I am 39 today. I always write my diary on my birthday, not that this is my diary. My actual diary contains even more boring diatribes about the various trivial frustrations of my life.
Birthdays become a bit depressing past, say, 35. It’s just a reminder that you’ve moved out of the “young” tickbox and are moving inexorably further towards 44, the gateway to the 45 – 65 tickbox, and after that, there is only one left – the “65+”. God. Literally.
In the past, I used to look at the newspapers to see if anything eventful or memorable had happened on my birthday. I think this year I might skip that. I don’t really need to hear more stupid soundbites about Brexit, or democracy, or how “identity politics” has caused all the ills of the world. And of course now I had to have a quick peek at the Times front page. The Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, has been defeated. He seemed like a nice normal guy with some reasonable ideas on reforming some of the ineffective bureaucracy that characterises Italian life. I hadn’t been following this, but apparently he was defeated by a eurosceptic comedian called Beppe Grillo. Who knows, maybe Beppe will bring prosperity to countless millions, and the demise of all the postwar supranational security structures will turn out to be a great thing for human progress and harmony. And maybe the Daily Mail can start appointing judges, since their judgement is far superior.
39 is a particularly uninteresting age. It’s not the same as when I turned 29, and spent the entirety of the next year slavishly applying hand cream every time I washed my hands. My colleagues would laugh when I explained that the hands are the first things to show your age, and I didn’t want to look old. Ten years on, I have a lot more aging and sagging to worry about than my hands. My neck has started to acquire that softness in the middle, so that if I turn my head, lines appear across it. I have started to see the value of jewellery. It detracts from the festering canvas underneath it, and compensates for the missing sparkle of dewy skin and shining eyes. Age is also why you need to have kids. They inject newness and fresh human into your life, and you get to admire their excitement about pretty much everything, after you’ve long since stopped being excited about anything at all.
I am on my way into London, on the 6.53 this morning as we had to scrape the ice off the car and hadn’t quite left enough time to get the 6.38. It was pleasingly cold, -3 apparently. The big Canada Goose duvet coat has had one of no doubt very few outings for the year.
After a fractious phone call with some German stakeholders, I made my way from Green Park to Moorgate, which was surprisingly annoying, and the rest of the day was spent in a workshop with our software suppliers. Most of it was not relevant to my scope, so I spent my time looking through the internet whilst getting vaguely irritated with the antiquated way of running the discussion by having 15 senior people siting around while the presenter flipped through some slides, and everyone argued the toss about very vague assumptions on both the requirements and the solution. Why not at least get a flipchart and draw up some sort of view of what you’re talking about? I can’t have been the only one who was getting a bit lost.
Anyway, on the internet the German press has a lot to say about the rape and murder of a medical student in Freiburg. It turns out the perpetrator was a 17 year old Afghan asylum seeker. It is quite interesting that the German left-wing media sees no problem with confronting the issue of social integration, starting from the assumption that it is the immigrant whose attitudes to women and homosexuality have to change if they want to become a part of German society. Germany has a much stronger social fabric, it seems. They have no paranoia about stating what their values are, and what behaviour they expect from all their citizens. Perhaps it is no coincidence that they are the only country not currently enslaved to the far right (yes, it is the fucking far right, not the alt right or any other bullshit euphemism for small-minded racists), although that may be about to change. The point they were making is that whilst it may seem inherently racist to be talking about the whole topic of immigration and integration because the murderer was an immigrant, it was valid because it is quite specifically about Afghan attitudes to women. If the murderer had been some white British guy, it would not have drawn any comment or reflection about other British immigrants.
I decided to exit the meeting early, which felt rather brazen since there were still 15 people there, but I wanted to go to the cinema and the meeting was going to drag on until past 6 pm. So I gathered up all my stuff quite noisily, and wandered out of the door in the middle of someone’s presentation, with a little wave goodbye. It’s my birthday, and if I get fired I really don’t care at this point.
We went to see Nocturnal Animals, which was predictably good although a little depressing. A whole movie about the death of creativity, and revenge. There are two conversations about the “real world”; the gallery owner who has realised that everything she does is meaningless, but her friend consoles her with the fact that everything is meaningless, and at least the world of arty bollocks is “easier than the real world”, which is interesting since a flashback scene shows her final argument with the novelist husband she divorces apparently for the sin of “not living in the real world”, by which she meant the meaningless pursuit of material wealth. She loved her husband, but thought that was “not the point”. The point, she thought, was his lack of interest in providing for her, which back in the real world I actually live in does often seem to be a major cause of marital strife (one I don’t understand). Her ex-husband sends her a screenplay which illustrates all the hurt she has caused him. He seems to be saying that she has killed everything that meant anything to him, and he will seek his revenge on her, even if it kills him inside. I guess she should have seen the ending coming, if she had really been reading it. I don’t know what the significance of the ally who deserts him was; perhaps just that no one can really take away the pain. We went to the Cork and Bottle, and talked about it at length, in the totally frivolous way in which two arts graduates will sit around sounding clever to each other, whilst hopefully remaining somewhat aware of how meaningless all such bollocks (sometimes referred to as culture) is. It is destroyed almost as soon as it is defined, like Kleist’s Marionnentheater. The Cork and Bottle reminded me of my 20s, in the mid-2000s, when all sorts of frivolity seemed less self-indulgent. And we agreed that sometimes love is indeed not the point. We always agree.