When I was young, old people had a certain mature dignity. They had been through the Second World War. They didn’t talk about it or, if they did, they construed it as one huge apocalyptic party and sing-song. Women still wore the fashions of the 1940s. Men had oiled short back and sides, topped off with a flat cap. They walked slowly and they didn’t get too excited about very much. They liked to play dominoes in the public bar over bitter and Player’s Senior Service.
The cult of youth has destroyed all that. Modern old people dye their spikey hair green, they swear gratuitously and they go to music festivals other than Glyndebourne. They are unperturbed by music at high volumes, and when they dance, it’s an attenuated version of pogoing.
I am one of these modern dignity-free old men, with curmudgeonly out-moded jive talk and an arthritic swagger. On top of that, I have flirted with respectability for far too long. It hasn’t just rubbed off, it has penetrated my skin. If I ever exercised sufficiently to sweat, I would sweat in a restrained, measured way. I have the proper haircut for a balding older man and I have a proper job title. I hold positions of responsibility in a Royal College. The combination is lethal if you aspire to being what-was-once-known-as-cool.
By night and at weekends, I make music, undeterred by a degree of prostatism that makes longer sets unwise. More than four decades after my first gig, I find making music wildly exciting, which carries significant risks for a man of my age. This year I have recorded in my study as usual, but also in a proper studio frequented by serious recording artists such as the Zutons and Liverpool Football Club. The tracks are posted on my own music website. I’m inordinately pleased with the results. I gig as far afield as Yorkshire. I keep re-writing set lists, despite the fact that I never stick to them.
Rock stars aren’t what they used to be. Now they have degrees and get up before midday. I am too old to follow this sanitised model. I am officially a country blues guitarist. As such I have a professional obligation to die from drinking whisky poisoned by a woman’s jealous husband. This is not going to happen for a number of excellent reasons that I shall not set out here.
I have never thrown a television out of a window or driven even a small car into a swimming pool. Everything is conducted with a degree of decorum and professionalism. Herein lies the source of my mild-but-distinct ontological discomfort. No one rips cinema seats to the sound of ‘Slow Rain’ or ‘The Sun Went Down’. They nod and they say, “that sounds really nice” or “you’re lucky to be able to play like that”, comments that always makes my wife snarl “you want to try listening to it continuously for 35 years”. I have to finally acknowledge that I might not be a significant threat to the established order.
So this is my authentic self as I enter the world of social media. I am a dignity-free old man, with two websites, a twitter account and a partial fluency in txt.