Oh Sh*t, I’m 60! On Being Blindsided by a Major Milestone
David Byrne was right. I am asking myself, “Well, how did I get here?”
When I was a teenager back in the days of yore – aka the late 1970s/early ‘80s – I used to wonder what life on Earth would be like in the year 2000. Would it be the futuristic utopia we saw on the Jetsons? Or would it be a terrifying hellscape overrun by Alien-esque predators with banana-shaped heads and corrosive drool? More importantly, would I achieve my dream of being an international rock superstar, captivating whatever remained of the human race and our extra-terrestrial tormentors with my majestic vocals and deeply profound lyrics? It was fun to muse about such scenarios, but then the lacerating realization that I’d be turning 38 in the first year of the new millennium would abruptly pop my daydream bubble. God, I’d be so very, very old! My adolescent brain couldn’t fathom such an advanced state of decrepitude.
Well, here we are in 2023 and what I wouldn’t give to be 38 again. I turned 60 late last summer and these many months later I have yet to come to grips with it. (And sadly, I’m not even a famous rock star to cushion to blow.) How in the name of Methuselah did this happen? 60 is just not a good fit for me. I feel simultaneously unworthy of such an august age – I lack both the emotional maturity and sage wisdom usually associated with a sexagenarian – and offended that the march of time would treat me like everyone else along its parade route. How dare the laws of nature apply to me! I demand to speak to the manager.
Recently I dreamt that I had some free time on my hands and after briefly entertaining the idea of doing something productive, like exercising or housework, I decided instead to re-watch one of my all-time favourite TV series, Veronica Mars, on DVD. I headed over to a video store where I used to work called Poppin’ Video (not a real place) to see if they had the box set available to rent. When I entered the store, I saw my old colleague Corinne behind the counter. (Not someone I know IRL, although she had kind of a Joan Jett look about her.) She didn’t seem all that pleased to see me, which wasn’t surprising given that I was a bit of a slacker when we worked together, often calling in sick or showing up late and generally shirking my duties when I was there. I asked whether the Veronica Mars box set was in stock and after sighing heavily and rolling her eyes, she went and found it for me. I dug my old Poppin’ Video membership card out of my wallet and handed it to her to secure the rental. Corinne examined the card and shook her head. “This is invalid,” she said. “Look at the name and address on the front.” It read:
Natasha Orange 222 Tanning Bed Blvd. Hot Pants, Florida Telephone: 867-5309
[Blogger’s note: I’m an American expat twice removed, having relocated to Canada early in the new century and then to the southern coast of England in 2016. This post details an important event in my immigration journey that had me stressing over an exam grade for the first time since my student days decades ago. ]
You know the classic anxiety dream where you’re at school and the teacher announces a pop quiz for which you are totally unprepared? Also, for some reason, you’re wearing nothing but tighty-whities? I felt a similarly palpable panic while wide awake and en route to take the Life in the UK Test, a requirement for immigrants like myself who seek permanent residency in Britain. Mercifully for the townsfolk I passed on the walk to the test centre, I was fully clothed. And sufficiently informed, or at least in theory: I had read and re-read the three-volume study guide published on behalf of the Home Office, the governmental department that rules on visa applications. I had also taken more than 40 practice tests, both in the guide and online, and passed them all – out of 24 questions, you’re allowed six incorrect answers and I had not missed more than four. And I’d been through a comparable process in Canada when I applied for citizenship there. Yet I couldn’t shake the unnerving sense that I was going to blow it. Long-suppressed memories of my scholastic shortcomings in adolescence resurfaced on cue to fuel this fear – the C- on that baffling algebra exam, the D for that botched frog dissection in biology, the essay that was returned so full of red marks it looked like a crime scene. Let’s just say I was never the teacher’s pet.
Chapter Seven: Oh! You Pretty Things (Wherein the Author Reveals a Frankly Unsettling Obsession with Home Accessories)
I can’t walk through our downstairs living room without looking at the mirror. Not in the mirror, although I occasionally sneak a peek at the old mug in passing just to make sure I don’t have mustard in my goatee or my eyebrows haven’t fused together overnight or something. (I live in mortal fear of the unibrow.) No, at the mirror, a simple oak-framed piece of glass, the latest addition to the still-evolving décor of our flat. It’s as Scandi-minimalist as they come and possibly too plain for many tastes, but to me it is a thing of unparalleled beauty and elegance. Not only does it bounce light around a somewhat dark space, but its blond wood frame is aesthetically harmonious with furniture pieces nearby, so it ties the room together with aplomb. And when the hubby put it up, he couldn’t have positioned it more perfectly on the wall – dead centre over the sofa – so I’m proud to say that it’s very, very well-hung.
BLOGGER’S NOTE: Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on people across the globe. The intent of this series is not to make light of the pandemic in any way, but rather to examine the author’s idiosyncrasies, which existed long before the virus and, all being well, will be there long after. In these uncertain times, we must continue to take every available measure to protect our personal and communal health. Thanks for reading and stay safe.]
