My My Generation, Baby…

The amiable Dutchman in the reception office beamed at us as he rose to increase the volume on his ipod. “I LOVE this”, he said, in the expectation of our immediate affirmation, or at least the knowledge of what it was. Catching our blank faces, he enlightened us with a ‘how could you not know?’ expression. “It is DEEP PURPLE!” he boomed-“My wife got it for me. Fantastic!” Husband murmured into the ensuing pause-“Now if it had been Led Zeppelin”, and I followed with, “Well-Deep Purple was never a huge favourite of mine, but I know ‘Smoke on the Water’”… The Dutchman shrugged, grinning and eulogising over the music of ‘our’ generation; a strange remark, since he was at least twenty five years short of ‘our’ generation.

                Each generation feels its culture to be the best, the most creative, the most brilliant, the most enjoyable of all time. Despite the Dutchman’s love of Deep Purple, he is certainly not of the generation that spawned them, although it is common for non-British Europeans to be fond of rock music’s dinosaurs.

                The older I become, the more remote I feel from today’s music and culture. I begin to understand where the phrase ‘generation gap’ [much used when I was a teenager] came from, and even those fads which have themselves become ‘old hat’ have passed me by. Bands that are now doing ‘comeback’ tours hail from after my time. That [old] boy band, Take That inspire a feverish tsunami  of middle-aged-housewifely hysteria from thirty and forty somethings, yet to me the likes of Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams still seem like teenage upstarts!

                I admit to having given up on what is new, other than coming across occasional eulogies in arts and culture supplements. At least I can say I’ve read about an up and coming artist, or seen their name. During my Pilates class I was even able to put a singer’s name [Ellie Goulding]to a song recently. But mostly it passes me by. And in an even more startling turn of events, it is all beginning to pass my children by, too.

                In the wondrous van there is a music player, filled with the kind of music beloved by Husband, a fair number of songs we both like and a few things I enjoy listening to but attract derisory comments from him. Amongst these are several numbers by Coldplay [deemed middle-class pap- a label that may well be true but nevertheless does not impair my listening experience]. I still think of Coldplay as ‘new’, although I read that Chris Martin is 39. Thirty nine! He is tipping into the wastelands of middle age-and separated [or whatever they are calling it]-a sure sign of middle age.

                My father ignored contemporary music trends altogether, preferring [allegedly] classical, or ‘serious’ music, as he called it. He was fond of asserting that I would grow out of popular music to adopt his [adult] tastes. How wrong could he be? It was a disappointment he took to his grave…

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Reading Life

                Reading habits differ as much as tastes in TV or music. There are those who do not read at all, choosing to derive their entertainment from the screen. There are those who eschew books in favour of newspapers, magazines or manuals. There are those who consider fiction beneath them and opt for worthy non-fiction. Then there are issues of class or generation.

Years ago I was quizzed by a gentile, elderly great-aunt-in-law as to what my preferred ‘light’ reading tastes were and I responded with more enthusiasm than prudence, eagerly blurting out a long list that included lurid thrillers, shallow romances, juicy, explicit murder mysteries and science fiction. Her stony faced response was an impressive put-down as she shared her leisure time favourites- Jane Austen, George Eliot-and for more vicarious pleasure, Charles Dickens. I refrained from inquiries about her ‘serious’ reading choices, fearing I may have already become so far out of my depth my feet had floated out from underneath me.

I was a voracious reader as a child; the child who could not be torn from a book for anything, not to help with the dishes, to lift her feet for the vacuum cleaner or for sleep. There were books I longed for, having heard them serialised on the radio [a joy children are deprived of these days]. The Christmas morning I awoke to find that Santa had left a hardback copy of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ on the end of my bed is my most memorable. I still have it, along with many other beloved childhood novels- Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows and Eleanor Farjeon’s beautiful take on Cinderella, ‘The Glass Slipper’.

As a teacher of young children I managed to squeeze in enough time to indulge my enjoyment of children’s literature by regular readings of my own favourites as well as theirs-Roald Dahl and Dick King-Smith included. It was gratifying to see them coming in with their own prized copies of these novels, even those whose ability was not quite, yet, up to the task of reading the stories themselves.

Then there are the film versions. I have never been able to shake the compulsion to see a film version of a book despite knowing from experience that it is never going to match the depth and pleasure of its print original.

Even now that I am approaching my dotage I still come across novels that captivate me to a point where I become evangelistic about them, urging others to read them and feeling vastly disappointed if the response does not match my own. D. C. B Pierre’s ‘Vernon God Little’ was one of these. I eulogised ad nauseam over it but found no one to share my enthusiasm. When my frustrations at the dearth of post book analysis became overwhelming I joined a book club, only to find that within the narrow confines of those who enjoy fiction novels there is the same mismatch of tastes.

But whatever is read, one truth remains. The written word is the most wonderful invention known to man!

You’re never too old for Rock and Roll

                One of the many aspects of ageing that intrigues me is what I will be listening to [always providing I am able to hear anything] when I am installed in my care or nursing home as a result of having been firmly placed there by my sprogs. They will have done this following lengthy and frequent exhortation by me and having researched widely [I hope!].

                I imagine that such ‘entertainment’ provided by institutions for the elderly consists, if it is adequate, of some kind of sing-along sessions, as well as gentle exercise to music? What, then, will that music be? Because it would have to be derived from popular songs of the inmates’ era, would it not? And what will the songs be?

                Well certainly not ‘Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover’, or ‘Pack up your Troubles in your Old Kit Bag’. These belong to a bygone era. No, the popular music we babyboomers will be jigging in our orthopaedic chairs to will have to consist of hit parade favourites or sixties underground classics or punk. How about sing-along-a ‘She Loves You’ by The Beatles, or Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, or The Sex Pistols’ ‘Anarchy in the UK’?

                I like to think there is less of a generation gap in musical tastes as there used to be when I was a teenager, though I fear I am deluded, since I would be at a loss right now to be able to name any tune in the charts today.

Festivals, however are attended by a wide age range, and of course, especially this year, frequently feature vintage bands such as The Rolling Stones headlining act at Glastonbury, pilloried by that most erudite rag, The Daily Mail, with the headline ‘Night of the Living Dead’. Yes, Mailites, the Stones are oldish. They are all pushing seventy. They are wrinkly and craggy looking. Some [Keith] are too arthritic to play their instrument. But here’s a thing-a vast number of people of all ages loved it, including me. Why? Well for me it is generational. They are of my era, playing the songs that define my youth [mostly written by Keith, who merited his place on the stage for having produced such classics as ‘Gimme Shelter’ whether he played or not. The Stones, geriatric though they may be, can play on into their wheelchair years as far as I’m concerned.

And as our little, local music festival draws to a close today I look around at the substantial audience and see revellers of all ages from days old, to old and infirm and from all walks of life, sharing and enjoying the same music and best of all, the acts live on stage. So maybe in real music, unmanufactured by the likes of Simon Cowell etc there is no generation gap after all? And I can look forward to afternoon tea, Bingo and ‘I can’t get no Satisfaction’ when I wind up in sunset hotel.