Saturday 10 July 2021

The Saturday List #314 - Ten aspects of growing old that I really hate

 I'll be 60 next year. I find it very hard to believe. When I was eighteen, I assumed that a sixty year old me would have long since put away the punk rock records, my hobbies would be fishing and sitting in the shed, I'd smoke a pipe and have the occasional tipple of whisky at the bowls club. There is still time, but the Damned are, much to my surprise, still the most played record on my turntable. To my surprise, I still play football, go to gigs, play in a band and feel as angry about injustice as ever. I have probably got a better sense of humour, am a bit less intense and am not so unforgiving of fools as my teenage self, but I feel very much the same person. As a result of being diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in 2011, I have a much healthier lifestyle than perhaps I would have had otherwise. It is ironic that cancer may even help me live longer. But the signs of ageing are upon me. Many of these I really hate, some you may find quite sad, some you may find quite amusing. Here they are

1. Waking up from a dream, only to remember the mate who you were having a great time with in the dream passed away many years ago. Two people especially come to mind. Paul Hircombe, who played bass with The False Dots for 28 years. Paul would have been 57 this year. Paul was what I describe as a quiet Hellraiser. He was a co founder of the studio, a great musician and at the heart of all of the best times of my life. When the band toured Sweden, when we made our finest recordings in the early years, when we played the Bike rally circuit, our triumphant shows at Dingwalls and The Moonlight club. But he passed with cancer in 2011. Ernie Ferebee, who was my studio partner from 1994 until 2001, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2001, was another pivotal character. Without Ernie, the studio would simply not be what it is today. Ernie was 14 years older than me, came in with a world of experience. He'd been involved with the band as tour manager in 1985 when we went to Belgium and was a massive figure. His Dad, Nod, had been an East End bare knuckle fighter. Ernie had driven overland buses from London To New Dehli. He was never phased and always up for a laugh. God do I miss the pair or them.

2. Not having my parents. My Dad died when I was 24 in 1987. It was a monumental shock. We had a tempestuous relationship. When I was small, we were inseperable. When I became a teenager, we could hardly be in the same room for more than five minutes. In November '86, we had our last evening together. Beers at the Services Club, a curry and then half a bottle of Scotch and a chat until 3am. My Dad told me something which it took me a long time to understand. He said that he owed me an apology. As a teenager, he thought I was a lazy bastard and a waster. It had taken him a long time to appreciate that my love of music was serious and not just and excuse to doss. He said that he'd come to realise that what had driven him mad was simply my determination to assert myself and do things to my agenda. I never saw him alive again, as he had a heart attack following an extended US holiday. As to my mum, she lived until 2008. She had a stroke in 2000 and the last years were difficult, but we became very close. My mother was plain speaking. She told me that she'd also struggled to even like me for many years. All of my siblings had always been quite respectful to her, I hadn't. She said that whilst she had hated this, as she aged, she realised that it wasn't disrespect, it was the fact that I simply wouldn't tow the line and go along with things. When my father died and she became more reliant on us to help her run the business, she realised that this was a quality, not a defect in my personality. I would take no nonsense from anyone who was mucking her around and I was quite prepared to be very straight talking. This resulted in a huge increase in the income she got from the business. She told me that my Dad would always make silly compromises to keep people happy. I didn't, although I was fair. She said that it had taken her a long time to appreciate this. I had seen and heard people think she was a soft touch after my Dad died. We soon corrected this. I miss them both, they both supported me unconditionally, even though they didn't really like me much sometimes. 

3. Having arthritic knees. I love playing football, walking with the dogs and being active. These days it hurts pretty much all the time. But what do you do? I have decided to do all of them until I physically can't, even if it hurts. I once read about George Orwell, he said he'd had poor health all of his life, but this had been an incentive to do things when he could. He felt that if he'd have had rude good health, he'd probably have achieved nothing.

4. Having hairy ears. I have an irrational hatred of hairy ears. I'm not a super vain person, but this is one thing that drives me to distraction. It started a few years ago, when we went to Turkey. The barber shoved some green gunk in my ear, left it five minutes, then pulled it out. What emerged was like a hedgehog. The gunk pulled out had hundreds of hairs on it, all very ugly. I was horrified. Since then I've had a massive aversion to ear hair.

5. Friends moving 'to the countryside'. Over the last few years, ever more friends are moving out of London, for a quieter life and to 'cash in on the value of their house". I think they are mad. Why swap gold for lead? London has everything. I try and keep schtum when they talk about it. I quite looking at the ocean for ten minutes. I want to eat curry, go to gigs, drink peroni's at Bar Italia and drink beer at The Rake. My mum moved to Bournemouth after my Dad died, she was back within six months. 

6. People expressing surprise when I tell them I still play football. This seems to happen all the time. The 'aren't you a bit old for all that' question is ridiculous. Why on earth should we stop doing something we enjoy just because we reach a certain age. Many of our squad are a similar age, one member retired aged 73 a few weeks ago. He only retired as he'd had a pacemaker fitted and the cardiologist told him it would be sensible. I've noticed that those that are still active look far younger than those who have sat on the sofa for the last 20 years.

7.  Watching old comedies from the 1970's. These are almost invariably rubbish. These things that we had such fond memories of turn out to be completely unfunny and we wonder how we could ever have laughed. The fact that so much of our early lives was such tosh is something which troubles me.

8. Getting indegestion when I eat curry. I love having a curry and beer, but I do find that sometimes it gives me terrible indigestion. It never used to.

9. Not being able to wear the Ramones T-Shirt I bought at the Rainbow in 1977. In truth, it hasn't fitted for a very long time. But even if it fitted like a glove, Ramones T Shirts have become passe. It is a cruel irony that a band that had no commercial success have become a fashion icon. Having seen the band 20 or 30 times, it is just plain wrong.

10. My missus saying 'Grow up Roger'. This has become her catchphrase. In her head, I should be in the potting shed, football boots long ago hung up, pubs and currys a distant memory and the band playing elevator music jazz as people eat chicken and drink Pimms. I think she finds it hard to reconcile the fact that she's lumbered with a 58 year old idiot who hasn't realised that the sands of time have rolled in. In fairness, she's the one kept up when I can't sleep through bad knees, indigestion and frequent loo trips. She's the one who has to listen to The Damned on Xmas day at full volume as dinner is prepared. She's the one who is acutely aware that my Dad dropped dead when he was 69 and doesn't want the same to happen to me. So she's probably right, but don't tell her. 

As you might have guessed, I had a dream about my old mate Paul Hircombe last night. As ever in these dreams, he's come back to rehearse and I realise he's dead. Here is his finest moment, he wrote this number. If you like mellow, guitar based instrumental songs, you may like this. One day, I may re-edit with a proper video

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