Kid Oneself

Over the last 20 years, I’ve developed a mechanism for coping with the fact that I am hurtling towards decrepitude and incontinence. Lots of other people probably do the same thing, but sometimes I think that my own thing veers into obsessive behaviour.

Simply put, I think about how old I am, and where I am at, and compare my own situation with that of other people. Not in the career-oriented sense of ‘at 35 Mozart was dead, and now I’m 30 and I’ve nearly forgotten how to play Rondo alla Turca on the piano, so it looks like I can kiss goodbye to playing the Albert Hall’, but more in the sense of where I sit at my age in relation to certain broader historical developments.

To illustrate, I think of a song from the 1980s – let’s say I’m Your Man by Wham. Then I think, that was 21 years ago. So if I was a nine year old now, listening to I’m Your Man for me would be the same as a nine year old in 1986 listening to a song from 1965, like California Girls by the Beach Boys.

There is nothing particularly consoling about this, since for me 60s music doesn’t seem any more distant now than it did 21 years previous. Then I think about something like the assassination of JFK, and think that when I first found out the facts about JFK’s assassination (by that I mean the basic facts, like the fact that he was shot in Dallas in 1963, and not that it was a conspiracy involving the FBI, anti-Castristas and martians), I must have been 8, so it too happened 21 years previous. This is roughly the same as an 8 year old these days finding out about Live Aid. And whilst I can remember the clothes I was wearing when Live Aid was on (a cub scout uniform,  as it happens), JFK got shot in black and white. It happened donkeys ago. So then I conclude that an 8 year old nowadays must think that Live Aid happened donkeys ago.

Then I think, what if the 8 year old listens to California Girls, and likes it? Why, that’d be roughly the same thing as me as an 8 year old listening to Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree by Glenn Miller, and liking it.

These enquiries don’t actually lead anywhere, and they are probably founded upon some sort of basic error (that history develops at a uniform speed or something). To an 8 year old these days, California Girls may not seem as distant as Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree did to me, since music hasn’t evolved that much. But then I think, but what if music has evolved in objective terms, but I’m just too old to realise it? Or, worse still, what if my concept of musical evolution is founded upon specific ideas formed at a particular moment of cultural history?

And! What if an 8 year old in 2007 has no resemblance –beyond the basically physiological- to an 8 year old in 1985? And even at that, if apples and bananas taste differently these days, why shouldn’t 8 year olds? I am not advocating eating 8 year olds here, but raising the possibility that the historical forces that led to the existence of 1980s-era 8 year olds may no longer operate.


And just while I’m talking about 8, why is it that non-native English speakers have trouble understanding me say the word ‘eight’? I often end up having to repeat myself, using an English accent. And on the subject of non-native English speakers: do you realise how many couples there are out there who communicate via English even though it is the first language of neither partner? I am guessing millions worldwide.


5 Responses to “Kid Oneself”

  1. 1 dav May 24, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    Completely unrelated, but…

    It seems these ‘surprise’ visits are more and more predictable:

    “A SURPRISE visit to Iraq by Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, was overshadowed yesterday by a bomb that killed 14 people in the Interior Ministry.

    The first big attack in the normally quiet Kurdish regional capital of Irbil for three years came as Mr Cheney arrived in Baghdad to meet Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister.”

  2. 2 GerryOS May 24, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    I know what you mean. To me music has fairly well-defined eras, and I would consider for example, “Led Zeppelin II” and Nirvana’s “Nevermind” as being from two distinct eras.

    My two eldest nephews, aged 18 and 16 are heavily into music and listen a lot to stuff from “our” era and before. But to them it is all the one era, as if “Nevermind” and “Led Zeppelin II” were released within a year or so of one another.

    Young people, bah!

    As for the “eight” thing, is it because when you pronunce it in your Armagh accent, it is as if it has two syllables? (“Ay-yit”) I remember having a long discussion about this one time with friends from Antrim.

  3. 3 hughgreen May 24, 2007 at 1:56 pm


    I’m starting to think that these surprise visits are very inconsiderate toward the Iraqi people. If they don’t know he’s coming, how are they supposed to get ready with the sweets and flowers?


    But to them it is all the one era, as if “Nevermind” and “Led Zeppelin II” were released within a year or so of one another.

    Jesus, that’s nuts. I’m having a hard time getting my head round that. Funny enough, I was thinking about Nirvana this morning. Nevermind was released in 1991, which means that the time gap between the release of Never Mind The Bollocks and Nevermind is shorter than the gap between Nevermind’s release and today. I find that pretty scary.

  4. 4 hughgreen May 24, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    is it because when you pronunce it in your Armagh accent, it is as if it has two syllables?

    Yeah, I suppose so, but it probably sounds more like ee-it than ay-it.

  5. 5 GerryOS May 24, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Another thing about relating to the past. It only seems to be a short while ago that my eldest nephew was the age that my daughter is now (9 months), so I find it really weird going for a pint with him. But when I was his age (18), I was in second year in college, and living away from home. (1985 again.)

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