Column: January 11, 2012

I AM about to reach one of those milestone birthdays, one of those birthdays specifically designed to say, “Ooh, I thought you’d have achieved that by now. Certainly that was the plan, wasn’t it? You’ve probably forgotten about it, at your age.”

I won’t go into specifics. Let us just say that my late thirties are about to become very late and move on.

I know I am getting old because people used to say to me, “Gary, you are going prematurely grey.” And now they just say, “Gary, you are going grey.”

It is very difficult for me to come to terms with this. After all, I still delude myself when I go to the pub that I will have to show identification. And I consider myself a young Turk in the newsroom, even though the actual young Turks think of me as some sort of bumbling eminence grise.

The point is that I am, if I am very lucky, about halfway through my life, with fewer days ahead than behind. So it is time to take stock and make some changes. Sadly, as regular readers will attest, expansive gestures are beyond me.

For example, I won’t be off to Goa to find myself. For a start, I know exactly where myself is: myself is here typing. Also, I really don’t like walking on sand, barefoot or otherwise. Sand is the rubbishest surface about – it is tiring to walk on, liable to conceal sharp objects and gets everywhere. We wouldn’t put up with it if every time we walked on flagstones, we got bits of concrete inside our shoes, so I don’t see what’s so special about sand.

So, the grand plan being beyond me, I have decided to improve the quality of my life in smaller ways. And the first thing I thought would have to change is the pens.

I am sick and tired of picking up a pen and finding out it doesn’t work and then remembering that the last time I picked up that pen it didn’t work either. Every time I fail to throw away a dead pen, I am inflicting a stupid practical joke upon myself somewhere down the line.

I know exactly why I don’t throw the pen away. It is because when I need a pen, I usually need it in a hurry. I pick up a dead pen, scribble once, see no results, scribble again, gouge a hole in the pad or newspaper I am using, say a bad word in my head because I remember that the pen didn’t work last time, and run off in search of a viable instrument.

And when I find a pen that works, I race back to the telephone and forget about my previous minor dead pen trauma, and so the useless pen is reprieved and primed to disappoint me at a later date.

But it is not as simple as that. I think subconsciously I believe that, with a little care and attention, any pen can be coaxed back into life. Just as there is always a bit of toothpaste left in the tube, there’s probably a bit of ink left in the barrel. And because once, just once, after a vigorous bout of scribbling, I revived a previously- dead pen long enough to write my name on the back of my Switch card, I find it hard to let go of the hope that other pens similarly can be given the Frankenstein treatment.

And if that is not a clever metaphor for shaking up one’s life at 40, I don’t know what is. I’m not dead, I just need to be scribbled about a bit and I’ll be as good as new. Or a zombie.

So, I’ll have to think of something else to change. The pens can stay. They have been useful. There is no excuse, however for the underpants with the hole in at the back of my drawer. They’re going first thing tomorrow.

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