Monday, 16 May 2016

My 21st birthday party was great - pity I missed it!

In a few days I’ll have to use my 56 year-old brain to remember that I’m no longer 55. Throughout my life I’ve given thanks for the fact that I was born in 1960, so when confronted with the question of my age, I have minimal maths to perform. There’s no carry two and divide by six about it.

My so-called landmark birthdays came and went without so much as a flutter of existential angst: 21; 30; 40; even the half century slipped by without so much as a mental twitch or whiff of mortality.

However, completely unexpectedly, turning 35 knocked me off my socks. I just couldn’t work it out, suddenly feeling my age and not liking it. I had to come up pronto with some kind of explanation so decided it was because my Dad was always going on about the ‘three score years and ten’ we are allocated in the Bible.

35 is half of 70, so I reckoned maybe I was just suffering from passing a subconscious half way line, with all traffic now heading inexorably out the back door.

I prefer to think that it doesn’t matter whether your age is divisible by ten. Sadly life and human brainboxes don’t work as we might wish, and 46 came along and knocked me sideways with a right hook I never saw coming.

Why couldn’t I just conform and attach significance to the same big birthdays as everybody else? Hoh no, I had to twist myself through a special test, some kind of left-field self-experiment in which I was the guinea pig.

Even more bemused than usual, I eventually realised that 46 meant I was nearer 50 than 40. Good old fashioned fear, that was the reason for my downer, so now, a few days from being nearer 60 than 50, I’m delighted I’m not working up a sweat about this impending number change.

Our decades illustrate more than the mere fact that we have ten fingers and count accordingly. Since my group of lifetime friends known as the London Posse and I turned 50, we’ve all noticed changes affecting our lifestyles.

It comes as something of a blow to discover that cures and recoveries are often no longer available. This illness needs a pill that you will take each day for the rest of your life; that pain in your knee/shoulder/back is not an injury but a condition that you’ll have to learn to live with and manage with conventional medicine/yoga/mindfulness/ignoring it and hoping it goes away/application of horse chestnut bark cream and octopus rennet mud.

To be honest I’m comfy with getting older. I had mad teenage years in London, scorched the hell out of my Twenties and then did it all over again in Galway in my Thirties. 

My Forties were spent mostly living alone, wondering what the hell I’d done with the previous 30 years, while now in my Fifties I’m aware that life just keeps on posing problems that need to be overcome.

That’s not as depressing as it sounds, because one of the many upsides to having lived longer is that I’ve learned more. I know that joy will visit me on occasion, thrilling my senses as it rushes my nervous system. I know that happiness will come and stay for a while, just as darker guests will move in and out.

Life will offer more of the same, presented as brand new, and it’s up to me to decide if which is sugar or shit, and what to do about it.

I’m not suggesting for one moment that if life gives you lemons you make lemonade. Love the lemons, that’s what I say. Let the power of the hard times allow you greater appreciation of the easier ones.

All this birthday talk reminds me of the time I tried to make a big deal out my 21st. I booked a table at Ronnie Scott’s where I went with the Posse to see the great Horace Silver.

As soon as the band finished their set, I dashed off to the loo, but when I came out there was no sign of my mates.

I checked the loos, outside the club, back inside, outside again, but the scummy sons of bitches had scarpered without me.

Even more annoying was the fact that I knew precisely where they had gone, and how they had got there. Back in those days I had an account with a minicab firm, and had ordered three cars to meet us outside the club, to whisk us off to my sister’s house, where I was staying while she was on holiday.

I called the minicab firm, but it was peak time on a Saturday night and they had no spare cars. Eventually I resorted to spending a week’s wages on taking a black cab all the way to the outer suburbs, where I finally found the drunken dribbling detritus of my own 21st birthday party.

On paper it looked like a great night: cool jazz followed by a hot party in an empty luxury house.

Trouble was, I wasn’t there.

Naturally, my friends all thought it absolutely hilarious that I’d missed my own 21st birthday party, but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t important; just numbers, and what difference could a bunch of numbers make to me?

I know that 90 is the new 80 and 50 is the new 12. Last week I watched a 100 year-old free-fall from a plane (on purpose, you understand!) and with advances in medical science, along with a sprinkle of sand flea blood compound on your morning muesli, you can feel as right as rain and twice as fruity deep into your dotage.

I know, but I just don’t care. I’m getting older and accept that.
Happy Birthday to me - if I make it to Monday!

©Charlie Adley

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, AVH