New review of Where’s Sailor Jack? : ‘‘…romantic, poignant, and extremely funny, exactly what I want from a family saga.’ – Stephen Carver, Blot the Skrip and Jar It

Archives: Beatles

Is seventy the happiest age?

The papers have been full of a survey claiming that seventy year olds are the happiest people. I read about it in The Times yesterday. I don’t know if it was the same survey as The Mail covered today, which claimed that the biggest regret in life of the seventy year old is the one that got away. Maybe, but I reckon that by then the feeling is more one of relief. My novel Where’s Sailor Jack? has the characters at it in their sixties but after seventy you’re on borrowed time and the story of your life has been constructed, with the sub-plot of that special memory concluded before the last chapters. Also, to dampen any residual ardour, you can take a guess at what medications are now in their bathroom cabinet.
The Mail article seems to confuse being seventy with the seventies as the music they listed as septuagenarians listening to featured Queen and Abba. I’m sure we all appreciated Freddie Mercury and liked Abba, us men lusting after Agnetha’s bottom and the girls dancing about as well as she did, but that wasn’t our music. That started with pre-army Elvis, we learnt the game with Buddy Holly, progressed through the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison, had a spell as folkies, before being taken by storm by The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Who and Dusty. We’ve been together through life with Dylan. As any older sibling would listening to a younger one’s taste, we thought seventies’ stuff derivative or pretentious, as in prog rock. Post punk, it got better so we could claim The Pretenders and Elvis Costello as ours. One of the biggest pains in the backside from being old is seeing the middle-aged in their positions of authority getting their history wrong. The narrative created by them concerning the fifties and sixties is invariably skewed by their own somewhat precious preoccupations.
Research a few years ago said people were actually happiest at 74. It would be great to think that the best is yet to come, but I think the reason for later-life satisfaction is that the strife is more or less o’er, the battle done, and we await our personal last trump. In the meantime, we want things for our children and grandchildren more than for ourselves, sometimes even when that’s the last cake in the tin.
I remember well the moments of triumph in my life, the net bulging, the Oxford acceptance, the early promotions. But all my childhood family have gone. There’s nobody left here to tell, at least no-one who’s remembers. Loneliness can be a function of age as well as circumstance. To be fair, the children do try to look interested.
Where I still have ambition, as in trying to promote my book, write a second one, or pen an interesting blog, I still have stress. The good fortune of being older is that worries come singly rather than in succession. The bad part is the exception to this of ill health and death.They’ll not seem like winning the victor’s crown. Yet the best victory is defeat.
And the best age to be is whatever you are today.

Who’s a boomer?

Born just after the war finished in late 1945, I always assumed I was a baby boomer. My class at primary school was told that’s what we were. But only the younger members of that class are now caught by the ONS classification. Someone born in 1964, a boomer according to the ONS, could only be the child of one for me, a consequence of the fallibility of condoms in the pre-pill era, not that they worked well if still in the top pocket of a jacket. Older boomers respected the music of their older siblings, like Elvis. They learnt the game with Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and Gene Pitney.
Then came the sheer northern working class, grammar school (Ringo excepted) energy and vitality of the Beatles and the Mersey sound. That’s what I still think of as baby boomer music. It was the sound of delight from the first lower class generation to get a shout. The Beatles were immediately followed by The Stones, The Kinks, and The Who from elsewhere in the country. Male mainly, but we got the brilliant Dusty early. From the US, Dylan in a sense capped it all as he still does more than half a century later. One of the characters in my book sums up early boomer attitude to what followed when he was made by his wife in the early seventies to listen to a Yes album. “I’d rather listen to bloody Mantovani.”
I quote from Elvis Costello, Chrissie Hynde and even a Snow Patrol song in the book, but not Bowie. Although only a year younger than me, not a word of his crossed my mind while I was writing. Even those of us who’d gone to University were in gainful employment in the white hot heat of the technological revolution by the time he hit it big, the few who’d gone to Art School included. We heard him on car radios driving to the factory or the office.
The wall to wall coverage since his death has reminded me of the many songs of his that I did know, and they were good, but I enjoyed his Tony Newley impressions best! Conversations with contemporaries reveal similar views. There are at least two categories of boomer!