The problem of getting older.

I always hoped I’d be a bit different as I got older – I remember when I was younger, deciding to myself that it would be different for me. I wouldn’t allow myself to decay and fall apart like the Aztec ruins around the place, taking their cod liver oil tablets and complaining about their backs. I didn’t want to be one of those who stopped drinking coffee after three in the afternoon, needed a nap or had a nice soothing cup of green tea of an evening. 

I always vowed to myself that I’d never be one of those decrepit older people, and yet at 32 I find myself shuffling around hunched over like a bag lady if I sleep funny or don’t drink enough water. As I write this, I’m sitting on the sofa with a big steaming mug of lemon and ginger tea (but at least it isn’t green. Filthy stuff), warming my hands between paragraphs and allowing myself to be distracted by nagging thoughts of what I need to buy at the shop tomorrow. Bread and eggs, by the way, remind me. 

I groan when I get in and out of the car, and my hair is evaporating like a puddle in a heatwave. I went camping in August and I had a sore neck for six weeks afterwards. I think it was because of the cold. Or the damp. Or my airbed. Or the fact that I was lying in the middle of a field at night instead of the warm embrace of my comfortable bed. Which is inside, because that’s sensible and what people have been doing for many hundreds of years. 

These days I feel old because someone famous is born after 1990, or I realise that someone born in early 1998 – NINETEEN-NINETY-EIGHT – would have been old enough to vote in the most recent elections. It’s enough to make me want to hide under the duvet and never emerge again. Which would be a great excuse to buy a commode. I might happen to mention a film that came out in 2000 to a 15-year-old and they’ll look at me derisively, saying that they don’t watch old films. That being their equivalent of the outrageously dull black and white films they used to show on Channel 4 of a Saturday afternoon when I was young, bed-blocking the telly schedules with crap for ancient people. 

I’ll start to weep when I realise that to this dismissive 15-year-old, the Spice Girls are basically the same as Abba or the Beegees were to me at the same point in life. Ancient history, classical music, the stuff of a bygone, dust-laden era. It’s enough to induce chest pains, or at the least a light headache. 

I find myself looking for a car with a nice comfortable ride and an automatic gearbox, just because. These days, taking a risk is something I associate with buying a new brand of hummus, or trying a different sort of coffee. I don’t like to be in bed too much past 10pm, and if I am going to be out late I’d prefer to drive rather than get the train or the bus, because it’s so cold outside and much more convenient to be able to roll up to the front door. 

I always vowed I wouldn’t be one of those people who becomes overwhelmed by technology, but every new phone that comes out perplexes me further. Kids these days grow up with extra muscles for pinching and zooming and swiping that I simply don’t possess. 

Like the dinosaurs, or the Labour party, I find the world leaving me behind. Like a just-missed bus I watch the back of my hopes and dreams driving down the road, choking in the dieselly fumes. It’s hard, getting old – and I rather suspect that by the time I get used to it, I’ll be dead.

On the US elections.

It’s getting a bit crazy over in America. I mean, you thought things were bad over here in the UK with our crashing pound, crumbling parliamentary democracy (literally – it’s going to cost like £8bn to stop the roof of the Commons from caving in) and completely hysterical media. At least over here we purse our lips and mutter something a little chippy when we disagree, over in the US you get shot in the face. 

Clinton versus Trump had all the makings of an epic slug-fest, but no one even came close. I couldn’t tell for so long whether the whole campaign was a massive joke for Trump – the man must surely be more self-aware than he comes across, I thought to myself. Or maybe I have too much faith in humanity.

Donald Trump has the air of a man who knows the joke has gone too far, but it’s too far gone to explain to everyone that he was just trying to be funny. By this point he’s tripped over the line into acute psychosis and he’s so much drowning in his own persona that he’s lost even the ability to shock himself out of character. 

Watching this week’s presidential debate was hard work – it would have been entertaining, if implausible, had it been some pilot season guff on Amazon Prime, but knowing that the outcome of this little tete-a-tete has far-reaching consequences for much of the rest of the globe (particularly those bits that don’t fancy being blown up come February) lends the whole thing a much more sinister air.

Full disclosure – I really quite like Hillary Clinton. I don’t get the near-widespread hatred of her and can’t bring myself to assume that everything she does is for somehow nefarious purposes. Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, but let’s leave that sort of thing at the door when it comes to the actually important stuff. Very often I don’t subscribe to those sorts of ideas simply because I believe in the fundamental incompetence of humankind – it would be impossible for people to maintain the high level of intelligence, discipline and order that such deceits imply. 

Hillary gets bashed for her 30 years in politics, but why do we not applaud people who want to raise the level of public service to something worthy of talented and skilled professionals? Donald Trump is what happens when too many people criticise those who try to make politics professional, and the danger of putting the pressure on politicians that we do, is that they’re unable ever to appear less than superhuman. 

Hillary Clinton of all people has an appreciation of what it means to be in high office, and what it demands of the people who holds it. She has a respect for that level of leadership that is evident in her speeches and remarks. Usually that’s true on both sides of the divide, that each side puts up a truly presidential character and it’s up to the people to decide who’s best at the time. Yet in 2016, it’s not simply that Donald Trump is an unknown quantity, he’s a known quantity and it’s frankly rather terrifying to imagine him in power.

On the positive side, it’s getting rather more difficult to imagine him in power with every passing day. The primaries were something of a charmed first impression for Trump – as a television celebrity he avoided the usual scrutiny because people thought they were getting a known quantity they could rely on. The voters were charmed by a politically fresh face, someone a bit different than the norm. They got hooked. Now they’ve been lined and sinkered. When President Clinton takes office next January, I really do hope she’s able to bring along some soothing balm to apply to what will still be deep, festering wounds. Not just for the US, but for everyone else too.

