January 30: how old are you?

A student asked me how old I was today. I said I can’t tell you my age; it’s against the rules. I don’t suppose it is, but I think it is normally a bad idea to reveal too much. One boy said; you’re either really old and look young, or really young and look old. I said: can’t I just be in the middle? No. The middle isn’t a place that fifteen year olds want to consider. I wonder what’s best: being old and looking young or being young and looking old?

If you are old and look young, you’re still old, and maybe old in places that are not visible. Still where’s the harm in being old? It has its advantages. If you are young and look old, you probably look old for a reason, which may not be good news. The index to our age is mainly numerical, but there may be others too. Your appetite for the future or your attachement to the past. As I get older, I find the past becomes a bigger and bigger resource. This may be another index of your age; how you look, forward or back? Having said that, sometimes I hear some fifteen year olds or eighteen year olds talking about their futures and I feel quite a bit younger than they are.


January 28: just a minute

As I was walking into the tube at Earls Court this evening I overheard a snatch of conversation between an elderly female Evening Standard distributor and a couple of bemused foreign tourists. You just had a minute, she was saying excitedly. Why just one minute? the Russian tourists were asking. That was the thing, she said. But you cannot explain everything about computer in one minute, the Russians replied, looking earnestly at her. No, you didn’t have to explain everything, said the news vendor. World of computer is complex, said one of the Russians.  And you couldn’t hesitate or repeat or go off topic, she said, carrying on regardless. Perhaps could explain in five or ten minutes or one hour lecture, they said. No, said the vendor, just a minute. The Russians were now looking for a way out. They looked at the cover of the paper.Who was this remarkable Nicholas Parsons? they seemed to be thinking. They exchanged looks and moved into the station as though into a strange now world.


January 26: refusing the fist-pump

I will never have a personal trainer. You see them in the gym high-fiving or fist-pumping stick-dry businessmen who, puce with embarassment, are suddenly, randomly, embarked in a world whose rules they do not know. I, you see, could not do this. I would turn down the fist-pump, eschew the high-five. I am like that. I can’t use the word ‘movies’, as it was not the word I used in my childhood. I went to the ‘pictures’ and need to run with this even today. I have high-fived, though. Although ironically. Once, naively, I tried it with a six-year-old, who looked at me with high disdain. The moral is: don’t do things you’re not comfortable with; don’t do things whose culture you have not investigated. A fist-pump. I don’t even know its provenance.


January 22: cultural roughage

If I’m not reading serious-ish material I’m not getting the roughage required to keep me well in the head. At the moment I’m giving Knausgaard a go (volumes one and two of his autobiography); next it will be a re-reading of Michel Tournier’s Gaspard, Melchior et Balthazar, an imagining of the stories of the three kings, then I’m giving Penelope Fitzgerald a go with The Blue Flower and then Thomas Bernhard’s autobigraphy which I remember as a real dose of bitter stuff. On top of this, for work, I’m re-reading Sartre’s Roads to Freedom  trilogy. If I’ve not got this inner narrative going on the outer narrative isn’t enough. I think that he way popular culture processes the complexity of the evolved human mind is one of the contributory factors to mental health issues. We have this complex brain dealing with a society shifting at break-neck pace, and culture, which is our way of dealing with ourselves, offers us Marvel films, Love Island. Quentin Tarantino, James Bond. posturing rap-artists. The immediate upshot of this is that we vote for comic book saviours like Donald Trump. But the real issue is the mush that happens when we try and use this goo as processing liquid for our lives.


January 12: our favourite asteroid

Sixty -five million years ago when that asteroid hit the earth and killed off the dinosaurs most discernable life on earth was annihilated. Gradually, over millions of years, things started to develop. The forests regrew and for millennia went unmunched because no creatures of any size could live.There were blind snakes that lived under ground. Strange creatures evolved. Huge burrowing moles, the size of an elephant. Tall creatures with three metre skulls and long necks like giraffes, but with wings.

At the end of all this, the last full stop of a massive tome, came man. And we seem to be on the way out. In what way are we cleverer. In districts of China research is underway to develop flying motor-cycles, presumably so you can get your pizza or your noodles delivered a bit quicker to your armchair. A drone will soon do all these personalized deliveries. Just eat, you fat bastard! Millions of instants of hyper-egotism characterzse our world. Now do you understand me when I tell you that people are rubbish. Happy 2020.