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The age

An update on the ebay auction I announced yesterday. (a) The bath duck is up over the two-pound mark (and the signed copy of my book, amazingly, is up to 31 quid). (b) I am now putting another couple of interesting Watson-themed items up there, to really pump up the pressure. Namely: two tickets to a show of your choice (by me), including a ‘backstage tour’ where I will make you a cup of tea. AND the chance to have a minor character in my next novel named after you. Pretty cool. Cool enough to make it worth going to www.tiny.url/pohnpeisoccerebay. No?

Responses from yesterday also reveal that nearly everyone remembers Sesame Street with fondness, thankfully. Not all that surprising I guess, as I think it was still on until very recently – on Charlie Brooker’s show ‘You Have Been Watching ‘ we watched a remarkable clip of James Blunt appearing on it. But I’m definitely at the stage of my life where, to be frank, I’m Older Than People. This is something I’m trying to address positively, rather than running away from, by doing this ten-year blog. Keeping what amounts to a diary of the decade is an attempt to rationalise the passing of time, remind myself (through your interactions) that it’s passing for everyone in the same way, and it’s fine. And when I start to nudge towards my forties, at the other end of this blog, it will also be instructive to look back to some of the 2010 entries and remember that things weren’t necessarily better when I was younger, just as, if I could look now at my diaries from 2000, I wouldn’t regret the fact that I’ve aged, but instead be grateful that I no longer live solely on pasta and Mars bars, and have had sex.

There is also a certain dignity that comes with the first advances of age. I’ve come to quite like saying things like ‘I’m a bit older than you…’ or ‘I’ve been around long enough to know…’ to support my arguments, which has possible for the first time since I notched up 30. The reassuring illusion of wisdom is easier to pull off. Experience in its own way is as gratifying as the wide-eyed energy of youth. I was on Frank Skinner’s radio show this morning and he’s over 50; he was talking about the bizarreness of being older than the Prime Minister. But I know which one I respect more.

Also, I think people have an ‘ideal age'; some people love being 18 so much they never entirely admit they’ve left it behind (like Jon Bon Jovi, whose boast ’18 Till I Die’ is looking increasingly hollow now), while others only really hit their straps when they’re into their sixties and they get to do things they’ve been somehow building up to all that time. I think for me, between about 35 and 45 is the age I was – as it were – always meant to be. Old enough to be producing your best work, young enough to still be playing tennis.

After that, we’ll see. Hmm. It’s not THAT far off. Maybe we’ll say between 35 and 55. That sounds better.

38 Responses

  1. Catherine says:

    Definitely sounds better. 35-55.

  2. Helen says:

    When I was about 7 I used to think 16 was my ‘perfect age’ – oh how’d confident I’ll be! I’ll have a job! I’ll look so grown up!

    Well, I’m 17 now and can safely say I was really really stupid when I was 7.

  3. Emmy says:

    Oh no! Please don’t use that phrase in arguments. Few things annoy me more. Although if you want to engage me into an argument (which is something I don’t like to do), then do say it. And I will win. :P

    I second Helen’s comment. I used to think being 15 would be a great time. It really wasn’t. 19 isn’t going too bad though…

  4. Misha says:

    I’m with Emmy, such phrases make me want to kick people, but then I suppose i’m more mature than the average 18 year old because of my ahhh “life expreriences” A horrible phrase. Having said that I’ve always been called “mature for my age” and “an old head on young shoulders”.

    When I was little I wanted to be 10, 10 seemed amazing. I largely enjoyed being 10. I don’t know what my optimum age would be, I’d be inclined to say 28. But I reckon I’ll make a good grandma. But at this stage, 28. I reckon that might be my time, old enough to have done things, young enough to do more.

    Hmm.

  5. When I was 16 I was a helper with a group of 6 to 8 year old Beaver Scouts in Belfast (I’m still a Beaver Scout Leader now – 30 years later!) Anyway, I turned 17 and the Leader organised the children to give me a big birthday card and sing happy birthday to me.

    As soon as the song finished, one of the little boys turned to me and asked ‘Keema, how old are you?’ and I told him – ‘Seventeen’

    ‘Gosh!’ he said, ‘That’s really old!’

  6. Lynsey says:

    Wasn’t it Bryan Adams who said “18 Till I Die?” I think he had an album called that, anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jon Bon Jovi said the same thing, though.

  7. Kathryn says:

    I always think it’s better to be an odd-number age than an even number, but that’s just me, I’m strange. It sounds more fun to say you’re 17 than 18. No idea why, though.

    I too used to help out at a youth club thing. One of the older girls was talking about her birthday- she’d just turned eight that week. I realised she was born in 2002. Which is, frankly, a bit disturbing. I’m only 18, I don’t want to feel old quite yet, thanks.

