I found my emotions oddly conflicted as I caught the train at Oberkampf this afternoon. In front of me on the platform was a middle aged man with a large easel he’d clearly just purchased, and something about the uncomfortable way he held it – like how Nigel Farage might hold a black baby thrust at him for a photo opportunity – gave off the sense that this man had probably never flicked a paintbrush in anger before. I felt like laughing at him, and when the metro suddenly jolted to a stop and he fell over with the easel landing on top of him, I couldn’t help but laugh at him. And yet there was something about this clumsy chap, who might or might not be experiencing a midlife crisis, that suddenly seemed completely adorable to me, and then I felt like a bit of a shit for instinctively sneering.
It’s easy to sneer isn’t it? But why shouldn’t he (and obviously much of this is based on supposition) learn to paint in midlife or old age for that matter? In fact, mocking the transition from youth to middle age is mean-spirited, because it’s not always easy. I’ve personally never put away the childish things one is meant to eschew for grown up stuff like having a best crockery set and a mortgage and owning a drill, so I have no desire to recapture my youth, as I’m still doing the same nonsense I was doing when I was 17, bar the cider, magic mushrooms and religious guilt. Besides, and I’ve said this times, I used to worry about growing old, now I worry about not growing old. I had to go on a weird diet, drink laxatives, starve myself for 12 hours, go through an endoscopy and colonoscopy and then wait for two hours before being told everything was normal this week, so if you want to dress up in Cosplay or chase the shit out of Pokemon all day then knock yourself out. Personally I want to get a pair of sock suspenders, start listening to Brahms and buy a working printer. Just this afternoon I looked at my reflection in the metro window and decided I’d be a fox with white hair. Bring it on!
Last weekend we went to a music festival. Rock ‘n’ roll and going to gigs in fields used to be a young man’s game (and when I say man I’m not excluding woman), but maybe not any more. On the way back from La Route du Rock, we got a lift with a guy who was maybe 5 years older than me, maybe ten, and who had done 5 to ten more La Route du Rocks than me too (I’ve done 5). I say 5 to ten years older – he might be the same age for all I know (I mean look at TV historian Dominic Sandbrook, a year and a half my junior! Or TV comedian Dara “I’ve clearly led a hard fucking life” O’Briain – less than a year older according to his Wikipedia page). Anyway, the chap driving had started going to festivals sometime in the early 2000s, and despite being a baldy with a nice car and a good job, he’s now spent hundreds of hours photographing bands that the person we used to call 50-quid man has never heard of, knows some seriously niche music and is au fait with a lot of very obscure artists who’ve played LRDR and Transmusicales, festivals for the committed alternative music connoisseur. I decided not to ask him what had led to his rock ‘n’ roll road to Damascus, because a) it’s rude, and b) I couldn’t give a shit really. Whatever floats your boat.
Last night I did feel past it though. A group of young people have moved in downstairs, and they’ve fitted a hammock right below our window and go out to the courtyard to smoke and chat and listen to Bob Marley (not a good sign). Lots of young people have moved into the building since we’ve been here, and when we moved to the 11eme, part of the appeal was the youthfulness and the vibrancy of the area. Now we’re swamped with kids and I miss the respectful, fastidious gay men who used to characterise the locataires inhabiting the place. It used to be so quiet but for the yappy dogs. I realise how old I sound, and those who’ve known me for a while will no doubt be thinking how hypocritical the next paragraph makes me, but bite me.
This lot were very drunk, and managed to wake me up at 3am, 4am and also 5am. I went stomping down in my dressing gown and hammered on the window the first time to let them know what time it was. It wasn’t business time. I’ve discovered that my French is best when dealing with hospital matters, or when shouting at people for making too much noise. Suddenly “I’m going to call the police in a minute” and “I’ve got to go to work in the morning” tripped off the tongue, even if neither are true. The final time I lost my rag hanging out of the bedroom window swearing in English, they apologised graciously, went inside, and I didn’t hear another peep out of them. I’m not convinced I’ve heard the last of them though. And there’s a feeling in my bones that they could well be having a laugh at the silly English guy approaching middle age living upstairs. Maybe in the future I’ll need to take up painting to alleviate the stress?Follow @jeres