it’s served on nice wooden boards. Ok. We do run out of forks – so there’s a few people eating steak with their fingers and salad with spoons but that’s actually quite traditional.
When I serve dessert a gasp of pleasure breaks through the pleasant music.
No one is having sex in my bed.
No one is having sex in the kitchen.
No one is taking drugs.
Back in 2002 at my 22nd, someone is definitely having sex in my bed. And it’s rumoured that ***** has just been caught giving ***** a hand shandy in the kitchen. Then, as I run up for a quick wee, I discover a troop of boys on the landing who have obviously taken something pretty strong. “You ok boys?” I ask them. They look furtively at each other and act as if they have no idea who I am, even though I’ve known them for years.
Back downstairs, someone with decent taste in music has taken over and the volume has gone up. We’ve just had the first of several complaints from our poor neighbour. In the garden someone is sitting in the pond singing to himself and one of the boys is doing interpretative dance in the style of Pina Bausch. It’s probably about 11.30pm.
Jumping forward ten years to 2012, it is 11.45pm and a brief ten-minute spell of dancing begins. It fizzles out because everyone is enjoying conversation too much. A short while later, people start to leave so they can get the last tube home. They all thank me earnestly for the phenomenal food. A stream of text messages arrives as they get home, repeating that it was the loveliest evening and that the food was out of this world.
The Man and I do the washing up, clean the kitchen floor – which is really not that bad – and go to bed. We’re asleep by 1.15am.
At 6am I wake up and go to the loo, feeling completely un-hungover and really quite healthy. Then I get back into my lovely bed, with its good expensive mattress (which, I have to admit, has nothing to do with me and everything to do with The Man) and I go back to sleep feeling great about my life.
It’s 6am at my 22nd birthday party and I’m beginning to scout round for somewhere to sleep. Matt and Sam are asleep in my bed – spooning each other, rather inexplicably – Tim is curled up on the rug at the end of the bed like a cat and a couple of girls who I don’t actually know are having an intense conversation in the wardrobe. Not in there then.
I scour the other bedrooms where the situation is similar. Two of my housemates are ‘entertaining’ and the other has wisely locked her bedroom door to keep out marauding Robinsons. The sitting room is disgusting and the sofas are already occupied. The kitchen is even more disgusting and there are still quite a few people making merry in the garden. The hallways, with their now-inviting carpets, are filled with sleeping or monging people.
Eventually, I find a spot to sleep in bathroom doorway. All duvets, blankets and other bedwares have been appropriated and so I end up taking down one of the sitting room curtains and wrapping it around myself. I sleep here for three hours; people stepping over my head periodically to get into the bathroom. They leave five minutes later amid foul odours.
It’s not comfortable, but it’s been wild. WILD! I know that those staying over will stagger off for a fry up in a few hours and that there will be much gossip about who knobbed who and plans for the next one. YEAH! I’m young! I love my life! Even though I’m sleeping in the bathroom door underneath a curtain!
Now. I want to write something like “oh how SAD, man, look how OLD I am, boring old OLDY ROBINSON IS AN OAP what a loser… ” etc etc etc… but I would be lying. I loved my little 32nd party. I loved my bed after said party. I loved the fact that people got home and texted to say what a lovely evening they’d had, rather than staggering into their houses, having a quick vom and then passing out under the toilet or humping someone they’d never met. I loved the fact that people actually sent me THANK YOU CARDS after the event, rather than texting me a few days later asking for the phone number of the fit bloke who was singing to himself in the pond.
I loved the good food, the nice music, the conversation and the ability to survive the next day without regular injections of fat and refined carbs. I loved spending money on a select group of people who I care about. I loved that it took 25 minutes to clear up.
I can’t help it, my friends. I love being old.
Do you hear me? I LOVE BEING OLD.