    I always thought I would be cool when I was older. I’m still uncool, I’ve just grown to accept it by now.

    That was all a bit rambly and incoherent; it must be the heat.

  8. Lynsey says:

    I used to think 21 was my ideal age. It seemed like the age when you finally, officially became an adult. My excitement turned to disappointment when I actually turned 21. Now the age I am at now (29) seems more my age. Well it’s going better than I thought it would anyway.

  9. Sephy says:

    Is it just me for whom that link doesn’t work?

  10. I’m 18 and thought this would be a fun age. I haven’t enjoyed it as much as I hoped, so now I tend to ignore ages as I feel the same year in year out.

  11. P.S that link wouldn’t open for me.

  12. Iona says:

    When I was about 6 I thought being 10 would be really cool.
    When I got to 10, 16 became the new cool age.
    Now I’m 16 and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I think my ideal age will probably be about 26.
    We’ll see what I think about that when I’m 26!

  13. Megan says:

    A few years ago, when a good friend had a crisis about turning 30, I told him that there are really only three ages, as defined by when you get discounted movie or bus tickets for being young, when you have to pay full price, and when you’re again given discounts for being old. It cheered him up immensely.

  14. Natalie-Helen says:

    Ah, when I was about 10 nothing seemed better than being 18 years old. It wasn’t so good really.

    Now we are 20 (to paraphrase a series of books) and I realise that in my head I have got no older than 18. I’ve even put 18 on forms and told strangers I’m 18 because it just hasn’t clicked that I’m not.

    Also ( at the risk of being berated by those older) I really really don’t want to be older than 21. That birthday is rapidly approaching and I just wish I could stop. I don’t care that you can’t drink in the US or hire a car ( I don’t like alcohol that much anyway and can’t drive). Its like youth ends at that point. Finished uni, got to get a job, paying tax properly etc. Sucks to be 21 is my point.

    ^_^

  15. Gilly says:

    I’m in the U.S. and it won’t let me bid with my ebay account. This makes me sad.

  16. Phill Sacre says:

    We have a weird thing about age in this country anyway. Maybe it’s all countries. Because my birthday is in August, I was always the youngest in my class, so I’ve always had a thing about being “the youngest”. Now I’m 26, which means that I am at least ten years older than some of the other people who comment here. And you know what? It means sod all. I have a bit more experience, maybe, I’ve done a few more things than I had ten years ago – but really, life is all about making the best of the time that you have, when you have it.

    Age is nothing. Do what you feel like doing whatever age you are (breaking the law is probably not a good plan, however).

    Oh, and I remember Sesame Street too!

  17. LisaD says:

    I love being in my 30’s. I find it relaxing. This is the first time in my life that I am genuinely unconcerned about where I “should be” in life and am therefore able to focus on where I am. Don’t particularly like where I am, which sucks, but paying attention to that instead of some made up chart of when one should be successful at what part of their life means I can pay attention to what I need to be doing now.

    Also Sesame Street is still making new episodes (in the States as well as a couple dozen other countries). I know this cause A) I watched a really brilliant documentary about making Sesame Street in countries with rather specific issues to face (like the show in Israel that involved some pretty intense negotiations with the government about including Palestinian children) B) a friend of mine is interviewing to work there next week (go Alex!) and C) I watched it yesterday.

  18. Rachel Winter says:

    Ah, isn’t it sweet that you think 30 is old.

    meant completely unpatronisingly of course…!

  19. Lauren says:

    Mark, I already have tickets for your show… can I please have tea with you too just for the sake of it? :D

  20. Madeleine says:

    I turned 17 on thursday and I finally had to admit that I’ll never be a child star. I’ll never have the word “wunderkind” before my name, no one will ever introduce me as “All this, ladies and gentlemen, and she’s only 16!”. Oh well, if I really cared that much I probably should have cultivated some kind of talent in this 17 years.
    To you Mark, I know you know you’re not old, but still, think of all the people you’re younger than. You’re younger than Alex Kapranos (he’s 38!!! Can you belive that. It’s going to be weird when we get married) Julian Casablancas (who is probably the coolest guy ever), You’re younger than Noel Fielding (though you should try and get hold of whatever blood of virgins tonic he’s drinking) and shit loads of other dudes, many of whom only got REALLY popular when they got into their thirties. I reckon you’re right about that happening for you as well.

  21. Ally says:

    The thing I hate about being 18 is that everyone expects me to go out clubbing until early the next morning and enjoy it. I don’t understand how this practice could be enjoyable. It’s awful. I hate it. And my friends still make me go out with them.

    I’m looking forward to being older and having better excuses for not going out clubbing.

