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Date: 08/06/12

Fifty Is An Irrational Number

Thirty years ago tonight (yes, I can be that precise, for reasons which will become obvious), I wrote the following verse (it was in the days when I could write the stuff):

"As I lay me down to rest
I wonder, "Am I past my best?"
We are but dust in cosmic light
I feel, no more so than tonight.

"Twenty years of nothing done,
Many like them still to come.
I look around and heave a sigh
As I bid my teenage years goodbye.

"Twenty years of life have passed -
Nothing changes, nothing lasts.
I realise, and catch my breath,
That I am one year nearer death.

"Look at my past, my future too:
So little done, so much to do.

"Midnight comes; thus tolls the bell.
One year closer to Heaven - or Hell.
Time's wingèd chariot draweth near;
It'll run me over yet, I fear.

"Yet comfort now I somehow find:
Age is just a state of mind.
For there is hope because, it seems,
I am still young if I have my dreams.

"I spit at age! Laugh at my sorrow!
Yesterday's gone - but there's still tomorrow.

"Twenty years of so much done,
Many like them still to come.
I'm twenty. So? It's just a date.
I'm still alive. Let's celebrate!"

The trouble is that even as I was perpetrating such post-adolescent doggerel, I knew that I didn't really believe in the second part of it. It was just that I felt that the first part was so unrelentingly downbeat that it needed a counterpoint, if only for the sake of what the meeja types call 'balance'.

I have always had a tendency towards a melancholic temperament, particularly with regard to the passing of time; I've always been far more aware of that than has ever been good for me. The thought that three whole decades have gone by since I penned the above crime against literary sensibilities in Room 199 of Pantycelyn Hall somewhere in the midst of my first-year exams (which I failed with near-catastrophic consequences) on the eve of leaving my teenage years is enough to induce a gloom and a sense of grim wonder that so much time could pass so swiftly and with seemingly so little to show for it.

"Many like them still to come". Ah yes, you got that one right didn't you, kid? In that respect, if in no other, you were wise beyond your years. It was as if you knew - knew without having even to think about it - that the flaws in your own character were such that not only were you too lazy to go out there and grab The Prize, you were too lazy even to correct that laziness. You knew that you had a feeling - an odd combination of the lack of self-confidence which had plagued you since you were small and the complacency which had come from believing your own publicity (as it were) in all those glowing reports from your teachers at primary school - a feeling that, however little effort you expended, the Universe would eventually pay you your due meed and drop into your lap.

Wrong, kid. Absolutely dead fucking wrong.

And so it is that this evening, nearly eleven thousand days and a blink of the eye later, you sit here typing for a tiny audience, burdened with self-reproach and regrets; regrets not for the things that you have done (such as they are) but for all the things you could have done, but didn't.

Whatever happened to your plans to be a writer who would combine the wit of Clive James, the grim irony of Edmund Cooper and the firmness of purpose of Saunders Lewis? Whatever happened to your wish to be seen as the maker of the pithy phrase, the persuader of the benighted serfs of your country that, yes, they could live and breathe free without the tit of Mother-In-Law England to suck on? Whatever happened to those thoughts of at least appearing on the radio frequently, where your ready yet cultivated wit and your quirky tastes in music might evince critical success?

Whatever happened to your fire? Whatever happened to (if you'll pardon the phrase) your spunk?

In short; whatever happened to you, boy?

But perhaps it was all just as well. I may have been singularly ill-suited to any of those rôles; someone of altogether solitary and reticent tendencies would probably not have fared very well in any of them, and even the messy contingencies of intimate relationships may have been too much for my psyche to cope with. I might well have ended up in either the nick or the nut-house (although I concede that there may still be possibilities in either of those directions). But I can't help wondering that it might have been interesting to find out.

Yet still I find myself trying to play the same trick upon myself as I did as the '1' changed to a '2' and the '9' to a '0'. I sit here knowing that - however few in number, however unable to offer me a fame and fortune which would now be of only limited attraction or utility in any case - someone will read this tosh, if only by the accident of a random search or an amusing mis-typing in their Search Engine Of Choice. And so, I feel the need to offer a sort of reassurance that I don't view the prospect of becoming Officially Decrepit in a couple of hours from now as being a moment for unrelenting gloom.

I can still see that - compared to a great many on this lump of rock in the Great Nothing - I have so far lived a fortunate existence. Even if I have been dependent upon medical science for my very survival for over twenty years, I am still able to clamber out of bed every morning (or, if I'm lucky, somewhere around lunchtime); even if my existence has been essentially solitary, I can count on friends, colleagues and of course family whose loyalty is beyond question or price; even if I have never ridden the crest of a wave in terms of what is usually regarded as success, I like to think that I have paid the rent on the bit of this Universe which I occupy; and even though I have from time to time been on the receiving end of some pretty shitty behaviour from others, I believe that I have done little harm in return (although this may stem more from the fear that I might get it terribly wrong if I did than from any intrinsic 'niceness' of character).

And so as the minutes tick away, the sun pulls away from the shore and my ship sinks slowly in the West, I find myself trying to offer reassurances to...well, to whom, exactly? The people reading this who know me and may worry about my state of mind? To the acolytes of Saint Tim, the patron of bloggers? To a passing stranger, lured here by a chance algorithm? Or merely to myself? If this last, then I'm not entirely sure that I've managed to convince myself any more than I did thirty years ago.

Oh well, fret ye not. I suppose I shall carry on playing hopscotch on the pavement of existence, if only because the only known alternative doesn't appeal. At least console yourself with the thought that I gave up writing 'poetry' a long time ago, and so will not be inflicting any more of it on you. Maybe...