Friday, 26 November 2010

THE ARCHERS YEARS

The Archers Years are nearly upon me. I can hardly bring myself to say that without a moue of regret, but I think the evidence is irrefutable: I made a Christmas cake at the weekend, using the handy ‘Delia Smith’ bag of ready-measured ingredients from Waitrose, and this fit of middle-aged-middle-class domestic activity came hard on the heels of making jam to use up the plums from my parent’s garden. And whilst I can still concede a quiver of enthusiasm for Gavin Henson’s six pack on Strictly Come Dancing (oh God, I've been watching Strictly - pass the humane killer), the sight of Mr Trefusis loading the dishwasher or wielding the vacuum cleaner is far more likely to get my superannuated sap rising. 

I'd love to reach for the glamour of 'Middle-youth' but it sounds a bit tiring, as if it requires me to do daily pilates, and take on a vigorous campaigning role on the PTA, and buy Cath Kidston or Boden. I'm feeling too past it for that kind of re-branding: my mental wireless is permanently tuned into Radio 4, my favourite iTunes podcast is 'In Our Time' and Marks and Spencer has suddenly reappeared on my radar as an interesting place to shop. I daresay that if I were to tune into the Archers, I'd completely relate to the storyline. 

I suppose there are some benefits to the The Archers Years - I care an awful lot less about what other people think of me. I've almost stopped pretending to like stuff on the offchance it might make me look big and clever. I give up on books that are too worthy, dreary or gritty without a shred of guilt. I'm even prepared to wear comfortable shoes.  I'm not sure whether it's increased confidence or being too exhausted to mind, but the net result is that I'm a little better at knowing what makes me happy -  probably much the same kinds of things as anyone else - not that I intend to admit any of it when the government come round to measure where I am on their happiness index. Reading makes me happy, of course, and  I no longer edit the books on my bedside table to try to reflect a more intriguing, intellectual, adventurous me - the first time Mr Trefusis stayed over (hem hem) he didn't even notice the casually placed copies of The Second Sex or Delta of Venus, or The Unbearable Lightness of Being, or The Four Quartets, and eight years later I suppose it's a great relief he doesn't judge me for replacing them with Bernard Cornwall and Ken Follett.


But the regret is still there, nagging away as I line my cake tins with a double layer of baking parchment. Middle-age might be desperate to claim me as one of its own, but I'm not ready to go without a tiny struggle. It's a quiet kind of mid-life crisis I suppose. I wish I could buy a Harley Davidson, or dye my hair an extraordinary shade, or start wearing inappropriate clothing and talking self-consciously about going to 'gigs', which at least would acknowledge the whole damn thing as a rite of passage.  But I can't, and instead the whole thing becomes internalised as mild disappointment and missed opportunity. 


Anyway, it's time to feed the cake its brandy. I might have a cheering tot myself whilst I'm at it.


21 comments:

lahossner said...

What a wonderful blog - we've tweeted together for ages,yet I've never read it! My loss. I started listening to the Archers at University when my boyfriend (long since husband) went to eat with housemates. Part of my life ever since :). Best soap and public information on foot and mouth etc ever since. Go for it - you may yet mebrace WELLIES. x

Alienne said...

You do reach a point in life when you no longer care what other people think about you and yet I also have a strange detached feeling of watching what I am doing and telling myself that I am getting very middle aged. Right now I am too tired to actually do anything about it though. BTW, I started listening to the Archers as a student - I found out about BSE from the Archers, before it hit the news. I gave it up when I had kids and just didn't have time to listen.

Knackered Mother said...

Lovely post, I will think of you when I make my Waitrose pre-pack cake tomorrow (though think I will have to dose up the brandy as I'm a week or so behind, apparently). I would fight middle-age more if I had the energy. Nowadays I'm less bang-on-trend and more bang-on-in bed-by-11ish x

Anonymous said...

mitfordesque... she wishes

Anonymous said...

The most successful rebellions are waged quietly and strategically. You, who are so very clever and able, may have to relinquish a little grace and agreeability in order to achieve what you want, but there is no time limit on fulfilling your dream (just as there is not on quashing it).
Remember not to relegate yourself to the support team.

Anonymous said...

The most successful rebellions are waged quietly and strategically. You, who are so very clever and able, may have to relinquish a little grace and agreeability in order to achieve what you want, but there is no time limit on fulfilling your dream (just as there is not on quashing it).
Remember not to relegate yourself to the support team.

Glenland Ladybird said...

Do let me know how the cake 'tastes'. Heston's pudding may be running off the shelves but I'm not so sure that I'd want a huge, soft orange in the middle of my Christmas pud.You must of course, dilute my comments because they are over-dosed with envy;the Co-op of the Glens just doesn't do Christmas like Waitrose.

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

Dear Mrs T, as ever I loved this post. Well done on the Christmas cake, I think a nip of brandy is very well deserved. I've found myself taking more interest than usual in Heston's christmas pudding with the orange in the centre.

The thought of daily pilates fills me with dread and the PTA is even worse.

