All these years I have been patiently waiting to become middle-aged, and just when I nearly get there I find that I am more like a twentysomething than ever. That seems to be the conclusion of a new survey by Virgin Active, which claims that under-25s are “set in their ways”. Two-fifths of the age group confess that they have no desire to “push their boundaries”, apparently, while one in six expects to keep the same hobbies and friends for life. Well, what’s wrong with that?
If Fear of Missing Out is the curse of the Twitter generation (and it is; it has its own hashtag and everything), then I have the opposite: Love of Staying In. I suppose that makes me a LOSer. I like to go to a quiet pub, near my house, where I can sit down and talk to someone I like while drinking exactly two pints of decent beer and then going down the road for a curry. I have always preferred that, but when I was younger the idea was to go to Soho on a hot Tube train to be jostled by crowds of drunken people and do standing-up-drinking of expensive imported lager while shouting over non-music at people I had only just met. Now it’s the same, but you’re supposed to do it in a “pop-up” establishment. So, on the off-chance you do enjoy it, you can never go there again.
Why the obsession with newness and change? I would love to have the same friends until the day I die. I like my friends, and I already don’t see them nearly as often as I’d like. So I don’t need to add any, thanks. Parties can be pleasant, and as a literary editor I’m invited to some fab ones. But it’s even lovelier to go home and cook myself some dinner that I don’t have to eat one-handed while trying not to spit crumbs at publishers.
Virgin Active calls this a lack of imagination, but I think the relentless hamster wheel of endless new things is far less interesting than staying home and reading a good book. Is all this chasing after new stimuli inspiring, or sometimes just a bit desperate? Fortunately, at my age I can be left alone with my boring old ways. With the twentysomethings, I can only sympathise. Hurry up and join me; it’s lovely here, staying in.
Tessa for PM
What’s good enough for Alan Johnson is good enough for me, and I loudly echo his endorsement of Tessa Jowell as Labour’s candidate for London Mayor. I met her once, at the 2010 Hay Festival, where I may have had more than my regulation two pints and become a little emotional about the defeat of the Labour government.
To my eternal embarrassment, I recall plonking myself down at her feet towards the end of a loooong party and trying not to blub into her lap while she reassured me that everything will surely be OK. It didn’t become OK in this year’s general election, at which she stepped down as an MP in order to focus on standing in London (got that, Boris?), but she was so patient and supportive that I feel sure she will start making it OK just as soon as she becomes mayor.
Jowell is “a genuinely popular politician with all the warmth in the world but a core of absolute steel”, said Johnson, and my short encounter backs that up. Dammit, is it too late for her to ditch the mayor’s job and stand as our next Labour prime minister instead?
No sticky-back plastic required
I’ve always liked the Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton. Not as much as I like Tessa Jowell, but I like her. I’m confused, though, by her statement at the Hay Festival last week that children do not want “feminist role models” in books. Skelton has just published her first children’s book, Amy Wild: Amazon Summer, about a little girl, loosely based on her, and her adventures in the rainforest.
“People ask me, is she a feminist role model?” Skelton explained. “And I say no… I think the whole feminist role model thing is something adults are obsessed with, and children aren’t. Children just like to read about people doing cool things in cool places.” Too right! And they like it if some of those people are girls. Children don’t want books to beat them around the head with right-on political “messages” any more than adults do, and they do deserve well-thought-out, relatable characters.
Amy Wild sounds like one of them. And I bet she’d be a proud feminist, if she were asked.
Amazon pays up
In news that I never thought I’d read, Amazon is going to start paying proper taxes in this country, meaning that the UK taxpayer will no longer pick up the tab for the roads it delivers on, the education and healthcare of its workers, and all the rest.
This move was all Amazon’s idea, of course: the company has been restructuring its European branches for some years now and just happened to open a UK office in time to start registering sales through this country (instead of Luxembourg) as of 1 May. It’s nothing to do with George Osborne announcing a diverted profits tax of 25 per cent on any profits artificially routed overseas, which came into force from April. Nothing at all. Somebody give Amazon a gold star.
Good at reigning, bad at poker?
While it is a little bit creepy to hear the voice of the Queen speaking David Cameron’s words (or any bland modern politicalese from any prime minister), I do love the moment at six minutes 33 seconds into her State Opening of Parliament, when she said: “My government will bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights,” pauses, looks up, and appears to give the Government an old-fashioned look. She’s clearly been working on that poker face since she had to announce the ban on fox-hunting through gritted teeth in 2004. But it’s good to know that the Queen still has a tell.Reuse content