All images are the property of Tim Phillips-White (2013)
I’ve been wondering what constitutes the difference between a novel and a novella. Julian Barnes’ 2011 Mann Booker Prize winner could certainly be considered to be on the short side, at only 150 pages – however, in the same manner as J.L Carr’s ‘A Month in the Country, it’s slight appearence does not in anyway diminish it’s power.
This story begs the question, do we ever really present a truthful representation of ourselves to the world? Or, do we settle upon a version of ones personality, be it accurate or not. Memories can play cruel tricks upon ones mind – a group of friends will quite often have completely conflicting memories of incidents from their shared past. The end of a relationship or friendship will be seen from two opposite points of view.
It it only as one gets older that we are sometimes forced to confront our perceptions, and re-evaluate past events – in the process perhaps reaching a conclusion that we would rather not have reached at the time.
Life will often throw up unwanted and sometimes unexpected surprises – this novel captures a mans attempts to cope with this, in the process accepting what he was always too blind to see.
A very moving and thought provoking novel….
I recently found myself on an evening out attempting to chat up a young woman, who upon reflection, was quite possibly young enough to be my daughter. Of course, at this point I’d had more than a few, and as I’m sure we all know a few stiff ones can suddenly make one believe that you’re the funniest and most charming man on the planet. Now this can go one of several ways; they’re either as pissed as you and you end up in bed, (more of which I’ll come to later), they pity you, and put up with the smarmy offensive for a while, whilst hoping that it’ll soon be past your bedtime, or they’ll take the more direct approach and tell you to fuck off.
What is it that makes a man of my age suddenly think that he can still be attractive to someone who was still learning to talk whilst he was starting his first job? I’m sure there are those out there who thrive on this; who still love the thrill of the chase, whilst at the same time worrying about their pension. I’m not one of these people; I can think of nothing worse than being thought of as a ‘dirty old man’, or whatever term is used these days. This has happened to me on far too many occasions though, and more often than not I’ve woken up the next morning, (or afternoon), wondering what the bloody hell I was playing at in the first place. There is nothing worse than that horrible creeping feeling when your mind clears and you realise just what an ageing lothario you’ve become; especially if the other poor individual involved is still asleep next to you. You feel frozen to the spot, unable to move, even though all you want to do is to get the hell out of there. Of course, if you happen to be in your own bedroom, then you’re quite literally screwed.
Can I put this all down to the onset of the fabled ‘mid-life crisis’? Perhaps. I think you do start to panic a lot more about life when you reach a certain age; in fact I know you do. Little problems that you would have once laughed off, ignored or took in your stride suddenly become magnified; it doesn’t matter what it is; it could be work, money, relationships or your appearance. Or it could just be the fact that you’re getting older; and let’s face it, getting older sucks cock. Big time.
This isn’t all about sex; I don’t particularly want to be thought of as some ‘dirty old dog’, clinging onto some lost, halcyon days of youth. Perhaps it’s a fear of commitment; for many years now I’ve never been involved in a relationship with someone the same age as me; the problem is of course that all those people are getting older too. They want to settle down, get married and perhaps have children. It all suddenly becomes very serious and very real; a feeling that your carefree life is now in all probability over. So, you move onto even younger people, and that’s where you start to look silly, and a bit desperate. That’s not to say that I don’t want all of those things; in reality I do, probably more so now than ever before. However, before one can get to that stage there has to be a degree of acceptance; not only of your age and where you are in life, but also an acceptance of yourself as a person. I’ve always had a young outlook on life, I don’t feel any differently in my mind from when I was eighteen, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. However, you have to adapt that young outlook as you grow older; for example, how often do you see a man pushing forty still trying to look like a twenty year old? I don’t think I really try to do that, although, I will confess to growing my hair longer this year in a vain attempt to ‘knock a few years off’ – this has resulted in several different reactions from work colleagues. One told me it made me look younger, the other asked me if I was having a mid-life crisis. I decided to go with the first response and ignore the other; there is no better way to massage my fragile ego than to tell me that I could still pass for thirty. In fact, if anyone reading this actually knows me in real life, perhaps you could just email me, or phone, and just tell me that! Male or female, I’m not that fussed; you’ll make me a very happy man….
Just because you’ve not reached your ideal place in life by your late thirties, it doesn’t mean that you’re a complete abject failure. I know I’m not alone in this; I’m sure there are many of us out there feeling a bit washed up and passed our best; I’m sure it doesn’t have to be that way though. I think the secret is just to relax a bit; don’t take it all so seriously, and learn to come to terms with who you are. In reality, people like you for who you are, regardless of your ability to stay out until 4am every Saturday night, although I think doing that once in a while does you a lot of good. It’s about achieving a certain balance in your life; the fine line between growing old before your time and still trying to look as if you’re a guitarist in a band on the cover of the NME.
