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.