Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

If 40 was the question, climbing a mountain was not the answer. I don't know why people go looking for themselves when they approach middle age and I always swore I wouldn't do it. But then I found myself a few months off the dreaded landmark birthday and off I went up Kilimanjaro. All I can say is I had a good look for myself over a distance of 80 miles, half of them uphill, and I couldn't find anything. Apart from an irrepressible ability to moan and a total lack of intrepidness. If anything, I discovered that my capacity for pessimism and can't-do spirit was far more robust than I had realised.

At the point when I was supposed to stare up at the snow-capped summit and envisage the triumph of my standing on the top, I stared up at the summit and thought, 'Why would anyone want to go up there?'

I wasn't the only one who had this reaction. I met a young couple at Harumbo base on the way down who said the whole experience had been so utterly shocking that they had decided to get married and have kids.

They had had a total epiphany. Unfortunately for me, I was only up the mountain in the first place because I had messed up the whole getting married and having kids thing, so I was really screwed. As they sat on the steps of their hut cuddling each other and looking forward to their cosy new life together, I could have burst into tears.

I had to upgrade to first class on the flight from Nairobi to stop myself having a total breakdown. It took two bed seats to myself, three blankets, four warm croissants, a good rifle through a nice freebie toiletry bag and two inflight movies before I started to feel that life wasn't totally hopeless.

The flight attendant had a terrible time, running backwards and forwards as I bleated my pathetic needs at him. At one point I wept tears of bitter dejection because he went past me with the coffee pot.

Clearly, it was back to square one. So when I got back to Balham, I sat down at the kitchen table and started Googling Volvos.

The explanation for this behaviour I found on the Top Gear website. Apparently, it is a completely natural part of ageing to decide that one needs a V70 T5 estate.

Usually, this primeval urge comes over one at the age of 45 but I have always been precocious. …

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