Magazine article The Spectator

How to Feel Young Again

Magazine article The Spectator

How to Feel Young Again

Article excerpt

The older I become, the easier I find it to sink into that old-gittish state of believing everything has got worse with the passage of time.

In my childhood there was the hippie movement, when young people felt that peace and love and expanding your mind might be a nice idea, helped along by the occasional mild, non-psychosis-inducing joint. Nowadays, the drug of choice is cheap booze, with rampaging chavs turning town centres into a Hogarthian nightmare of vomiting and violence fuelled by alcopops and super-strength lagers.

Then there are South West Trains, which drive me to the brink of apoplexy almost every day of the week. They offer a slower and less reliable commuter service to London than was available 40 years ago, along with appallingly loquacious guards who seem to be running their own private radio station and impertinent pre-recorded announcements asking passengers, sorry customers, not to give money to any beggars who might be aboard. Why the hell shouldn't we, if we feel briefly moved to compassion?

And have you seen how ridiculously easy it is to get four As at A-level these days? The kids today don't know they're born, and, blimey, we had proper summers back in my day (and what a vile phrase that is) rather than Old Testament deluges, and then there are all these bloody Poles coming in . . .

You see what I mean. Once you get started it is hard to stop. I know a lovely man called Frank, a reformed alcoholic turned Buddhist, who describes anger as like picking burning coals out of a fire with your bare hands and throwing them wildly at your enemy. It hurts you far more than it hurts the object of your ire.

And if one pauses to think for just a moment, there are so many things that have got better over the past four decades -- restaurants, for instance, and the busy, beautiful South Bank of the Thames in London, of which I never tire, and the fact that even after ten years of a Labour government the unions no longer regularly hold our country to ransom.

Something else that has improved, in my admittedly limited experience, is rock festivals. As I confessed a year ago, my first and apparently last festival was Reading in 1972, when the vibe was far from mellow and my friends and I subsisted on beer, milk, rancid burgers and Number 6 for three days and largely sleepless nights with only John Peel and Rod Stewart to cheer us up. But this year I thought I really ought to give the experience another try. …

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