A close shave.

Of course, it’s been a shaky week. Since the bonkers result of the EU membership referendum it’s been a tsunami of news, my head barely bobbing to the surface for a gasp of air before the next revelation has hit me in the face like a free-floating car. 

The economy is similarly adrift and in danger of being swept out somewhere into the middle of the Atlantic ocean, and politics has taken all leave of what little sense it might have had remaining. So close to the beginning of it all it’s still difficult to guess whether this is the new normal, or whether it will settle down in a month and we’ll all wonder why we were being so hysterical. 

Still, the latest thing to terrify me is the fact that we have come so close to the prospect of the country being run by a man who looks like the lovechild of a scarecrow and a Vileda super mop. It’s like the doomsday clock was suddenly shifted to 11.59pm. As Johnson gave his announcement, the entire country let out half a breath (the other half still being held for the fact that Gove had announced a run for the leadership a few hours before), safe in the knowledge that it was a little bit safer.

Nevertheless, the Boris idea was a solid one right up until it wasn’t. Whatever went on behind the scenes to convince Michael Gove that he should run, and Boris Johnson that he shouldn’t - and these will no doubt emerge in the fullness of time - the fuzzy-headed posho was still the frontrunner in the Conservative leadership campaign, and talked about almost in default terms as becoming the next prime minister. 

Frankly it scares to me to think how Johnson’s form of calculated buffoonery might have become accepted to the point that its time has come. How could anyone think that his persona - cynically crafted over years - would be a good one for a prime minister? How can someone chart a path from polemic right-wing journalist to leader of a major world economy* via TV comedy quiz show and the public hardly bats an eyelid? If we’re really going to go down that route, Hugh Grant would be a much better choice. 

*I guess now arguable at this point in time

On the EU referendum.

The upcoming referendum on the UK’s European Union membership fills me with a certain sort of trepidation, and I don't mind telling you that I get well excited about this sort of thing. The thing is, if the US primary season is anything to go by, conventional politics is truly out of the window. 

Donald Trump is running a bizarre, excruciating, undeniably successful campaign to be nominated to run for president, but it will be fascinating to see if he can actually run for the job when he’s up against an experienced candidate of substance. 

His success has come through his ready-to-roll pastry status of being well-known by the electorate thanks to his extensive television appearances and gossip magazine coverage of his many marriages. Of course, back then it was all harmless fun – folks would enjoy his shows and once the cameras stopped rolling his could scuttle back to his New York penthouse and enjoy being rich. 

These days, his television persona is running amok, like a wispy-haired Godzilla. This monster that has been fed on ratings has suddenly developed a taste for blood. The scarier version is that he’s really like that, but politics allows – no, encourages – you to be cynical.

Perhaps we’ll see more celebrities running for office – Kanye West has already signalled his interest in the 2020 presidential election. In the UK our celebrity experience has only ever been limited to Robert Kilroy-Silk and Glenda Jackson, although maybe Trump has been inspired by his Apprentice forebear Sirallun Sugar being elevated to the house of peers. 

Of our current crop of celebrity politicians in the UK, Nigel Farage and George Galloway are the frontrunners. Pre-packaged populists who appeal to a certain sort of crowd. They’ve teamed up together for the Out campaign in the referendum, in theirs clearly forming some sort of super-Transformer. Neither are Trump-style ratings munchers, but both have shown in the past a certain willingness for attention at any cost. I'm not sure even Donald would be caught dead in a lycra catsuit. 

What this signals about the upcoming debate is that it has instantly slumped into the emotive and ideological, Farage and Galloway gunning for those who will accept what they’re saying for any other reason than they actually agree with the substance. 

We used to speak of battles for hearts and minds, only the minds don’t seem to matter anymore. I shall cross my fingers in the vain hope that we might be about to embark on a genuinely edifying national debate, one that will be informed and insightful and perhaps even enjoyable. Ha.

I feel the cold.

As I sit on my bed, wrapped up in blankets that cocoon me from the inside world, I’ve decided that I must be agoraphobic - I just don't like going outside when I could be indoors and comfortable. I am paralysed with disinterest when it come to venturing into the harshest of elements. ‘Get some fresh air’, they say. Well, there’s plenty that leaks in through the letterbox. 

I particularly don't like the cold weather. I’m one of those people who feels the cold. Who notices a little flurry of currents across the room, that errant draft. There are some days where I just can’t get warm, my very bones unable to retain any heat. These long months of refrigeration might stop me going otherwise mouldy, but they don’t do a great deal for my mood. 

I spent a year living in the south of Germany as part of my university course - it was the most wonderful area, with delightfully beautiful rolling countryside, a dashing antique town, a view of the Alps from the kitchen window. The downside was three long months with over a metre of permasnow. Constant cold feet and wet socks. The teachers in the school where I worked used to cross-country ski their way to the office in the morning, for goodness’ sake. 

It's this whole time of year that I don't get on with, actually. It's always a winter of my discontent. Or something like that, anyway. I always consider the new year to start in September, whatever my calendar might say. One of the good things about Christmas is however many minutes earlier the sun comes up when you’ve taken 10 days off work at the end of December. 

And so you make it through that initial burst of winter. Then the relentless dark and biting cold gives way to an insipid mild that is neither here nor there, yet bears with it fast winds and dumps of rain. I’ve often said to myself that you just don’t appreciate the warmth and the sun unless you have the coldness of winter to contrast it with, but I really don’t believe that at all. In fact, I could appreciate the warmth and the sun for twice the time if nature would give me a chance. I would be more than happy to appreciate it year-round. 

That said, there is a deep joy about the spring, the glorious bursting forth of new life. Don't get my wrong, I'd still rather watch it all from inside, but at least you can open a window every now and then.