Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Article excerpt

My boy rang the other night. He said he and his wife had bought tickets to see Ed Sheeran at the O2 arena in London. 'How much were the tickets?' I said. They were over £400 the pair, he said, and I was about to say in a strangulated voice, 'How much?' Then I remembered that I had recently added my name to a ballot which, if I am chosen, will vouchsafe me the privilege of buying tickets to see the Rolling Stones in Marseille in June -- if Ron Wood lives that long. And some of those tickets are on sale at a similarly exorbitant price. I try not to be a blatant hypocrite when speaking to my son and I stopped myself in the nick of time.

However, this Ed Sheeran business was merely a prelude to his telling me that his wife is three months pregnant, and my 'no hypocrisy' rule went straight out of the window. Instead of rejoicing as I should have, I said that he and his wife were mad to think of having a baby given their circumstances, and went on to enumerate some of the potential difficulties. This naturally upset him and we ended the call on unfriendly terms. Afterwards I criticised myself for being a sclerotic old fool and wished I could have taken the call all over again and sounded glad. Then I sent him a text saying this. He hasn't replied.

I'm back in Devon, cooking for my poor old mum, who could beat the prophet Job hands down in an afflictions contest.

'Guess how much two tickets for an Ed Sheeran concert cost?' I said one lunchtime to break the silence as she prodded a lump of meat disconsolately around her plate. 'Ed Sheeran is a pop singer,' I said. 'Go on. Have a guess.'

She raised her head and concentrated her mind. I could see the wheels turning. Pop singer. Two tickets. Shocking price.

'Twenty pounds,' she said.

If I thought that my 61 years had lately detached me from present realities, here was a far worse case. I felt almost youthful and idealistic again. She thought again then threw out the most outrageous price for a pair of tickets to see a pop singer that she could possibly imagine.

'Thirty pounds,' she said.

'Higher,' I said.

She increased her guess by increments of ten pounds until she reached 150, then I told her £400. Her depression deepened visibly. …

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