Tuesday, 22 October 2013

A miserable bastard


I sit at a table in the corner of the room, striving to appear as if I’m having an enjoyable evening. It is a 50th birthday party in the function room of a local sports’ club. At 55, I’m one of the older ‘revellers’. Mrs Jones is standing on the dance-floor, engaged in animated conversation with the work colleague who is celebrating her half century. There is only a trickle of patrons at the bar; people of our age can no longer imbibe alcohol in the quantities of old.

I gaze into the flimsy froth of the pint of beer in front of me and ponder on the past parties I’ve attended. The house party at 15 years old, brimming with cheap cider and vomit; sexual experimentation and tears; fights and consequent police involvement; and culminating in the wrath of the host’s parents who return to find unconscious teenagers scattered amongst the debris and (on one memorable occasion) muddy foot-prints on the Artexed living-room ceiling.

A smirk encroaches onto my face as my mind drifts to the late 1970s and those 21st -birthday celebrations. Key of the door? At the time it seemed like I had the key to everything: an exciting career; the meaning of life; and, most importantly, the one that unlocked the sexual vaults of the stunning young ladies who always seemed to be in the vicinity – although, on reflection, the last one might have been more aspiration than reality.    
I dredge my mind for a 30th party recollection, but fail to find one; my contemporaries and I were all too occupied raising toddlers and trying to earn sufficient cash to feed our families and pay the nursery fees.  

I remember my 40th birthday party though, on the dance-floor with a few of my old school mates, jumping around to the thump of the Rolling Stones, trying in vain to recapture that spark from 20 years before; a gaggle of sad, middle-aged men.

And now I’m an older participant at a 50th. I raise my head from the beer froth and scan my fellow party-goers: men with grey, receding hair and beer-bellies, one of the more inebriated jiving with his wife on the dance-floor; heavy-busted women, trussed into under-sized dresses, with a swathe of overhanging flesh pushing against the zip at the back, seeking liberation; and a sprinkling of the younger generation, who have appeased their parents by making an appearance at the birthday celebration before moving on for some serious partying in the night clubs.

But not to worry, it is 11.00 pm and the convoy of taxis will be arriving in 30 minutes to return us all home before we fall asleep and risk dribbling over the furnishings.
My head droops again, and I mutter Leonard Cohen lyrics for consolation.
 The rain falls down on last year's man,
an hour has gone by
and he has not moved his hand.
But the skylight is like skin for a drum I'll never mend
and all the rain falls down amen
on the works of last year's man.

At this point Mrs Jones returns, sits next to me, squeezes my hand and smiles. Instantly, I recognise that I’m being a miserable bastard, and lousy company. What justification do I have for being morose? I’ve recently taken early retirement, leaving with a generous pension that means I will never again have any financial worries. I’ll no more have to endure restless nights worrying about work, nor the frustrations of the morning rush-hour. Mrs Jones and I are both in good health and will, from now on, be going on vacation three times each year; when not on foreign turf we will frequently be found hiking in the stunning Lancashire countryside.

And do I really want to be young again? On the basis of a 32 year partnership with Mrs Jones, I’m confident I will never again suffer the humiliation of being abandoned and betrayed by girlfriends. No more acne agonies. Nor will I worry about my sexual performance, for if the dough fails to rise on the next occasion it is not disastrous – we are involved in a marathon not a sprint.

Life is good.

I kiss my beautiful wife and, hand-in-hand, we head to the dance floor for a smooch (before the taxi arrives).      


33 comments:

  1. Lovely. Like fine wine, love can develop and expand over time in ways we can't imagine when we're young.

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    1. We sure can, Stephen - like a vintage Chianti.

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  2. Oh, boyoh! I can't wait to grow up! The 30th birthday "celebration" is pretty much exactly what I'd envisioned it'd be. On a serious note, it's good to hear that you're enjoying your of life and making the best of it. A very inspiring piece, Mr. Jones.

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    1. Thanks for your interest and support, Chiz.

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  3. May we continue to know how blessed we are as we age and relax and realize our wisdom.

    Now if we can just stay healthy. So far, so good for me. Sounds like for you, too.

    Your writing is so engaging.

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    1. Thanks to taking the time to comment, Anita.

      I think you've captured the essence of the situation with the 'so far so good' comment.

