Crumbs. I am going to wake up tomorrow morning to find that I am 40 years old. Forty - wow, that is I suppose a big milestone in a person's life, to reach the big Four O and suddenly find that you're a real grownup. Is it time for cardigans, slippers around the house and Jazz FM ? Are Crocs and socks actually ok in the winter ? Will I wake up and suddenly find the urge to put aside childish things as I grow into my new middle age ? Well today I am still 39 years old and I'm kinda hoping that I will wake up tomorrow and still be the same person, albeit with a couple of creaks in my knees and shoulders that weren't there ten years ago. This is about where I am at very nearly 40 :
The film Stepbrothers makes me weep. Yes, I find the puerile humour incredibly funny. And I still think that The English Patient is the worst film ever made in the history of cinema, followed pretty closely by the fourth Indiana Jones film. A collective five hours or so of my life that I will never get back, and as you get older I guess that time becomes more valuable.
I believe that Predator, Roadhouse, Shooter and National Lampoon's Vacation are works of genius that will one day be recognised for the cultural landmarks that they really are. Come on - Arnie, mucho collective testosterone, really big guns and an alien hunting them down in the jungle - what could be better or more meaningful than that ? What, you mean you don't get the religious overtones ? Roadhouse's script is a work of genius that I know my brothers have quoted from in their films before and Chevy Chase in that first Vacation film makes me cry. Shooter's got sniping in it. End of story.
I remember records. I remember great big album covers on a record and I remember gatefold sleeves. I remember taping my records to cassettes to play in my Walkman. I remember the birth of the CD and a Metal Hammer front cover I think it was with Bruce Dickinson eating a CD covered with cream cheese. Or does my aging memory deceive me ?
I still love reading as much as I always have since I first learnt to read, and I still feel the same as I did when I was at school - you can take all that Shakespeare, Camus, Chaucer and Blake stuff and shove it where the sun don't shine (What's the meeeeaning of The Tempest Henry ? It's about a great big storm isn't it sir ? Fail). Give me Wilbur Smith, (early) Stephen King, (some) Tom Clancy, Stieg Larsson, Vince Flynn, Lee Child and "zombie literature" any day of the week. And yes, there is a part of me that has always wondered what it would be like if the dead did rise up from their graves. Would I be any good as a zombie-killing sniper ?
I still think that metal is incredibly awesome and that everybody else who does not worship at the altar that is death, heavy, black and thrash metal need their heads examined. I remember being 13 years old when the seminal "Reign in Blood" was released my Slayer. I bought the cassette to play in my 3-speaker subwoofer boom box (we called them something "different" back then that now would be considered incredibly un-PC) and it essentially changed my life. After more than twenty years with my wife I am still trying to get her to appreciate and understand the birth of serious metal and its incredibly interesting family tree through the ages. On that front though I have failed, but I don't give up easily.
I can still remember getting home from Reading with two glorious records in my hands when I was 16 years old - "Slowly We Rot" by Obituary and "Leprosy" by Death. How could I forget my dad running up the stairs and into my bedroom about a couple of minutes or so into this track here and shouting something along the lines of "turn that crap off Henry", and then not long after, "you'll grow out of this music soon". What joy to a teenager's ears !! Well I'm 40 tomorrow and I haven't grown out of it yet !! Sorry Dad.
Perhaps getting older does make one a bit delusional though, because deep down inside me there is a tiny, tiny part that thinks society is wrong and that people with my body shape do actually look pretty cool in the kind of compression gear I wear for most of my fishing these days (underneath other layers ok). So the rest of me knows that I look like a tit, and my wife's giggles as I get tooled up to go out fishing confirm that my body shape is not remotely suited to tight clothing, but that tiny part of me believes that just maybe everybody else is deluded. This has to be an age thing.
I still find politics and politicians about as exciting or as meaningful as sitting down hard on a sharp metal fence, and I find the world of international finance even less interesting if that is possible. When somebody tells me that they work for a bank in a big city I still tend to think of them sitting behind a glass screen cashing cheques and checking balances. I have always subscribed to the fact that we get only one shot at this life and that all the money in the world and the time taken to accrue it ain't worth very much when you're lying in that wooden box. I do personally believe that the time and energy I try my best (and sometimes fail) to give to the ones close to me is more valuable than a big bank account.
I can't stand opera, jazz, musicals, theatre, art galleries, architecture and cities other than Plymouth. As much as I am a cultural vacuum I happen to find the great outdoors all the inspiration I need to fill my own cultural cup.
I can tell my children about November 2003 when England won the Rugby World Cup and stood astride the globe as the finest rugby team of that era. What's that I hear ? Of yes, I do tell my girls about it in fact. I tell them how their Dad wept tears of joy when Jonny Wilkinson slotted that drop goal and Mike Catt then booted the ball out from the Aussie restart to hand England the trophy. And yes, my girls just look at me with a quizzical look in their eyes and go off to do something more interesting than listen to Dad reminiscing again about the good old days. But are those days perhaps, just perhaps coming back ? Be still my beating heart.................
As I approach what I guess is officially middle age tomorrow perhaps I should be lusting after an open-top sports car or even be having a bit of a mid-life crisis, but I am perfectly happy driving a 100,000 mile plus dirty silver Ford Focus diesel estate that has definitely seen better days, and I love my wife, I love being married and I love my two girls with such strength the like of which only a parent could know about.
I could never have imagined how it would feel to watch the woman you love go through pregnancy and childbirth and then in due course bring those defenceless little bundles back home to raise. To watch and nurture as your offspring start to grow, flourish, find their feet and in turn become their own people produces feelings that I never thought I would feel. My advancing years have given me all this and I could not wish for any more.
So tomorrow morning I will wake up and be 40 years old. I will go to an assembly at my youngest daughter's school and be incredibly proud but at the same time hope it doesn't last too long because I still can't still for long periods of. I will take Storm for a bunch of walks, go out for lunch with my wife and then have a little tea party with my girls when they get back from school. I plan on being the same person when I am 40 as I am at 39 today. Will I suddenly be a grownup when I wake up tomorrow morning ? Well my age might say so, but wouldn't life be boring if we all did the same things and all behaved in the same way ?