I’m looking forward to reaching the 69th anniversary of my birth. I have no other course than to look forward to it as it falls due next Tuesday. I cannot look back on it or even askance at it as it is out of reach. Getting nearer – but out of reach. So I must look forward.
I have the same choice about next week as when I entered the post-war world of Dulwich Hospital on 13th October, 1946. Although I was extraordinarily bright as a child, I’m fairly certain that my foetal sensibility, even at the hour of delivery, would not have been up to making critical choices about what was to follow – let alone grappling with the complex metaphysics. So I don’t remember being asked, given a choice. Do you want to be born? Who would you like to be? Would you like some siblings? Where do you want to live? Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief? I wasn’t involved in any of that. At least, not for a while. And thus it will be next Tuesday. No choice. I’ll be 69. Soixante-neuf. Although saying it the French way only serves as an ironic reminder of temps perdu that are unlikely to be recherché.
Getting to be older, no one says old – they’re far too polite, means a number of things. It means changing channels when the incontinence pads advertisements appear on the TV; it means doing the Kevin Spacey thing with your eyebrows when a pollster is asking for your age group; it means desperately trying not to say, ‘When I was your age’ to people aged 50; It means not turning your youth into a memorial.
I like to think about and talk about the 60s. It was mostly a good time. But I didn’t choose to be around when all that stuff happened. I had no choice in the matter. I suppose that I chose to join in, you could say. I’ve never been one to stand on the side lines. So I have some responsibility for what happened. Just the millionth part of an iota of accountability for everything that’s happened since then.
But the God of History is who you need to talk to if you have a beef about One Direction, Global Warming and Terrible Television. She’s the one to see about your sugar addiction, your falling asleep at your day job because your second job at night and your third job on the weekends leaves you overtired and depressed, your failure to maintain a viable erection for longer than thirty seconds, your inability to understand why everyone in the room is laughing at the gag except you. Get her to explain your circumstances. and don’t take any of that ‘gene pool’ crap. It really is all down to her. She gives us the circumstances that provide the illusion of choice. Republican or Democrat? Full fat or reduced? The Embassy or The Roxy? Being born or remaining as a twinkle in the eye of the God of History that disappears as she nods off to sleep?
Yes. I’m looking forward to next Tuesday.