  22. Rose says:

    The idea of an ‘ideal age’ is rather interesting to me. I’m 19 and tend to get mistaken for 22 or 23. When I tell people I’m 19, they’re surprised. And yet – 22 isn’t that much older than 19. Is there really such a big difference?

    I had a discussion with one of my friends in which I complained that being 19 was irritating because of the connotations – like Ally says, we’re supposed to be out clubbing and being immature and irresponsible – and I would much rather be 25, because that’s still young, but you can be a proper adult at the same time.

    My friend responded that isn’t it better to actually BE 19 but be mistaken for 25? Because then by the time you’re 25, you won’t want to act like a 19 year old who seems 25. You’ll want to have moved on from that! Age is such a ridiculous construct! How baffling!

    Also, a few years ago I determined that you’re not old until you’re 80. I used this basic logic:
    Is 20 old? No.
    Is 30 old? No.
    Is 40 old? No.
    Is 50 old? -looks at mum- No.
    Is 60 old? No.
    Is 70 old? No. A 70-year-old has earned the right to *say* they’re old, but really they’re not.
    Is 80 old? Gosh, yes.
    And anything older than 80 is a miracle. I look at people who are, say, 90, and honestly – they have lived through SO MUCH and are still breathing! Wow!

    Maybe that’s why I’m not pursuing a degree in philosophy. Whatever!

  23. Heather says:

    My 26th birthday was this past Wednesday, but I didn’t feel like it had much of an impact. Maybe because I’ve gotten used to saying my Korean age, which is 27, so turning 26 didn’t seem like that big a deal.

    What does freak me out a bit is realizing that even most of my older students — the students I have actual conversations with — were born after I graduated from high school. I’ve always felt young for my age (and looked it too, which use to irritate me much more than it does now), but that makes me feel a bit old.

    Happy belated Birthday to my almost-birthday-twin Madeleine! 17 was an unremarkable year for me; hope you have a more exciting time of it!

  24. lisa brunders says:

    I read this blog when it was first posted and came back today to read the comments. Rose’s comment reminded me of something my Dad said.
    He was 79 at the time, a few months before his 80th birthday, and he told me he just wanted to live to be 80 as 79 didn’t seem anything special, but 80 did, it seemed like a good age! He’s now 82 and a half, I think halves start applying again after 80!

  25. amycool says:

    I’ve never been very good at being young. I was yearning for my own house when I was about 5. I recently read my Year 6 school report (aged 11) where we had to write our own reports of how we had done and (embarrassingly) I mention on at least two occasions how immature everyone in my class was. :-)

    Then I was given a book about Capricorns (when I was about 12) and the book said that my early years would be quite troubled but that everything would get progressively better as I moved towards my 40s. I have absolutely no belief in astrology (no doubt most Capricorns had wonderful teenage years) but it does seem to be true for me. My 20s have been about 2000 times better than my teens, even taking into account being diagnosed with bronchiectasis.

    I find that the older I get, the less worried I become. If I’d told me aged 15 that in 10 years time I still wouldn’t have my own home and that I’d be working part-time in a library, I would have been terribly anxious and disappointed. Now, I just don’t give a shit! I’m happy and that’s all that matters. I’m really looking forward to being in my thirties. I just really hope that my lungs stay relatively healthy so I can keep going into my 70s. I’m going to nominate 37 as my perfect age.

    I wish I had some money for the eBay auction but sadly I have none. I hope you raise lots though.

  26. Steph says:

    Leave Jon BJ alone :)
    And I rather like being 17. Only got a month left of it now. BRING ON ADULTHOOD!

  27. Laura says:

    I have a scary feeling my ideal age is somewhere around 65 – retired and legitimately entitled to watch Midsomer Murders endlessly without people thinking that I am weird. I love it.

    As I already have tickets to one of your shows, and have tickets for this evening but can’t go owing to excrutiating back pain (and thus have already contributed to the cause without any of the fun), could you make me tea at the show I am going to? Pretty please? If not, I will settle for a character being named after me. Actually, I think I would prefer that.

    Also, glad you have heard of Terris; when I wrote that comment I genuinely thought nobody else would know what I was talking about…

  28. Lydia says:

    Please don’t use your age to back you up in an argument, it’s really arsey, it might make someone want to poke you in the eye.

    I still feel like I’m playing house or the real grown up will be home any moment to take over from me. I am a bit sad that my son is going to be a teenager soon, that’s more scary than me hitting 30.

  29. Sue says:

    According to your 35 to 55 age range, I’m at my peak now.

