Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash
“…inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.” (Terry Pratchett in Moving Pictures).
Quite often on social media platforms, one reads an inspirational quote designed to elevate one’s nascent spirituality out of the amoral gutter that is your actual existence, and up into the bright new dawn of enlightened awakening. These range from the cliched ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ through to the prosecco and gin referencing banalities and on towards the seemingly profound, yin-yang adorned, insights from a chap with a Tibetan sounding name who actually lives in Tooting called Trevor. These oft convoluted phrases involving ‘wellness, mindfulness and resilience’ are, when examined, no more enlightening than the mental meanderings of a psychotic monk overdosing on magic mushrooms. You will easily spot these quotes because they come illustrated with a sunset, a lotus flower or a buddhist temple. They are harmless, and if that’s how you like your spirituality, who am I to argue?
Then there are the memes and quotes about ageing, usually about how it is a frame of mind, and that you can be young inside despite all of the signs and symptoms to the contrary. These ignore insidious decrepitude in which one’s inner vital life force has checked its passport, packed the sunscreen, set the ‘out of office’ message to ‘fuck off’ and bought the tickets to never never land from which it will never return. Ever.
These memes often assume that being ‘young of mind’ is an unequivocal ‘good thing’, with the logical conclusion that being ‘old of mind’ is not. Well, is it?
Take a young man’s ‘frame of mind’ and hold it up to the harsh scrutiny of reality rather than illusion, self deception and misplaced confidence. I can speak with some authority here as, believe it or not, I too was once a young man who had many young men as friends, while today I am besieged by young men offering insights and opinions who are only too willing to express them to whomesoever is stupid enough to stand still and breathe just for a second in their offline and online company. I recognise this frame of mind all too well, because I was that youth whose world view was fixed with a completely unfounded certainty, and which was in inverse proportion to actual knowledge. This was a frame of mind being driven by a life force motivated by the testesterone driven instincts of a dog with two dicks on the chase of a bitch on heat. Let’s just say judgment in matters financial, risk taking and sex, was found to be somewhat wanting. A bit like applying to be Pope with a CV that reads like several chapters from ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is likely to be found wanting by the Cardinals in the Vatican.
Take the spending of all of your savings on a motorbike specifcally designed to kill you, when you have never ridden one, basing your confidence on your ability to do so on the theoretical meanderings of a mate pissed on Spingo in the back bar of the Blue Anchor. Or, perchance, shagging the wife of a Sergeant of the Royal Marines who has recently done some time dodging bullets at Goose Green and therefore would think nothing of removing a penis with a rusty bayonet. Maybe the decision to dance naked at a student nurses’ party with a blue ribbon conveniently tied to one’s appendage while singing ‘things can only get better’ as the camera rolls?
The saving grace of youth is that should you survive poor decision making, you might have a few decades later in life in which to put things right. This grace period is somewhat in tension with reality as it often takes about 5 decades of experience before the realisation dawns that spending money you don’t have is unwise, that alcohol is not your friend, and that the most important organ of your body is not your bell end. When that realisation occurs, you promptly die of a heart attack. Such is the capricious nature of life…or death.
Another cliché is that ‘youth is wasted on the young’. Quite. This is one cliché with the ring of truth to it, as it really means the physicality of youth is wasted on the young. That strong muscular body that could run a marathon, that shakes off a hangover and is ‘ready for action’ immediately upon spotting the pert bottom of the student nurse who invites you over for an evening’s entertainment involving wine, Simply Red and back scratching, was a gift with a ‘best before’ date tattooed on its arse.
It was all good fun of course, and should you be lucky enough to get to the stage when becoming an old fart is a near racing certainty, you can sit back in your armchair and smile at the sheer reckless stupidity of it all. You can think about that time when smashing into a car and being thrown off the motorcycle into an empty road instead of under the wheels of an Eddie Stobart driving towards you. Or perhaps when the Royal Marine decided to have another pint instead of heading home to discover your bare arse bobbing up and down where it shouldn’t be, to the obvious delight of his wife who inopportunely shouts “Oh my God, I’ve never had an orgasm like this before!!” Or perhaps when descending into a K hole and thinking that the past month was an illusion rather than the reality you thought it was, and that you were off to ‘destination fucked’ for eternity. It might occur that these might not be suitable stories to tell the grandchildren.
This is when being an Old Fart comes into its own.
When you no longer care about your trouser length, the matching colours of your socks or whether you are wearing underpants in the office, there is a certain liberation to be had in the sure knowledge that any commentary from younger colleagues matter about as much as the tea stain on your coffin lid left there by a careless undertaker, just as your feet move towards the flames at the cemetery. You are free from the petty conventions that bind the twenty somethings in a perpetual loop of self consciousness and self loathing as they engage in an endless round of competitive dressing up on instagram.
You can absent yourself from the “hilarious..and then she vomited over the bride’s mother!” gossip, or the post gig catch up about a band whose actual contribution to the genre is as original as the introduction of a new toothpaste is to toiletries. An over excited talk about an upcoming holiday in Ibiza or Thailand and just how awesome Dubai is, leaves you flat because not only have you been there and bought the T shirt, you also got arrested in Bangkok for wandering naked in the red light district with just an ostrich feather between your butt cheeks singing ‘New York, New York’ while your girfriend was lighting her farts in between throwing up into the gutter.
They show off their tattooes as a fashion statement unaware that you have a red chinese dragon tattoo on your shoulder from Hong Kong and ‘Gibraltar’ tattooed on your penis after a drunken ‘run ashore’ in the 1980s as a young sailor on his first draft on HMS Hermes.
Excitement now is to be found in finding you made it to the toilet in time, looking forward to the cup of tea in bed before breakfast and gazing out of the kitchen window for 10 minutes hoping to see the robin arrive at your bird table and then forgetting that is why you are gazing out as your mind empties completely. You now greet each new day as a gift as you never know if it is the last. Sausages and Cake at tea time and a Gin at any time, are all now acceptable. You might have a third sausage as special treat which occurs every day. You no longer need a reason for a treat.
You are entitled to just sit in the pub with a packet of pork scratchings and a pint of craft ale without having to have ‘earned it first’. Ambition has disappeared along with hope for the future as you don’t have much of a future beyond supper. And because of that you may absent yourself from the political process and leave the complex macro economic and social policy to the twenty somethings who have become experts overnight after listening to the Joe Rogan and Russell Brand podcasts.
You can swear with impunity and it matters not that you cause offence, as you kind of suspect that you cause offence merely by existing and using up some oxygen that someone younger and prettier than you should have had. And as you walk up to the bar for a second pint, you may fart while wearing the cloak of deniability for everything that has happened, ever.
One thought on “In defence of ‘Old Fartism’”
Excellent as always dear boy- but could I be 94th person to point out the the battle of goose green was fought by 2 Para and not Royal Marines. I would go out more but I’m reading a history of the faulkland islands battles 1982