There’s always a ‘they’ and, in this case, ‘they’ say life begins today. If that’s true then quite what the past forty years have been I have no idea. For some reason that I have yet to understand, turning forty is a point when people look back. They don’t do it so much at 39 and, I imagine, not so much at 41 either.
Still, maybe it’s not such a bad thing, this looking backwards. Perhaps looking back helps, as someone once said, refreshes the eye, “to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward”. Or perhaps it’s just what we do.
A potted geography would look like this: around forty years ago I arrived in this world in a place that wasn’t too far from the wooden planks that made up the place Wigan Pier would have been had it really been a pier. I was too early for it to have been the tourist attraction it became. As I entered the second decade of my life – around the point they thought they should have a pier tourist attraction and the moment the new romantics took over the music scene – you would have still found me in Wigan (where, I was reminded earlier this week, Spandau Ballet’s To Cut A Long Story Short was the first record I will admit to buying). We got used the fact Kajagoogoo’s Limahl, who was a local boy, was being played on the radio and it was somewhere around this time that I became fascinated by the voices coming out of the radio. By the middle of the decade we lived in Shropshire, where my first proper paid job was for BBC radio there, and by the end of it I was in studying in Scotland. At the height of the Britpop 90s I’d moved to London, trying to make advertising systems work, first for those voices in the radio box and then for the emerging online industry, and that’s where I’ve been ever since. I entered my 30s as we took in the new millennium, realised that I was lucky to live in the most vibrant place in the world, and was working with computing systems all days long. Like father, like son, huh?
The geography provides the markers on our own life-map but, of course, it’s the people who provide the highs (and, I guess the lows) which make up the contours on our map. And, while I take my moment to reflect I want to say ‘”thank you” to everybody who has made the last forty years so wonderfully rich.
When I was a child I imagined you would get to this point in life and you’d be able to write your own life’s acknowledgements, as though life was bound between two hard covers, but now I’m here I’m fully aware that it’s not the final chapter so the words won’t get written. Plus it’s hard. Of course, my family have been there throughout but I am not sure you can ever repay the debt that you owe them. But Mum, Dad and Jez have been there from the beginning (well, not Jez, he was some months later) and, while the bad bits are all me, they should get the credit for guiding my good points. Friends come and go in your life (and, thanks to the wonders of Facebook, they come back too). I don’t want this weekend to pass, however, without thanking all my family, acknowledging all those I’ve met along the way who’ve made sure this has been a blast and, of course, to Paul who – when I add it up – has been here for more than half of it and really makes it all worthwhile.
So, I’ll raise a glass to all of you. Here’s to whatever the next forty bring.