During a recent radio interview promoting my debut novel (cue: promotion alert klaxon), I was asked about the Life Assistance Agency’s theme of longevity. That, and the advisability of driving to the Antarctic in a family car, which is certainly one way to achieve a never-ending car journey to plant a flag.
It has been a long-burning ambition of humankind to live forever, but humans have also been responsible for Smell-o-Vision, and Clippy, the MS Word Office assistant who offered even less useful assistance than the Life Assistance Agency, and only ever helped by minimising itself, so just because there’s been an idea doesn’t necessarily make it a good one.
I was being interviewed on BBC Radio Drive Time again, and I now question discussing the inadvisability of eternal life, due to it resulting in watching all the people you love age while you don’t. However, I fear they are still winching cars from hedges throughout Kent, as drivers lost their will to live. Thankfully the interview picked up. However, it did raise the question of aging, and how the raging against the dying of the light was once best expressed via purchasing an unsuitable soft-topped sports car with an acceleration faster than your reaction times, and an extramarital affair. But people don’t get old anymore, they just keep on keeping on. If millennial fashion for high waisted jeans is an indicator, midlife appears to start at twenty and stops at some point during a Saga cruise to Ibiza when you accidentally take more than your usual cheeky half and plummet off the side whilst inadvisably demonstrating your windmill.
Why is this? Well, we all live online now, where we’re all the same. We can now be everything to anyone (within reason) without the obvious giveaways of walking sticks and involuntary afternoon naps to expose you. There used to be time when you’d only get to flirt with someone on a date, yet now we’re all hiding under the table and sending up notes and flattering selfies.
Getting old always used to be so obvious. My Grandpa wore an old suit and brown shop apron all his working life, and on retirement he hung up his apron and simply stopped wearing the tie. Now men are wearing T-shirs into their 50s without anyone advising them not to, while women are borrowing their teenage daughter’s dresses.
For most men, the midlife crisis is something that happens to someone else: laughing at the mate who starts competitive cycling as a socially acceptable way in which to wear lycra, while they themselves stalk their first girlfriend on Facebook, or sign up to Rightmove alerts for potential pubs to transform into a B&B adorned with a DJ room and vinyl on the walls.
However, there are some clear signs: needing to diarise the next day’s hangover after a few pints in the pub is one, as is signing up for triathlons, getting excited about the News coming on and setting up direct debits to charities, but mostly it’s happening so gradually that no one notices, until you finally discard the roller skates you bought at university because they invalidate your life insurance. It’s probably a healthy denial, but perhaps when the time finally arrives we’ll be less prepared for it, like getting to the South Pole to realise you’ve left the flag at home.
My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 – is available here – – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance
A farcical road trip around Europe. ‘This is what would happen if the Blues Brothers went on a search for the Holy Grail.’
and on ebook here –