Had the first twinge of my 33rd year today as I bent over to pick up my shoes. The crack of a dozen Castanets seemed to echo through my hallway and over my back passage as I stood hunched slipping on a hurriedly half polished loafer. 33 is quite an age for me. It's the oldest I've ever been and the youngest I'll ever be again but it still feels like a mugger that's appeared from the shadows in front of me and demanded my youth. Am I officially now 'out' of the circle of the young? When does middle age actually commence these days? Statistics do show that people generally live a lot longer if they've managed to side step illness and wayward drunk drivers or postcode gang stabbings but if three score and ten is the age the majority aim for Biblically speaking then i'm only 2 years away from the half way point. Jesus was 33. Hendrix didn't make it and some simply don't know when to cash in their chips with dignity. 30 itself is a milestone and new chapter in any mans life. Your twenties are a blur or at least mine were and I know for sure that if I met the 22 year old version of myself on the train I would think "you're going the right way to end up a bitter old fucker my lad" and hopefully he would have put his feet up on the seat and turned up the music one notch louder, after all a young man who listens to the advice of the old is generally set to repeat the mistakes of the speaker without any of the knowledge gained from the experience of error.
Here are few things I've picked up and learned along the way that are meant to amuse and are free for the taking if desired. If not then that's fine too as the band-aid and bandage business would be on course to bankruptcy if people started following warning signs.
Things I've learned.
1) Always know when to leave the party. To soon is too rude but if you're tapping away on your mobile come 4am looking for "numbers" you know you're prolonging a dead end gathering like a Dodo on life-support.
2) There are only two types of music. Good and bad. Now this is a quote that's been attributed to everyone from Louis Armstrong, Ry Cooder to Duke Ellington but whoever first said it was bang on the money. Music is all about the venue, atmosphere and company. I refuse to share some music with those less worthy to appreciate it fully.
3) Try your best to tell the truth. It's a hell of a lot easier to remember. They say a good liar disguises the lie with detail and real imagery but when the fallacy is re-earthed out of the blue the pieces of the jigsaw will always be harder to fit on the fly, especially when dodging the effects of a hangover or a set of accusing eyes. The truth is the same today, tomorrow or next year.
4) 'Real' is overrated. No dear listener I haven't immediately spun a coin of contradiction from my previous statement, this only relates to tall tales and drunken party reminiscence not sworn testimony. This is related to anecdotes told by yourself to amuse or amaze. It's all about the delivery. Building up to a story with a preamble of "This reminds of a story I once read in an old newspaper I saw laying on a park bench in Brixton and I thought that...etc.etc" has already lost the concentration of the listener who now with a cracked smile fading is quietly judging your shoes, un-matching socks or incredibly cheap sickly sweet Cologne you've chosen this week. Get to the point or at least A point. "That reminds me of a time in Soho with a trio of Russian diplomats and a one armed piano player..." this will always sound better even if based on legend, after all the point of a story or fun anecdote is to raise a smile from the listener and hopefully keep the attention drawn to you. You never know if you keep talking they might get another drink in.
5) Even the worst drink in the world tastes fine after the third round. This is a lesson I learned from imbibing a friends home made wine at a Xmas party. Upon initial inspection and tasting of the bruise coloured liquid it loudly polluted my taste-buds and ravaged my tongue like a Panzer attack of deicer and value grapes. After the conversation had darted and grown with regular top ups along the way it seemed that I'd been won over and this was in fact a cheeky little number that wouldn't be out of place at a relatively clean Italian eatery.
6) Everyone looks good in a suit. Now I know this can be an issue with some as they feel too formal and constrained within the confines of a pinstripe off the peg three piece but if you've actually bought the correct size or have relaxed and actually asked an assistant to measure you and chosen wisely with a jacket that fits both your shoulders, arms and doesn't hang past your open palm you'll find you've never looked better in your life. A tracksuit outside of a gym or ripped jeans outside of a casualty waiting room is never a good look for someone old enough to remember when Channel 5 was still a pipe dream.
7) Complements work better than flattery. They are definitely different things altogether. When someone has clearly made an effort with their hair, dress, make-up or even finally looked up some YouTube page you sent them six months ago regarding the correct way to polish ones shoes and have followed it to the letter then bring it up. It'll make them feel good, show them that their efforts have not been in vain and hasn't caused you the slightest unrest or hassle. Flattery is someone a crawling P.A's does when discussing the bosses golf swing.
8) When it comes to Art, age is irrelevant. Whether you're reading a book, watching a movie or listening to a Alan Lomax field recording of a teenage Muddy Waters singing and playing it is of no consequence of the age of the piece. Plenty of things happened before you were born, some that are far greater than anything to happen after and their worth isn't based on your personal time-line. Being uninformed or ignorant on a myriad of subjects isn't something to take a bow over, after all Napoléon died nearly 200 years ago...but I still know he lost.
"I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony." - Peter O'Toole
Tomorrow is promised to nobody. Now where is the fire escape. Chin-chin!