I am six weeks away from ignominy, invisibility and anxiety. In late January 2009 I will be entering the September of my life. Forty beckons insistently from the dark corners, and I feel the inevitability of my obedience. No sooner will the leaves be turning brown in the autumn of my forties than I will be counting the days until my own life’s Christmas. And then I will be looking back, sucking a cough sweet, looking for my reading glasses and wondering where my life has gone. But before then I must pack away some of the accoutrements of youth, hand back the membership card of “Club Young”.
First things first: I can no longer dress like a 20-year-old trapped in a late-thirtysomething’s body. I will have to retire my Adidas tracksuit tops, my couple of hoodies and most of my blingtastic Evisu jeans (even the ones with embroidered skulls tumbling down from the back pocket to the heel). There is nothing sadder, no chase for youth more futile, than that of the mid-forties man thinking he still looks cool. Cool is better to be called a cab and sent home than be allowed to hang around much past midnight. Obviously this callous but canny cull of clothing will leave a huge gap in my wardrobe. But fear not. I already have my eye on a couple of nice cardigans and a pair of very comfortable-looking slacks with nice pleats. All I need now is some driving gloves and a really comfy pair of shoes . . .
I was up in the north-east of England for a dinner earlier in the week. Apart from Paul Daniels and Captain Cook, Middlesbrough has little to offer the world other than a warm welcome and a mid-table football team. I was speaking at the conference of the Network of Independent Advisory Groups, a national collective of volunteers who help and advise various police authorities on their approach to minority and special-interest groups.
I don’t think I have ever been in a room with such a diverse gathering. (Given my membership of the west of Scotland’s Dungeon and Dragons network of 1985, that is really saying something.) There were a number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender delegates in the audience. I was no stranger to the catchy acronym LGBT. What did strike me as strange was how they had decided on that particular order for the individual related but wholly separate subgroups . . . Let’s not pretend that there wasn’t a deal of position-jockeying, an attempt by one group to gain prominence.
Apropos, how did the lesbians manage to get top billing? That surely has to be a coup, a striking moment of feminist achievement. How did the gays feel about that, I wonder? If I were their creative brand director I wouldn’t be happy. And given our society’s attitude to transgenderism, it’s no great surprise that they were pushed down to the end of the list, the forever-forgotten sexual underclass, still forgotten.
Belly pork and puy lentils with roast celeriac, roast apples and roast pears. I spent days working out that combination of foods and flavours. The soft, slow-roasted pig meat, rich and complex, accompanied perfectly by the nutty lentils, still in possession of some bite. The roast fruit mingled with the root vegetable in a splash of olive oil and rock salt, a sweet taste of treetops to offset the earthy depth of the pork and puy.
There was balance, there was a complete internal tension in that meal, each plate of food a compelling story of flavour with beginning, middle and end. The only problem is that I omitted to ask one of my guests, Sarah, if she ate meat, which she didn’t. Shame, that, for her and for me. But it’s amazing what you can do with a tin of tuna and a red pepper.