Saturday 18 August 2018

The Saturday List #184 Ten things I didn't expect to still be doing at 56!

This week I turn 56. My Dad was that age in 1973, which seemed very old to me at the time. I was thirteen then. I was think about this last night as I made my way to Powerleague to play five a side football. My father was a far better sportsman than me. As an Aussie he was an excellent cricketer and told me that if it hadn't been for the war, he'd have loved to have been a professional fast bowler. That was his passion. He gave up completely when he was 32 as he realised his performance was declining. He played for Finchley Cricket Club after the war and had some excellent bowling figures. I assumed that my life would follow a similar path and I'd never be playing sport in my 50's. I thought I'd make a list to celebrate my birthday of all the things I didn't dream I'd be doing at fifty six when I was a teenager

1. Playing football. I assumed that like my Dad, you got to your mid thirties and just stopped. whilst some of those I play with probably wish I would, I love it and it keeps me fit. When I see friends who do no sport and are my age, I have noticed many have aged more than those who are still active.

2. Playing punk rock guitar in a band. I sort of assumed that when you got old, you suddenly morphed into a Chris De Burgh fan and your sole association with music would be watching the Val Doonican show on TV as my Dad would do. Strangely I enjoy playing in a band more now than ever. Maybe it is the lack of egos.

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Grandad is the baldy behind the Babe in arms

3. Going to the barber. I assumed I'd be like my maternal grandfather and be as bald as a coot. Everyone told me that "baldness skips a generation".

I can't say that the idea of baldness ever filled me with glee, in some ways I'm quite vain. In the 80's I saw Mr Leonard Poutney on TV, he was a hair expert and said that eating excess salt made you go bald. I have avoided it ever since. I don't know if it is true, but I still have to visit the barber

4. Going to gigs with my mates. My Dad would occasionaly go to a show with my mum. The only activity he did with his mates was boozing and playing snooker on a Thursday night at Mill Hill Services club. He told me "When you reach my age, you can't be bothered with all that" when I asked why he didn't go to more shows. He said he only went because it kept my mum happy. Both myslef and my missus regularly go out with friends, without each other. I think it keeps us sane (and together).

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5. Reading comics. I've always read comics. My mum encouraged me to, as she felt it would help me read. I was a bit thick as a child (a condition now called dyslexia). I had a massive collection that my mum unilaterally slung out when I was sixteen. I was furious. She told me I was "too old for that rubbish". In 1997 I showed her an article that stated comics had proved a better investment than gold. She rather irritatedly said "You never let go do you, that's the Irish in the family". I still enjoy them. My comic of choice is 2000AD, which is dark and written for adults (immature ones Mrs T would say).

6. Be interested in UFO's and the paranormal. I am fascinated by UFO's and the paranormal. I know quite a few people who have seen all manner of unexplainable phenomina and have seen several things myself. I think it is the height of imbecility to believe that in the whole universe we are the only life form or the only one to have reached a level of technological sophistication to have the capacity to leave our planet. I discussed the issue with my Dad, who as an ex WWII pilot had seem some very strange things. His advice was "keep all that to yourself son, everyone will think you are a nutcase". Sound advice, but I am not ashamed to say I still have an interest.

7. Still be going to Lourdes with my family. One thing I really didn't expect to be doing when I was in my late teens was to be an active member of the Catholic church and still be going to Lourdes. My Dad was very religious and from the age of six until eleven, my annual holiday was with my Dad (mum stayed home to run the business) to Lourdes. This was a blast. My Dad would do a religious thing in the day, then in the evening go out on the razzle around the bars, taking me in tow. I was allowed a shandy. I loved the vibe, the people from all different nationalities and the banter and cameradarie. Sometimes Dad would get into card schools and pay for me to drink pop all night. By the time I was 18 I was identifying myself as an atheist. In my mid 30's I had a long hard look at myself and started attending church again. After my Mum had a stroke in 2000, I went as a helper with a group of disabled adults in 2001. This gave me the strength and the understanding to deal with my mum's condition. I took her four times until her death in 2008. I've taken all my kids, who although very unreligious get the vibe and love helping people. I am not a holy Joe, but I love being with a mixture of people and I get to play a lot of guitar, drink, eat french cooking and have great friends in the group. I'd never have predicted that as a teenager.

8. Married. To be honest, I never expected to get married. At school, my former headmaster took great delight in trying his hardest to belittle me and undermine me. On one occasion he told me that I was an idiot and I'd never manage to have a girlfriend, let alone get married. This was truly shocking to me at the age of 13. I assumed he was right. He told me that "no suitable gorl would ever look at you!". I analysed this and realised he was right. I decided that the best strategy was to find rather more unsuitable girls. I found that unsuitable girls were far more fun, so I guess I owe him a big debt of gratitude. Somehow I managed to think my extremely pretty and lovely wife was one such unsuitable candidate, like most things, I was wrong and we are approaching 33 years together and married.

9. Be taken seriously as a writer. I'm dyslexic. As well as my headmaster undermining my belief in my sexual prowess, my English teacher, Miss Amy Walsh at FCHS told me I was completely illiterate. If it hadn't been for a whole series of strange and rather lucky coincidences, I would never have written a word. The first of these was when my sister Caroline asked me, aged 14 to go to the The Roundhouse to watch NYC punks The Ramones. This changed my life. I changed school, I formed a band and I started writing songs. I also became politically active and started writing letters to papers. I had letters published in the Guardian and The Express. Then I was asked to write a blog on the Barnet Times website. This soon developed a huge readership. When Barnet Council forced the paper to drop me, I set up the Barnet Eye and have subsequently had over 2.5 million page views. I've also written articles for The Guardian, The Londonist and a series of other publications. The one I am proudest of is a blog back where it stated, on the Roundhouse website! That is probably all the acclaim I need in life.

10. Be alive. Seriously. As a teenager, I didn't really take care of myself and was incredibly reckless. I did all manner of things, any of which could have resulted in instant death. When I was 22, I had serious health problems, resulting in a long spell in hospital. I didn't have a Eureka moment, but oer a period of time adjusted my lifestyle. I seem to have some sort of health scare every ten or so years.  I was born a "blue baby" (no not a City fan).In my early teens I was seriously depressed and self harming, in my 20's I had stomach issues. In my 30's it was ear problems and mastoids, in my late 1940's I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. My mother once told me that my ill health was a blessing. She was similarly afflicted with a lifetime of bad health. She said "You are used to being ill, you'll last forever, it's those who never have a days illness that get a cold and drop dead". I'm not really convinced. If nothing else, it's made me appreciate the NHS.

I suppose it will serve me right if I drop dead before Wednesday.

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