Sunday 11 February 2024

Threescore Years and Ten

Would you give up your seat for this man?

So, over the weekend I turned seventy, and should probably now reluctantly concede that I am old. Or, at least, getting there. Possibly. In a few years. I have to admit, though, that I was taken aback, standing on a very crowded train back to Southampton from London a few weeks ago, when an Asian woman made her daughter get up and offer me her seat. I refused, naturally, but it did make me wonder: maybe I look older than I think? Perhaps it's time to reboot the magic bathroom mirror...

Anyway, rather than ramble on about how young I still feel inside, despite appearances, I thought I'd offer you a small celebratory anthology of blog posts, one for each decade, and selected from the Top Twenty most-read posts according to Blogger's statistics: current No. 1: Bee Boy at 3.5K reads since it was published in April 2017.

These posts do seem to cluster around the years 2016-18, which may well have been peak blog, who knows? But I have published 1,992 posts since 2008 – so close to a neat 2,000 – and quite a few not listed here would figure in my own personal Top Ten, if I could only find the energy and motivation to dig them out (did I say I am seventy?). Maybe another time. But I'm happy to hang my idiotic hat on these few for now, as chosen by The Wisdom of the People. So here they are:

Bee Boy: In which I interrogate Gilbert White.

Snake Oil: In which I investigate the nature of art.

Mister Unsafe: In which I invent a new musical genre.

The Height of High Culture: In which I fail to read Emma. Again.

Hey Presto!: In which I contemplate politics and astrology (Aquarius with Scorpio rising, since you ask).

Culloden: In which I look askance at tartanity.

Moscow Rules: In which Gomer nods.

And one for luck:

Homeopathic Ancestry: In which I consider the making of my mark.

No need to read them all at once, obviously... Or indeed any of them at all, although I'd be pleased if you did dip into a few, and found them to your liking. I have no idea why these particular ones out of the 1,992 available posts should have attracted the largest number of hits, and I also have no way of knowing whether these were actual "reads" or hit-and-run glances resulting from searches for, say, "metheglin" (Bee Boy) – not to be confused with methedrine – or "Yevtushenko" (Moscow Rules).

As for the birthday, I'm not big on celebrations, but to mark the occasion we met up with our (now very adult) children at the Royal Academy for a pleasant chat and then a stroll around the exhibition Entangled Pasts, 1768-Now. This show is a very mixed bag, especially compared to something as solid as 2017's Revolution : Russian Art 1917-1932 discussed in the Moscow Rules post. It can seem that a lot of second- and even third-rate art gets a free pass when "message" is prioritised over quality in an exhibition, but this one does have enough outstanding moments not to deserve the panning it got in some reviews.

Should you be able to visit the RA while it's on, my recommendation would be to head straight for the three-screen video installation by John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea: take a seat, and settle down for an awe-inspiring 45 minutes. The experience is completely mesmerising, in the way a Tarkovsky film is mesmerising, and I could have happily watched it repeatedly for the entire afternoon. You might, of course, rate just as highly the other video installation, Lessons of the Hour, by Isaac Julien, which is clearly very popular, but which I didn't watch as it was too crowded; you had to step carefully over the legs of those seated on the floor in the darkened room to pass through. But Vertigo Sea is probably the best video installation I've ever seen, aided by a superb soundtrack, and worth a trip to London all by itself.

Justice for All, by Yinka Shonibare


Martin said...

Happy Birthday Mike! I’m only a few months behind you. Had to smile at you being offered a seat on the train. When I recently attended an appointment with a hospital consultant the receptionist asked me if I would be able to manage the stairs - twice!

Mike C. said...

Thanks, Martin!

Yes, that sort of occurrence is rather sobering, isn't it? Dammit, woman, I'm as fit as a slightly elderly butcher's dog!


Huw said...

Happy Birthday, Mike! I'm a couple of decades behind you (not far off your age when you started this blog, which I think I've been reading from near the beginning), and will be quite happy to have your acuity of mind and felicity with words when I reach 70. Your Brief Encounter post has been on my mind recently, and I thought of it today as I took my teenaged daughters to the opticians and was in awe of their character and charm - where on earth did it come from? - and had a moment of appreciating the particular moment in my life. I'm glad you are still having adventures with your children.

Best wishes,

Mike C. said...

Thanks, Huw!

I had no idea you were that young -- don't worry, 70 is not old at all! It's the new 40...


Huw said...

I'm glad that 50 this year can still count as surprisingly young! And without becoming too cliched, after a certain point the number is largely immaterial (other than with regard to the inevitable physical ravages). Does it ever make a bit more sense though? Life, and all that?


Mike C. said...


Oh yes, I've got it all completely worked out now. Sadly, we're not allowed to share the wisdom of age with anyone not in possession of a Senior Railcard... A hint, though: the answer is *not* 42...


Brian Small said...

Happy Birthday Mike!

I've just turned 60. I'm Canadian so I'm now eligible to draw on my senior citizen pension - not sure how I feel about that!

I discovered this blog about a year ago and have been happily jumping around in it. I'll go through your popular posts but a list of what you consider your favourite/best posts would be great.


Mike C. said...

Thanks, Brian -- it's always good when a regular reader breaks cover! As for pensions, count the money, not the years (although if yours is anything like ours, the amount is rather disappointing...).

I have been thinking about a Best Of list, but it'll take a while... It would also probably end up as the next of my previously published Blurb "best of" books, which, now I think of it, I should make freely available via Issuu.


Huw said...

Mike, I always thought we knew the answer, but not the question. Doubly confused now :-)


Stephen said...

Happy birthday Mike.


Mike C. said...

Thanks, Stephen!


Kent Wiley said...

Happy VD! (Do you have that Hallmark holiday in the U.K. too?)

Oh, and welcome to the new decade. We're not old, dammit! I said, nodding off periodically.

Mike C. said...


You had me seriously confused there... But, yes, it's unavoidable here, too.

The nodding off thing is a problem... If I settle into a chair to read the next thing I know it's an hour later and someone has substituted cotton wool for my brain.