(The title was how my friend R announced his birthday celebrations. I’m using it for general musings on ageing.)
I read once, or someone told me, or I vaguely heard it on Radio 4 whilst sleeping, that in your subjective experience of your own life, time passes more quickly as you get older. Think about it. How long did six weeks used to feel when it was a school summer holiday? Now six weeks is just the time it takes to show a whole series on the BBC or something.
What with your childhood taking ages, apparently the subjective halfway point in your life is 25. It will feel like all the time from 25-death lasts as long as the years from birth to 25.
But the thing that’s really been striking me recently is how things that used to take forever are just happening so fast. It sometimes feels like my toenails need clipping every other day. I use a bar of soap in the blink of an eye.
The other thing that has had me contemplating relative ages recently was a conversation with Ed, who was back up training locally recently. A long time ago, I told him I’d been to Berlin whilst living in Germany as part of my degree, and in return he asked whether I’d been before or after the wall came down. I had to point out I had been 11 in 1989 and had been more pre-occupied with starting secondary school than the death of communism. Ed’s not much more than a decade older than me, but has a completely different frame of reference, and my answer made him feel old.
Five years later, and my German A Level teacher was showing us the text book he taught from. He’d crossed out the page about the Berlin wall on the day it came down, but by 1996 he’d realised that he would still have to teach about it not as a fact of daily German life, but as something crucially important in Germany’s history.
This comes back to Ed because just recently he was telling me about a colleague of his who teaches an undergraduate module about communism and the fall of communism, and used to ask his class what they were doing in 1989. He’s had to stop that now because this year’s crop of 18 year-old undergraduates were born in 1989. Their frame of reference for communism is that it’s something that was largely over before they were even born. That makes me feel old!
What made me feel older still was going to talk to a group of 16-year-olds at a local school about politics, the local council and so on. And they couldn’t remember a prime minister before Tony Blair. They had no recollection of a Conservative government at all. It doesn’t seem like very long ago at all that I was in secondary school myself and just finding out that prime minsters didn’t have to be female.
Time passes. We all grow older. Younger people keep turning up. 30 seems like a big milestone that’s a long way off. But in the general scheme of things, it’s not that many soap-bars or toenail clippings away.