One thing I’ve learned in these many months of hand sanitizing, nasal swabbing, and banana bread baking is that I am a creature of habit to the max. Admittedly, I’ve shown signs of this tendency in the past – for instance, I’ll eat the same thing for breakfast every day for weeks before I force myself to switch it up. But under the string of lockdowns imposed on Britain due to the coronavirus, I morphed into my super-boring alter-ego, Captain Routine. While others bemoaned the tedium of one day blurring into the next, I reveled in the same old same old. I went grocery shopping at the same time every other day – mid-morning, before the lunch rush. I stuck to a fixed rotation of exercise walks, ambling in an easterly direction one day and west the next, traipsing south on the third day and north on the fourth before starting the cycle over again. I listened to an album every time I sat down to lunch – just one, all the way through, though I permitted myself the whimsy of choosing from a variety of genres. And I worked on this blog most weekdays from 2:00 pm until 3:30 or so, allowing for breaks to surf Amazon and Discogs. (Given that I’ve only managed to produce one post every couple of months, I’d say those breaks were many and lengthy.) It’s been a regimented, repetitive existence that has suited me just fine.
Chapter Six: The Everything Room (It’s a Man Cave! A Music Hub! Guest Quarters! It’s Also a Floor Wax!*)
So far in this series on the thrills and spills of property ownership, I’ve tackled such sexy subjects as sump pump maintenance,storage shed de-cluttering, and bath towel symmetry. And readers have responded by staying away in droves! Just kidding, air kisses for my core group of beautiful masochists who have stuck with me as I’ve nattered on about DIY and decorating minutiae. I humbly request that you indulge me again for this latest effort, a rather giddy love letter to my favourite living space in the Portsmouth pad that the spouse and I have called home since late 2019. Huzzah! It’s the upstairs sitting room!
“You must own so many records,” a new friend of mine remarked the other day as we were having a discussion about whether she should buy a turntable. (Shouldn’t everyone?) It was a logical assumption on her part, for even though we’ve only known each other a relatively short time, she’s already learned what those near and dear to me have known forever: Music is my thing. My passion. The flame was lit when I fell head over heels for rock ‘n’ roll at the tender age of 13 and in the decades since I’ve remained a voracious consumer of recorded music in all its forms. I feel like I’ve bought enough LPs, singles, cassettes, CDs, and yes, 8-tracks in my time to fill the Hollywood Bowl twice over. So you’d think by now, at the gruff-and-grizzled age of [REDACTED], I’d have a collection worthy of that Guinness book of other records. Yet it pains me to admit that the quantity of albums currently on display in our guest room/media den, where the hubby and I keep the stereo and other man-cave essentials, is a tiny fraction of what it should be, given all that I’ve spent on physical music over the years. What the devil happened? Aye, ‘tis an epic saga of voyages to new lands, fickle fortunes, and reckless raids on the treasure followed inevitably by crashing waves of regret. So sit back, wee buccaneers, whiles I tells me tale of woe. (I don’t know why I’m suddenly channeling Geoffrey Rush from The Pirates of the Caribbean, but there ye go.)
Chapter Five: Better Living Through Bath Towel Symmetry (The Making of a Martha Stewart Wannabe)
[WARNING: The following post contains first-world problems that some readers may find exceptionally silly. Discretion is advised.]
I stepped back, took stock of my efforts, and let out a heavy sigh. Nope, still not quite right. The spouse and I had just bought two new John Lewis bath towels, Dusty Green™ and Dark Steel™ to match our bathroom tiles, and my mission was to get them to hang together perfectly on the radiator/drying rack. I expected nothing less than precise straight lines and crisp right angles, with the towels displayed in a fetching stair-step pattern – the dark grey towel on the top rung to the left and its green mate peeking out underneath to the right. But the several attempts I’d made thus far had failed to meet my stringent standards. This time, the one on the lower rung drooped at an unacceptable slant. Gingerly, I tried to straighten it, which only succeeded in making them both go cockeyed. What was I doing wrong? Continue reading →
When the spouse and I began the epic quest to find our forever home last year, we tried to be open-minded… ish. We were flexible on the location, so long as it was within walking distance of the hubby’s office. (Of course, COVID-19 has rendered that condition indefinitely irrelevant, as his office closed in March and he’s been Zooming from our dining room table ever since.) We were also open to a broad range of property types, including terraced and detached houses, bungalows, flats and two-storey maisonettes – a new and glamourous-sounding term for this uncultured Yank. Out of the 40 prospects we viewed, the only one rejected on sight was an overpriced penthouse flat inhabited at the time of our visit by the tenants from hell, whose decorating style might be described as Extreme Urban Squalor. The tangle of bras drying on the radiator in the lounge added a certain je ne sais quois, while the half-eaten pot of stew decomposing on the kitchen counter infused the dingy rooms with aromas of bad meat and worse life choices.
The coronavirus has put the kibosh on a slew of social activities for the time being, forcing many of us to conjure stay-at-home alternatives to fill our days. Bread baking has seen a rise in interest, as has posting the hit-and-miss results on Instagram. (Sorry, @theaussiebaker, but it appears you’ve seriously singed your buns.) Some dedicated fitness buffs have created home workout routines in order to beef up or slim down. I know, it sounds cuckoo to me too. My pal Tim is learning a bit of French, which will come in handy if he’s ever again able to travel to France, or even order in a French restaurant. (This COVID-19 is merde, non?) More than a few of us have even resorted to awkward video chats with friends and family to stave off boredom. Will Aunt Karen ever get her microphone to work? Tune in next week, or the week after, or the week after, to find out! Continue reading →