I STOOD in the queue outside the nightclub. This is not a regular occurrence. The last time I went to a nightclub, we still thought there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
We were only in that queue because we had been turned away from another club because one of our party – a grown man with a car and a mortgage – was wearing trainers.
“Have we all got ID?” one of our group asked. “What?” I said. I was not anticipating that.
I felt as if I were in an episode of The Inbetweeners, that seldom repeated sitcom about spies in their mid-to-late-20s who infiltrate a school and masquerade as pupils.
“What?” I repeated, “I’m 41.” This is true. From a distance, I might appear to you like a 14-year-old boy shambling about in his father’s suit, but when you get closer you will see every one of my years etched on my face, 15, 37, and 40 particularly heavily. I have not needed to show ID in an alcohol-obtaining context for some time.
“No, they scan your ID before they let you in. For security.”
Oh, good, I thought. I am going into a place where they take your picture in case they need to help the police with their inquiries. Or to identify the victim in the absence of dental records.
The bouncer let me through, and I handed my driving licence to a pleasant young woman, who scanned it so that the mugshot appeared blown up on a screen for all to see. This is the mugshot which looks as if it were taken in the back of a Transit just as the black bag was removed from my head. People behind me shivered.
I walked in . . .
Nightclubs have not changed much since the last time I went in one, but I have. I still stand awkwardly, wondering how people are having fun in that environment, when virtually nobody is dancing, and assuming drugs are involved, but that is about all that is the same.
I was old, and I knew it. I was surrounded by people the oldest of whom thought Uptown Girl was a Westlife song, and the youngest of whom had not heard of Westlife.
These were people who had never handed over a £10 note for two drinks and received enough change to buy a Mars bar. I felt like a chaperone at a school disco. Or one of The Inbetweeners.
This was simply not fair, I thought. This was a night out. I shouldn’t have to be constantly reminded of my mortality. I have my own children to do that for me.
But then, through the fog, I realised this was payback for what I had done earlier in the evening.
I was chatting to a colleague in a pub, as this was a leaving do, and she mentioned her boyfriend. I asked how long they had been together and she said 15 years.
Regular readers might remember that a few months ago I accidentally asked a dental hygienist what time she finished work. I clearly have learnt nothing.
“Oh,” I said. “I assumed you were younger.”
This is part of being older. When we are children, we know the ages of all of our friends. “How old are you?” is the second question we ask when as children we meet a new child. The third question is, of course, “Can I have one?”
As adults, it is different. I have no idea how old the people I know are, unless they specifically tell me or I’m having to sign a card for one of those milestone birthdays.
“How old do you think I am?” she asked.
This was not my fault. I had had a couple of drinks and I was not thinking as clearly as I should have been. I know what I did wrong. I made the catastrophic error of assuming that this was a maths question.
“Hm,” I thought. “Been with boyfriend for 15 years. Assuming she was about 20 when she met him . . .”
I hit 35. Then, even in my befuddled and socially inadequate state, I realised that I should knock a couple of years off.
“Erm, 33?” I said.
“Yes,” she said, coldly.
I panicked. “I’m 41! I’d love to be 33,” I burbled.
I am not sure how I thought this was going to make things better, but it did not.
“If it makes you feel any better, I was going to say 35,” I said.
And that is why I deserved to be reminded that I have sagged over the halfway point of my life and that death rapidly approaches.