    My teenage years were a spotty, shy, bewildering state, my twenties were spent settling down and starting to have a family, my thirties were spent bringing up the family and edging back out into the workplace, and my forties have been about getting ME back again, not just being someone’s Mum and wife. So far I like my forties; the spots never really went away though. :)

  30. Anna says:

    I think my ideal age was about 8. I was clever, I had lots of friends, I spent my weekends and evenings riding my bike, or playing run-outs, or generally messing about outdoors. The worst thing that had ever happened to me was falling off my bike onto a gravel path. I’d love to be 8 again, nothing complicated ever happened, and if it did my mum and dad could geneally fix it.
    Teenage years were rubbish (I had no friends and a self harming habit), I was drunk for most of the first half of my twenties (which I claim is exacly how you’re supposed to spend your early twenties), and now, without realising quite how it happened, I’m a wife and mother and I’m expected to act like an adult. Well, I don’t want to be an adult, it’s boring! I don’t want to cook everyone’s bloody dinner and make sure they’ve got clean bloody socks.
    I’m looking forward to being old- say about 75ish. The age when you can finally start acting like a child again and get away with it. But as I’m only 28 now I’ve got a few more years of being responsible and hating it to put up with first.

  31. Meg says:

    I’d happily repeat most of my childhood – preferably before I went to school. Before I got to Year 3 anyway. Looking back now, I realise that everything was so easy back then!

  32. Megan says:

    Damn! I keep being outbid on the book w/intro!

  33. Rachael says:

    I’m waiting for my 60’s, retirement seems like fun. Although by the time I reach it they probably won’t be letting people retire until after a telegraph from the queen or death.

  34. DeborahF says:

    Well I’m 36 and therefore older than you Mark. I don’t really think about an ideal age I’ve always been happy with the age I am – but then deep down I’m an optimist so will always see the best in all ages and situations. Perhaps I’m like a fine wine – getting better with age until I’m over 80 when I’ll probably turn bitter and horrible.

    The only promise I’ve made to myself is that I’ll grow old disgracefully. I want to be one of those grannies skydiving (preferably strapped to a younger, good looking instructor) for their 80th birthday :)

  35. lex says:

    I have a couple of ideal ages. One of them is four, before the big mean social world assaulted wee me. Another is whenever I get old enough to dress like a mad drama teacher (think Dr Who and Nana have a baby – tweed, long scarves, big purple mohair anything, pocket watches, crazy hair) and make it look distinguished. So about 40-45+

    Now’s pretty rad too. Young enough to run (if I’m being chased) old enough to say “what’s all this Jedward thing then?”

    Teenage years were yuck and early twenties, while eye-broadening, were, as you’ve said, far too full of pasta and chocolate (and whatnot else) to be truly nourishing.

    She says, eating lasagne.

  36. DeborahF’s comment about skydiving made me laugh!

    I’ve just about got my head around being 20 (in my mind I was still 18; I think I’ve only managed to get used to it by thinking of it as a number, rather than an age) … and I feel like a total non-entity.

    I’m not a child, because I have a job, I can drive, and I stand in front of groups of kids who look up to me as an adult and teach them things they don’t know. But I’m not an adult, by any means. I’d be totally incapable of running my own household, I have no life experience, and I get homesick after two nights away! (I also am an incurable fan of children’s TV … )

    By ‘no life experience’ I mean this is my first proper job (I actually had to have an interview – but even that wasn’t really a proper interview); I’ve lived in a village all my life and even things like public transport were a totally new discovery for me at the age of about 16; it took me until 18 to actually be able to go shopping (only through necessity) by myself, etc.

    Also like Phill I was always one of the youngest, but now I work with three people who are younger than me (all of whom have more life experience than me, though) so no wonder I get confused!

    I’ve no idea what my ideal age will be, but if I were to go back to a younger age it’d have to be before the age of 4, before I suddenly became vaguely self-aware and turned into an introvert!

  37. Clembear says:

    I completely agree with the comment on odd-numbered years, they do sound cooler.

    I think feeling young or old is entirely relative – in offices where I’m the youngest I feel very young; in youth hostels, I’m the creepy late 20-something frightening the gap year kids and feel decidedly old.

    But how about, people born in the 90s are at university now. Isn’t that scary!

    And you can have a conversation with someone born in the 2000s. Who won’t know what videos are. That’s a fun game too – how old are people who remember just 4 channels eh? Jumpers for goalposts!

  38. Knox says:

    i love that as i’ve got older, i’ve realised that you don’t really grow up. not really. (or maybe that’s just me…).

    i like the age i am now. i have a disposable income (and boy, do i dispose of it), i have a number of brilliant friends, and i get to do all the things i enjoy doing. at one point or another in the past, at least one of those three things were missing.

    i’m not in a rush to get older, but not too worried about it either. well, not for now, at least.

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