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  4. I'm anticipating for my 20th birthday , so it's a start for me , and i m like really scared cause 20 is a BIG number (atleast for me it is) , but I can envision myself in your place some decades away , recollecting the past , the memories - good and bad . Like Nicholas Sparks put " What are we after all our dreams , after all our memories " . This post has given a glimpse of your life over the years , and it is something i hope i end up with too , but for now , being grateful and welcoming new experiences is all that counts i guess :) Awesome post !

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    1. You are so right.

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  5. I love the Sparks' quote. I'm content now, but there is no doubt that earlier phases in life (like student days) can be highlights - I hope yours is.

    Thanks for your support and interest.

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  6. That's just beautiful, man. I almost got teary-eyed, but that's probably the dust. Yeah, it's the dust in my office. Somebody should really look into that!

    Awesome that you're able to retire early and go travel. You're living the dream!

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  7. Yes I realize (well, most of the time) that I am very fortunate.

    Thanks, as always, for taking the time to drop by.

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  8. Do I want to go back in time to relive early disasters? Not on your life. I may fall asleep before the evening news, but I'm in a good place.

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    1. Bravo! Great to hear you're in a good place, Al - although I could have guessed it from the tone of your funny posts.

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  9. This is beautiful! Your words are poetic and so beautifully descriptive. I'm so glad I'm getting your posts in my email inbox now - I can't miss them! I often find myself reminiscing about "easier" times or the fun and adventurous times before kids, but I fail to remember that those times were often racked with pain, and almost torture, from my many mistakes and poor choices.

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    1. I appreciate your encouragement, Kate. (And thanks again for the e-mail button idea). Yes, our memories can be touched up to be better than they were. I'm now very much of the view that we should enjoy the moment.

      Take care.

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  10. It's funny how we begin to change perspective as age becomes a result instead of a foe. I'll hit 60 next year and still don't feel like I'm any different than I was twenty years ago. Oh, the body has changed, no doubt, and a half century plus of experiences mold my thinking, but my spirit is still as it was decades ago, marching and protesting the Vietnam War and Civil Rights. I, too, have had my share of beautiful women, but luckily, have survived 33 years of marriage without ever having a legal separation (and anything else I say about that would only get me into trouble). I look at myself in the mirror and understand that the only way a pretty young thing would be after me would be for money, and since that is not a factor, there would be no reason. So, I, too, look at my wife and say, "I think I'll keep her as I'd only lose half my material possessions if we split now." Well done, sir. Very well done indeed!

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    1. Thanks Rich for taking the time to leave such a considered comment. I can see we share some similarities in our musings on life..

      'I'd only lose half my material possessions' - how romantic!!

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  11. A wonderful summary of the milestones we look back on...with age comes perspective. Wonderful piece!

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    1. I appreciate your interest and positive feedback.

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  12. You don't sound like a miserable bastard at all. You sound like a man who knows he's fortunate and feels content with his lot.

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    1. Yes, I am most of the time. I just have an occasional lapse when I mourn my youth, but these moments of weakness don't last long.

      Thanks for your interest.

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  13. I love this so much because my Hubs and I are living it!

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    1. Here's to many more contented years.

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  14. Welcome to the young man's retired club. If you have any trouble getting your dough to rise in the future, don't be afraid to knead it yourself.

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    1. ha! or have Mrs. Jones do the kneading:))

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    2. Stop it! you're making me blush.

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  15. Thanks for the advice Joe.I am now more confident that my kneads will be met in the future.

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  16. Whether in a serious tone or with humour I so appreciate your reflections on aging. It is strange to age isn't it? And to look at the younger ones and think "live it up boys and girls, your time will come". Above all else getting older beats the alternative. As my cousin likes to say "we'll be taking a dirt nap for long enough".

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    1. Great to hear from you again, Pam - your comments are always inspiring and considered. I like the 'dirt nap' quote and I'll probably pinch it for future posts!
      Take care.

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  17. Great post. I'm right there with you!

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  18. This blog touched me since I have passed the 60 mark that I never thought I would ever see. (Family almost always died in their 50's) I find my self morose about the past and this was like a wisp of fresh air. Thank You

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    1. I appreciate you taking the time to comment, William. It is a cliche, I know, but the idea of living each day as though it might be your last seems an increasingly attractive one.

      Best wishes for many more years to come.

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