It was my birthday last weekend. I was fifty four years old. Some of my family came round and we had a very nice meal. My little squaw, the lovely Juanita, bought me a new bike, a nice silver and grey Carerra.  It has disc brakes and twenty one gears, and as you might expect, I’ve used every single one of the sorry fuckers. I don’t use the term squaw in any derogatory sense, you know. I’ve never told you this before but one 32nd part of her DNA is derived from a native Canadian ancestor on her father’s side. We’re so multicultural and diverse in my family, I’m sure you can sense the sheer vibrancy of it all through the screen on which you’re reading this. Her youngest brother, who’s my age all but a couple of months, looks like I would have imagined Hiawatha to have appeared in his prime. He still can only grow patchy facial hair, whereas I am fully hirsute. And strangely, when we were at school, many people thought that Nick was in fact my brother. I didn’t know my future bride at the time. I don’t have anything to do with her other brother. Circles within circles and all that. This is all a bit disjointed, isn’t it?

The other evening I was sitting alone up at the top of the garden under the apples and plums, catching the last of the evening sun and enjoying a still and silent half bottle of the Glenfiddich. I was entertaining inner visions of the end of civilisation, picturing a grey cold world laid waste by sheer tiresomeness, if such a word exists. The colour was draining out of everything around me as the sun sank below the hills to the west, between here and Brighton, illuminating the clouds above  in shades of salmon and tangerine, but greying out the bushes and shrubs around my top patio, and it reflected all that I was thinking in a strange kind of way.

But. You want to know what was the most pressing thought that I had on the occasion of my 54th, and upon which I was still brooding this particular evening, like a marshmallow in a microwave oven?  I realised that this is the birthday when you finally stop wishing and hoping that you might still not have reached the halfway point yet. The thought didn’t even occur this year. The knowledge comes crashing in on you that all is now dereliction, decay and a slow decline. I can be a right cheery fucker sometimes, when I set my mind to it. But it’s true. Statistics dictate that I’ve lived more of my life than there still is to come.

I went online to book a week away alone early next summer to cheer myself up. A week on my favourite Ionian island is available in May for less than £200. But I still haven’t committed myself. All is uncertain, all is in flux. I’m listening to Dusty Springfield singing in French right now. Life just gets better, doesn’t it?


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