Now, until next weekend……
Since 97.5% of the people who read this have no idea who I am, I thought it would be the decent thing to do if I revealed a few little known, but harmless facts about myself. Since I’m in a giving and sharing mood for once, here we go…
- I can’t swim
- I used to pull out grey hairs – no longer though, there are far too many
- I’m frightened of butterflies and moths
- I failed my driving test three times
- I have inverted nipples! (Most of the time, and I have no idea why!)
- I refused to eat the majority of vegetables until I was about twenty
- I’ve not eaten an egg since I was six years old, (that was in 1979 in case you wondered)
- I’m not really a miserable bastard
- I have an older 1/2 brother and sister that I’ve never met
- I love gardening, and will have an allotment later this summer
- I’m a hopeless romantic
- I lost both my parents by the time I had reached twenty
- No form of mushroom will ever pass my lips
- I suffer fools badly
- With no family left, my friends are the most important thing in the world to me
- I have serious issues about getting older
- I have an odd obsession with striped t-shirts
- I try to read one book per week
- I love cheese
- I would love nothing more than to be able to live out in the countryside with lots of animals
- I adopted a donkey called Timothy
- I’ve been in love at least three times in my life, but only one was ‘the one’
- At times, I get rather jealous, even when I know there’s no reason
- I think too much, (I often drink too much as well, these two things often coincide)
- I still want to stay out all night dancing
- I’m often oblivious to whats going on around me
- I’m very stubborn
- I quite often stay in bed all day
- I secretly would like to have children one day
- I hate lists
Some would say that I have fairly dubious tastes in music, however, and how can I put this, those people are completely fucking wrong. What you will hear below is what happens when you combine the genius of the late, and very much missed Alex Chilton, alongside the national treasures that are otherwise known as Teenage Fanclub.
Pure pop perfection, this song completely sums up those first feelings that come crashing in when you fall in love; and unless you’ve somehow mislaid your soul along the way, you’ll be singing the chorus to this song for bloody ages. This song was never recorded or released, so all we have is this live recording. It’s a belter….!
Alex Chilton and Teenage Fanclub – You’re So Fine
I’m trying to post something everyday or so at the moment, even if it’s complete drivel. Tonight though, I’m just too tired; a week without much sleep has left me almost brain-dead, and I really need to go to bed and pass out.
So, tonight, I will communicate what’s going on in my head via the medium of music….
Teenage Fanclub – Don’t Hide
Paul Weller – Time Passes
Graham Coxon – Love You
Brett Anderson – The Wild Ones
Here comes the last of the great romantics. A grand statement I know; and one that is deeply flawed. However fanciful and wayward my thoughts are though, I do realise this; so, in the spirit of self-depreciation, perhaps I’ll describe myself as a failed, or even a hopeless romantic. Personally, I prefer hopeless; I don’t think that I’ve ever really failed where romantic notions and flights of fancy are concerned.
Never ridicule a lovesick fool, anyone brave enough to put their emotions on public show should be applauded, not scorned. Of course, if you’re a fairly restrained type of person, this sudden change of personality can come as a great shock, not only to other people, but also to yourself. There are many times when I wonder why on Earth I’ve done or said certain things; the voice of reason attempting to suppress some uncontrollable urge.
Beneath my sometimes, gruff exterior lies this hopeless romantic; a heart brim full of emotion, but one that I manage to keep under wraps. Only a few, perhaps unlucky people have ever seen this side to me; I guess it’s something that I’ve always liked to keep quiet about; being a deeply private person does that to you.
When you learn to accept and come to terms with that side of your personality, I think you become a much happier person. Some people are happy being unhappy; they take great comfort in unrequited love. These are the type of people who feel that it’s better to be in love, rather than not at all; even if the object of their desire has little or no interest in them whatsoever.
I have some sympathy for this, the feeling of being in love with someone is to my mind almost indescribable. I know all too well how utterly amazing that feels; however, I also know how painful, how heartbreaking and truly awful it can be; and to be honest I don’t understand how anyone can take pleasure in that.
Actually, perhaps I can.
Obviously, the hopeless romantic battles on regardless. Facts are ignored, illusions are kept firmly intact. The truth, for what that’s worth, doesn’t really have any effect on ones feelings, they remain faithful and true, regardless of what’s thrown at them, ignoring the knock backs or the silences. They make the best of what they have, always hoping for something, or someone wonderful, forgetting, or choosing to forget that the women he’s mad about simply does not care anymore. You convince yourself that you’re in control, that your judgement remains intact; never discouraged, even during the bleakest of days, forever fighting against the tide.