Friday, 26 March 2010

Stepping off lightly

I tell myself I am sixty-one but I don't believe it. Everything inside me insists I am somewhere between forty and forty-five, and I recall reading how sixty was the new forty, forty the new twenty, and twenty the new embryo. I think everyone my age does in fact look younger than I thought they'd look.

And then I think this is a lot of vain nonsense, isn't it? And I begin to suspect that it is something to do with being of my generation. I suppose I am, generationally speaking, a baby-boomer, but I doubt whether Budapest 1948 quite qualifies as baby-boomtown. Having emerged from one darkness the country was about to enter a new one.

Growing up in the sixties in England, all the images I had of middle age, let alone old age, were deeply negative. Who wanted to be middle-aged, middle-class, mid-station? There could be nothing less cool, and my generation - and all succeeding generations - have been obsessed with cool, cool as the one value you don't argue with. Cool meant you shrugged. You didn't care. You were beyond and above and through with that. You'd leave a beautiful corpse.

Being middle-aged was as far from cool as you could get. As for old age, that was so far off the radar, you might as well have been another species.

No wonder then that my g-g-g-generation shrink from time. Our younger brothers and sisters are of the Me generation. They dread time all the more. Larkin's marvellous line about young mothers with prams, about something 'pushing them to the side of their own lives' doesn't just apply to mothers. It is the theme song of the generations following Larkin, who never once seemed young himself

Just this morning I was talking to an old friend on the phone, an old dying friend. After the first five minutes of chat he found his breath and he was away, talking and thinking, erudite, opinionated, generous, sharp. He was like that photograph yesterday of the lightning on the side of the truck. He was rumbling on, full of electricity.

One absorbs all this, watches it flash and thunder, then pass by. One of my recommendations for poems is that they should 'enter firmly: step off lightly'. When my friend steps off I think it will be lightly, neither old nor young, not leaving a beautiful corpse, just a corpse.

The lightning in the truck continues flashing, and then one day the truck simply stops, and there he is, and there you are, stepping off lightly, like a fortunate man, living in fortunate times.


dana said...

How old you are involves how many dead people you know. And it's always a shocking transition, one minute here, one not. Or in the case of births, vice versa; also shocking. I don't suppose most people can be cool under such circumstances. Giving up cool is the best part of being old, anyway.

Our Father which art in heaven
Stay there
And we will stay on earth
Which is sometimes so pretty.

Jacques Prevert

Background Artist said...


Something that gives one member of Me generation psychic succour - facing into the wrong end of one's twenties, having made all the mad mistakes associated with that huge waft of time, experience and event that make up one's latter teens and early twenties - is the image of a good goddess who'd lead one to Paranassus and introduce one there, to Cuchulain and Apollo, Hermes and Homer, Euclid and Aristophanes, Socrates and Aristole, calling out for Peresphone and Oisín to return home after 300 years in Tir na nÓg - unable to resist, breaking the geasa his foot touching stone and woomph, instantly becoming an old man: His faery charm gone, no more - the supernatural cloak and ending of this Echtra, mine, all mine, I'm afraid, one can imagine Sameon MacMillan might say, if she is there at the peak of space and time HQ, swirling two thousand feet above Dugort and Bunacurry, Aughamore and Kiltimagh, Aughton and Ormskirk, Burscough and the Ribble; and if so, perhaps, perhaps she'll say I did the wrong thing wasting my time by not paying attention to another god of education she knows, who could mutter the face and book of our trillion myspace poets, Twitter dittiests, spontaneous makers in flytes so recondite and spiritually aligned, it's all just Lancashababru to me..

back in ten..

many pleasant returns, happy sixtythird, its the new 43, last week, one of Me gens worst layabouts and the ****'s word, t'was all we took to the fair the day we performed at the Achill Archaeology Centre.

gra agus peace

please desist growing old, come back and be the child again in the photograph of a spiky looking wit, short pants, raw intelligence, straw coloured hair, was it George, or dark and thick: I was, luxuriant twisted coal-black locks before the sands of time turned to silver all that's thinning now on top, unable to purchse a proper haircut all my life, apart from twice, random cuts, one in Liverpool, one in Edinburgh, and no more, forty three years George, forty ******* years of being unable to get it right, a simple effin haircut, it's like the Spanish Inquisition, 'trained' hairdressers with one default form, a fiver, that's all I ever get, because of Lancashababru you **** Szirtes. You know, you know it you ****.

George S said...

Rather too many dead people, Dana. When I think of those I knew twenty years ago, the people I looked up to, most of them are gone - some too early. But maybe it's always too early and too many.

By the time my father died, there were few of his friends left. He'd been going to their funerals. I think the funerals hemmed him in a little, as they would anyone. It was extraordinary to see close on thirty people at his funeral service. I didn't think he knew so many people.

And not sixty-three yet, BA, only sixty-one. I think I wrote the piece because I'd been feeling a bit tired the last few days.

Up in clouds today.