Tuesday 11 November 2014

And many more...

Birthdays eh? Who'd have em? Well, we all do, unless your religion instructs you not to celebrate them. But even if you don't choose to acknowledge them, either way, whenever that date specific to you rolls around, you're another year older.

I'm not sure when birthdays stopped being simply the most exciting day of the year barring only Christmas. I remember the night before my tenth birthday, sobbing, telling my dad that to be turning double figures truly marked the end of childhood, and I was not very sure I wanted that, hence the sobbing. How my dad kept a straight face I'm not sure as it would be another three years before that childhood made way for the, no less childish in many respects, teenage years. But still, I knew even then that it was the first step on the long road towards adulthood, with all it's strange restrictions, preoccupations and responsibilities. Thankfully the day itself went painlessly enough. Some friends came round, we watched a magician make us animal balloons and we covered t shirts with neon paint, usual birthday stuff really. I remember shutting the front door as the last of my friends left, about half nine as I recall (a raver from the start me!) and saying in dramatic tones 'oh, peace at last!' (I know, I was a tooth gratingly precocious child at points) Anyhow, I opened my gifts, which included one of these bad boys... Pogo balls do you remember them? An awful hobby for someone with my balance, but at least it got me outside. I also got a new school bag, non branded, cos that's just how I rolled (or what we could afford, but mum, remember, it mattered not a jot in the long run) the aptly titled Dangerous single on cassette (may I point out that this was pre-court case and baby dangling Jacko days, and the B side was Black or White which may I remind you had Macauley Caulkin fake rapping on it!) and the Annie Lennox Walking on Broken Glass casingle. Before I got the Annie Lennox tape I had been walking around singing those lyrics as 'feels just like I'm walking on broken down!' and seeing the title of the single gave me one of those, oh, um, that makes more sense, moments.

Since then I've had a fair few birthdays, well, nineteen to be exact, some good, some not so much, but they have always been a bench mark against which to measure where I am in life. They remind me that I've made it through another year, and that always feels like an achievement. Like a lot of people who experienced loss at a young age, I've always felt my mortality ringing in my ears like a church bell. I honestly used to think I'd never make it past 21, and I remember the moment that I did. I was at Centraal station in Amsterdam, while my friend sorted out our tickets and I was sitting on the floor clutching my head in the midst of a waking hangover. We had been to the pancake house near to Anne Frank's (I mean to go to Anne Franks house every time we go but there is always a queue and I never seem to make it past the pancake house! For shame) and I decided the perfect birthday breakfast would consist of a boozy cream filled pancake with a large cocktail followed by an Irish coffee. This was in direct contradiction of the advice of my future partner, sodding know all that he is. The crushing reality of the day hit me on that cold floor and this reality consisted of three things, 1. Excess dairy and alcohol are not great bedfellows, 2. I was going to have to travel home in that state and 3. I had made it, I was 22. Amsterdam had taken the last of my youth I was returning home a 22 year old. I no longer lived with my parents, I was no longer a student and I had to find a job if I wanted to continue eating and, y'know, live and stuff.

Still, it's not like I suddenly became excessively responsible at 22. Everyone around me was still up for partying and discovering who they were and the next three years passed hedonistically enough... I don't think I felt the weight of my age again until I turned 25. This time the reality that smacked me around the face like a fish wielded by Mr Cleese was, not only had I made it past 21, but I was a quarter of century old, a quarter of a century! And that thought sent me into a mini panic, what the hell had I been doing with my life, what did I have to show for myself? No house, no kids, no particular career plan, what were the certainties of me that I could hang my hat on?

That was the year my partner bought me one of he best presents I've ever been given, a Mont Blanc fountain pen with a little notebook with the tree of life on the front. Written on the first page were the words, 'for my monkey, WRITE MORE, Happy Birthday.' At the time I had been writing the odd thing here and there, passing printed copies amongst my friends and forgetting to keep back ups of anything. But these simple words of encouragement, along with the kick ass pen, filled me with excitement because this, writing, was an important part of who I am. It helps me to learn, to grow, to think, it helps my self esteem, and it is certainly something I could hang my metaphorical hat on.

Since then there have been a few notebooks, some bought by me, some gifts from others. I always look for a specific sort of paper inside, thick enough to take the fountain pen but not the kind that will leak or smudge. Loads of the posts that end up in this blog start out life in those notebooks, as a few words or sometimes an almost finished thing. I'm actually writing this blog in my current notebook, and yes, this does mean I have to type the bastard thing up, but it helps massively with the stream of consciousness to write in that manner, especially as my pen now suits my hand so completely it feels like it was made for me. Of course, not all the thoughts jotted in those notebooks ever leave the page. Dependant on my mood it can just end up full of diary type moans, to-do lists or bad attempts at poetry. But that's the joy of having a notebook, it's yours to do whatever you like with, and it's very freeing.

And so, now I approach the big 3-0, and even though it shouldn't mean anything, it's just a number, it somehow means everything again. Another yard stick against which to measure myself. Some of the facts remain the same, no house, no kids, but not all. I have more money than I ever used to, I can save for the future, I am making plans for the future, my partner has graduated Uni as a mature student, and the world is, in theory, our oyster. But the thought that makes it less scary either way is this, I'm a writer. Good, bad or indifferent, no one can take that away from me.

So please join me in raising a glass to all of us, on our birthdays, each one as insignificant and important as the last, and to us for celebrating the passing of time on these occasions, rather than lamenting it. Also, I feel compelled to point out, that it is the thirty year anniversary of 1984, not only the year that I popped into the world to whitter at you, but a year when so many pop culture classics were born. To prove my point, and because it was fun researching this, these are the films that hit our collective consciousnesses in that year, to name but a few...

Ghostbusters, The Terminator, Gremlins, Beverly Hills Cop, The Last Starfighter, Splash, The Karate Kid, The Neverending Story, Night of the Comet, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Romancing the Stone, and the Muppets take Manhatten!

Okay, so, it wasn't perfect, Back to the Future was a whole year away and it was an odd numbered Star Trek year, but we were living in a post-Star Wars, post-Alien world before all the bad sequels and prequels, and I am proud to have born into such an optimistic year for entertainment, if nothing else!

So, how shall I spend the day? Well, I'll be working actually, as sometimes has to happen when you're a growed up person, but hey, it doesn't matter, thirty years feels like a benchmark. I feel privileged to have made this long and hopeful for the future, and that's about as much of a birthday present as anyone could hope for really.

So cheers to all of you for reading and for always giving me a reason to WRITE MORE.

Oh, in the words of the trench coat detective, one more thing... 1984 was also the year that Wham released Wake Me Up, Before You Go Go. Why does that matter I hear you cry?! It matters because, without that song, this epic scene of cinema history just wouldn't have had the same impact would it? ;)

Orange mocha frappuccino

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