Thanks for the tip, I must check out India's new book. Hope all's good with you xx

tristan said...

the trick is to anthropomorphise the brandy bottle

Penny Dreadful said...

I'm not quite at the Archers stage, but must say I am hugely enjoying getting older. As you say, it is relief to feel that you can stop pretending - I read what I like, make friends with who I like, listen to what I like. I am unashamed to say I like Kylie more than Massive Attack, crime fiction more than Kafka, and I have tried enough expensive dark chocolate to know I still prefer Snickers. Not only that, but I'm aware enough to wear clothes that suit me, and know where to splurge (ie, on well cut blazers and cashmere bed socks). As long as you are making fruit cake and wearing comfortable shoes because you ENJOY it, that is a wonderful thing (ps I've been making jam from windfall fruit since I was 18, nowt wrong with that) x

Alison Cross said...

Oh dear. I might be having a mid-life crisis right enough then:

Trying to persuade my hairdresser to dye my hair a completely unnatural colour (she refuses because she has some kind of professional integrity)

Suddenly started buying tickets for gigs - ok so they are Celtic Connections gigs (sorta middle-aged ones), plus Seth Lakeman.

And got a Brazilian bikini wax.

Next thing will be forming inappropriate relationships with younger men on Facebook and Twitter.

*help me face*

Ali x

Miss Whistle said...

Dear Mrs T,

From across the pond you appear impossibly glamorous and filled with vigour, so I can only imagine that the Archers Years are only part of the melancholy of winter (isn't there sleet falling in the UK -- the most depressing of weather conditions). However, I don't know whether fighting it IS possible. My husband bought a motorbike and whizzes about on it with a big grin on his face, but I don't know if there is a female equivalent. Baking a Christmas cake sounds most agreeable. And then of course there's the holiday for one in Italy...
It makes me enormously happy when you post. Thank you.
Miss W x

Lewis William said...

As ever, fabulous reading.

As a child, one of the most important events in the lead up to Christmas was the making of Christmas cakes in my paternal grandparents' kitchen. The whole family would take turns stirring, each supposedly enriching the cake with festive thoughts, which as children mainly involved a full stocking of gifts.

Is it early middle-youth that has me yearning for such simplicity again?

PS sound bedside table reading advice!

Steerforth said...

I know the feeling well. It's particularly bittersweet if you have children, because you enter the tunnel of parenthood while you're young and emerge, blinking, into the light, as a middle-aged person.

Only yesterday I was chastising myself for brooding about the loss of youth and my impending mortality, when I should have been celebrating the fact the I'm in good health, have a lovely family and may only be halfway through my life. I need to learn to enjoy the present.

I certainly don't want to be one of those men who deals with their mid-life crisis by buying a motorbike or sleeping with women in their 20s, because after the party comes the hangover. I've met these men when they're in their 50s, living alone in a one-bedroom flat in an unfashionable suburb, often estranged from their children.

Blighty said...

What a wonderful post, you write so beautifully - I love the line about "internalized as mild disappointment and missed opportunity". And I am so there in the Archers Years -ditto on giving up on worthy books, and also can't face the PTA scene, too terrifying..you don't mention fading eyesight, but it does also have its advantages, sometimes unexpected: I flicked over to your Aschenputtel link ( not sure I have spelt Aschen whatsit right) and misread the last bit of the fairy tale - after she cuts off her toe she goes down to the prince - I read "on" where "to" should be: see, I don't need to read Jackie Collins novels any more....

Lady Jennie said...

I just got the latest Ken Follett for my birthday and I'm wondering if I should plunge right in, or delay the pleasure with the (worthier?) "A Suitable Boy" first.

I'm particularly peeved that the sleep lines from always sleeping on the same side are now permanent features. I neither feel old nor young. I wish I were hipper looks-wise.

Anyway, I really loved your post. Have a slice of cake on me (while I continue with my Dr Dukan diet to try and melt away the middle aged rolls).

Anonymous said...

As long as I have my broken in blue jeans -- and wear them (almost) everywhere which I seem to do now more than ever -- I will never feel "old".
As for the rest, well, I've long been an "expat" which has made me the odd one out first in Canada, now in Belgium, a position I rather prefer.
The one sister who stayed in our birth city (the rest of us fled) countered her husband's midlife crisis mammoth motorcycle purchase by taking out an additional (& generous) life insurance policy on him -- and treating herself to her "dream" car, a 1979 Corvette "Shark" Stingray.
Life is too short to wear uncomfortable shoes (despite what they may make your legs look like!).

Pat (in Belgium)

Blighty said...

Boy 1 is almost 120 months old, is he still eligible for the Next baby photo thing? Just wondering.

Helen@Leather baby shoes said...

I'm with you, apart from the sensible shoes thing...a girls gotta have standards!

Anonymous said...

J'ai appris des choses interessantes grace a vous, et vous m'avez aide a resoudre un probleme, merci.

- Daniel

redfox said...

And, you know, the works of Bernard Cornwall, Nancy Mitford, and India Knight are in fact 100% objectively superior to pseudo stuff like The Unbearable Lightness of Being, so the shifting nightstand stack really a win all around, including in how it reflects on you.