Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Forty? Been there, done that, have the vouchers

Frances Burscough

A lot of very cool people are turning forty this month — Stella McCartney, Dannii Minogue, Snoop Dogg, Caprice, Jade Jagger, Winona Ryder and Sacha Baron Cohen, among others.

Of course, I’ve been there/done that myself already (it’s my fortysomethingth tomorrow, in fact) and there’s nothing cool about the big four-oh.

Here are some of the alarming symptoms I experienced myself upon reaching this landmark of middle-age:

1 The desire to read poetry. Something I hadn’t done since my A-levels suddenly became an overwhelming urge. Shakespeare’s sonnets and Keats’s odes rapidly replaced Busta Rhymes’ rap as my favourite type of verse. Surely this must be a symptom of advancing years, or approaching senility? “I grow old, I grow old! I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled!”

2 The desire to save vouchers and cut out coupons from newspapers. The first time I did this I thought ‘Oh my God, I’m turning into a little old lady! Nooo!’ Now, four years later, I wouldn’t dream of binning a Sunday supplement without scouring it for two-for-one cinema tickets or a free coffee from Starbucks. My wallet is bulging with the damn things, but I just can’t help myself.

And as for Computers for Schools — I must have supplied half of the SEELB catchment area with Apple Macs by now ...

3 The desire to go fell walking. Not easy for someone who habitually wears high heels. God knows where this crazy notion came from — I would drive to the corner shop rather than walk a hundred yards, but now the call of the wild has taken over and for some reason I want to climb every mountain and ford every stream. I even have a verse for that too:

“Oh I love to go a–wandering along the mountain track/And as I go I love to sing with a napsack on my back!”

But, please — if I ever start wearing a fluorescent Karrimor wind-cheater, waterproof over-trousers and a bobble hat, just push me off the nearest cliff. Some crimes against fashion just cannot be forgiven, even of the elderly.

4 The desire to go back to church. Ok, I haven’t actually made it inside one yet, but in fairness, the notion is there at least. Is it ‘The power of Christ that compels thee!’ or just the fear that there might be a hell after all and every time I say the F-word or have unclean thoughts about Clive Owen I might be edging that wee bit closer?

5 The desire to get gardening. I can literally pinpoint this to the very week I turned forty. Before then I didn’t care that my backyard was a wasteland. Then I got vouchers as gifts and spent them on a spade and a wheelbarrow. I treated myself to a half tonne of topsoil with my fortieth birthday money. I started visiting the garden centre with alarming regularity and bought a pair of wellies. Not even the fashionable Kate Moss-style floral ones with heels, but the traditional green galoshes type that smell of lorry tyres.

And, what was worst of all, I started mulching.

So, I will be scouring the papers over the next few weeks for pictures of Snoop, Jade, Sacha and the rest of the Autumn Club? I’m expecting to see them getting caught by the paparazzi cashing in their money-off vouchers in the gardening section at Homebase, or buying a pair of woolly hiking socks at Millets, or clutching a poetry anthology and a Sunday missal as they stride purposefully towards a forest fell.

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