Friday, 31 December 2010

Those were the days

As the final hours of 2010 tick away and we prepare ourselves for an evening of merriment, followed just a few hours later by the cold realisation that we have entered another uncertain year, I am chilled by the knowledge that something truly terrible is about to happen.

Something about which no new administration at the council, coalition government nor even Santa can do anything. Something more terrible than the rising National Debt, student fees or the prospect of Boney M topping the first New Year chart on a wave of sympathy.

On a certain fateful day during the latter part of this coming year, 2011, I will be fifty.

That is 5-0 folks. Half a century.

I often find myself reflecting rather too deeply upon these things. Fifty years before I was born the First World War, let alone the Second, had not yet even begun. We had still to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Waterloo. Winston Churchill, at 36, was little more than a lad. The Russian Revolution was six years away, the March On Rome - which was to set in motion a train of events culminating in the horrors of World War Two - eleven.

Even the day when I was born seems such an eternity away. Churchill was still alive. The Beatles had just been formed but nobody had yet heard of them. Her Maj had been on the throne for less than a decade. Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister. England had yet to win the World Cup. Most of McFly's parents had probably not even been born.

I used to tell my kids that until I was about ten the whole world was in black in white. They still don't believe me when I tell them that we had only three television channels to choose from and that it all finished at about 10.30 at night with the playing of the National Anthem followed by a white noise and a fading spot of light in the centre of the screen.

I cuss when the disco boy arrives on my estate at three o'clock in the morning, car windows wound down in the height of winter so as to enable the entire neighbourhood to share in the delights of his repetitive, crappy "music". Then I find myself wondering whether I have started to become my father, who used to come up to my room and shout at me whenever I played my Slade, Sweet or that bloke whose name we're no longer allowed to mention at a volume that he considered excessive.

For many years I've told myself that I'll see the world, get some security and a decent roof over our heads, things that normal people think about doing when they are in their twenties. Sadly when I was at that age I was clowning around involving myself in extremist politics, which even when I had renounced it led in turn to a "career" in community activism which, whilst entirely fulfilling, has kept me and my family in poverty in a way to which even my very closest friends appear utterly oblivious.

I don't feel fifty. Twenty years or so ago I would walk over to the gym at Isleworth Recreation Centre and would feel really freaked out when I saw men in their forties and fifties working out on the weights. One of the guys whom I used to feel this way about is still at it, in his mid-seventies. I don't know whether people are just staying young for longer, or whether my view of what constitutes an "old" person has changed instinctively as I head relentlessly towards becoming one myself.

Some people try to reassure me that 50 is but a number. Most of them, being over that age themselves, could be said to have a vested interest in believing that. But I find myself looking at some of them and thinking, well, he or she may be 51 or 52 but now I think of it they don't look that old.

But then maybe a person of 100 won't look that old when I am 99? In the extremely unlikely event...

I probably spend too much time thinking about these things. But what is inescapable is the fact that time "accelerates" the older one becomes. When I was fifteen I would think back to things that happened when I was fourteen that seemed to belong to some blissful, bygone age. Now whole decades seem to pass by in the blinking of an eye.

If you are a youngster and you are reading this, please take my advice and use your time wisely. Get some security behind you and then, if you like, set the world to rights. If only because you will then be in a stronger position to do so.

If however you are an old-timer like myself then you'll have all the time in the world to read blogs, write your memoirs and plan out your career.

If, like me, you've ever wondered why 17-year-olds with their first car whizz around fearlessly like there is no tomorrow whilst old people at the wheel trundle nervously along the middle of the road like they have all the time in the world you will appreciate the paradox that is modern life.

Happy New Year.


Anonymous said...

Phil, You once told me you wouldn't be a councillor when you were 50. I guess you were right but I don't think it happened quite the way you planned. I'd hate to see you stand aside though, while they are better than the last lot from their party I am not convinced the new "upstarts" will take anything of the ICG's on board. Aren't they already talking about abolishing the area committees? If that happens our ward councillors will have no powers left to achieve anything for Isleworth even if they wanted to.

I also don't see you being replaced by any one person in the ICG either. Lots of our main members have individual strengths but you are the only one I am aware of who has a bit of everything even if you can be a bit dismissive of other's efforts when you are in a more negative mood, in fact if I'm honest you can be a real pain in the a@*$ but if you think nobody has noticed that no-one is prepared to do the things they criticise you for then you under-rate some of your fellow members.

Anyway Phil have a happy new year and keep doing the good work, delegate more by all means but don't be a total stranger cos that send the wrong message to the rest.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Phil to you and yours. And thanks for keeping this community spirit together. Whether you are a Councillor or not you are still the pillar of this ommunity

Phil Andrews said...

Thank you both for your words.

People are free and welcome to comment on here anonymously, but for my own curiosity I would have loved to have known who was saying these kind things.

What matters right now though is that all ICG members pull together and put the disappointment of the election result behind us.

There are lots of possible options ahead of us for the future and I don't think it would be reasonable to expect us to see our way entirely at this early stage. What is important is that we are psychologically and organisationally prepared for whichever path we decide to follow when the time for deciding is upon us.

Or something like that...

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed, a very poignant piece and the message was clear - we must shower you with extremely expensive gifts in October.

In the meantime, we're all dying to know how much you're enjoying the local roadworks.

Phil Andrews said...

Ask my daughter tomorrow, when she has to take the 267 to school.

Hope you had a nice Epiphany said...

It's a nightmare !
Three sets of traffic lights between the War Memorial and Isleworth Town School is bad enough, now there's FOUR.

Nevertheless, I see that Thames Water is hosting another Holiday Inn pow-wow on Monday.

Tin hat may be required.

Anonymous said...

Why is Paul Lynch wearing a green rosette?