I'm not a grumpy old man, just an out of synch hippy

Monday, 31 December 2012


Easy Resolutions

New Year used to make me sweat. It wasn’t just my hangover or waistline (both thicker than normal).  It was the knowledge that all my vows to become a better person over the next twelve months would, by the middle of February, be toast. No, not toast. A slab of full fat cheese on top of a bacon buttie washed down by a quart of whisky.

At last I’ve found the answer. For 2013 I’m making resolutions which I have 100% chance of keeping. I’m going to:

·        Give up drinking beer in thimbles. Although it’s great for your brain/hand co-ordination, it involves a lot of spilt liquid and stained settees. Besides, my wife’s continually complaining about her bleeding fingers.

·        Give up making advances to strange women. It’s a bad habit. No more striking up inappropriate conversations with women who knot harpoons into their hair or end every sentence with a word in Sanskrit. I wasn’t getting very far with those types anyway.

·        Give up the Triathlon. OK, I’ve never actually done the Triathlon, but for a day during this year’s Olympics, I had fantasies of emerging dripping from the water like Colin Firth in “Pride & Prejudice”, clambering onto a bike and punching the air as I ride through rows of adoring punters. It’s terribly bad for the health.

On the positive side, I’m going to take up:

·        Power walking. My aims are realistic:  I’m going to do my power walks solely between the coffee maker and the fridge when I’m hunting for milk. I lose my guilt, I lose my flab, I keep my caffeine rush. Win win.

·        Community activism. No man is an island. From now on, I’m helping my neighbours out. I can see some teenagers lobbing beer cans into the hedge. No holding back. I’m going out to help them.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, 23 December 2012


A Baby Boomer Christmas Carol

“Bah humbug!” muttered the grumpy old baby boomer. He’d spent Christmas Eve in his shed successfully avoiding the Jingle Bells muzac and the drunks in Santa hats. But right now, as he tried to reenter his house, next door’s 6’ high flashing sleigh lights threatened him with an epileptic fit. Inside he slipped on a Christmas Card from an estate agent who wanted to buy up the street. He turned on the TV: “Christmas With the Kranks” “Humbug!!” he growled.

That night an apparition came to his room. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Past,” it said. “I want to show you your Christmases weren’t always miserable.”

The Grumpy Old Baby Boomer saw his 8 year old self on Christmas Day blissfully spraying his sister with his ray gun water pistol and knocking the gravy off the table with his Roy Rogers lasso.

Another wraith appeared. “Two ghosts!” exclaimed the Grumpy Old Baby Boomer, “This is a matter for Pest Control!” “I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the wraith, “See how you’re destroying the spirit of Christmas.” It showed images of himself groaning at Slade’s “Merry Christmas”,  sneering at the “Downton Abbey” Christmas Special and hissing at all the holly-decked people lining up to sell him things he didn’t want.

When the Ghost of Christmas Future showed up, the Grumpy Old Baby Boomer had had it.  “I’m not doing a tour of my lonely grave! Not even if it’s free.” “Relax,” chuckled the ghost, “you’re going to see how Christmas could be.”

The GOB was shown a room with a smell of roasting bird drifting in. A bottle of Chilean Merlot stood on the table. His sparkling-eyed wife proffered him a cracker and a hug.

It looked good.

 “Unfortunately,” said the Ghost, “According to a survey, Christmas dinner raises cholesterol unacceptably high. Red wine has been shown to cause cancer and increase incidence of whooping cough. A government report finds that human warmth is economically unproductive. So they’ve banned Christmas.”

“They’re banning Christmas?” shouted the Baby boomer. “It’s humbug!”

The Ghost uncrossed its fingers.  “That’s the spirit” it said.

Thursday, 20 December 2012


The Deafening Sound of Silence
It goes in one......


I developed tinnitus about 5 years ago. I caught it from Jimi Hendrix in 1969. At least, I hope it was him rather than the overloud discos at whose margins I fretted at the time. Getting a bad hangover from stale beer is twice as annoying.

I became very tense, couldn’t sleep for two months, and drove my wife crazy as I tossed, turned and groaned. I finally got a tinnitus relief programme from a doctor in LA. I normally avoid programmes - they sound like something you have to do in prison. I followed the exercises religiously. “Exercises” isn’t the word: they were easy (like relaxing your jaw ten times) and no-one could see me doing them, the lack of both attributes being the reason I don’t jog.

It worked. I slowly learned to live with the ringing. I turned the sonic threat into a neutral or even welcome sound. Surf was up in my sandy Thai beach. Friendly aliens had picked me as their human contact before bringing peace on earth, not before ray-gunning everyone on “Celebrity Big Brother” as a special thanks to me. An oven was warming up for a chicken roast (Honey Chicken: lightly brush the bird with Soy Sauce, baste in butter then spoon over honey 15 minutes before removing. It’s delicious.)

That chicken saved my marriage.

A few nights ago our upstairs neighbours were away. We knew because their teenage daughter held a party. It sounded like a street that was being dug up and simultaneously being subjected to an air raid. Chikachakachikachakakkkkkkkkkchika. And that was just the conversation.

I tried relaxing my jaw and doing the chicken trick. It didn’t work. Those kids had no appreciation of my brilliant recipe. I doubt if they’d tone it down for canard a l’orange and tarte tatin.  I tossed and turned and groaned. Luckily so did my wife.

I’m going to contact Dr M. We’re going to work on a programme which cuts out the real outside noise. I’ll be able to muffle the police sirens by flaring my nostrils. And win the Good Neighbour award.

Sunday, 16 December 2012


Help! I hate Hobbits

The picture of a Hobbit has been removed. This is a family website which is accessible to adults.

TRANSCRIPT OF CONVERSATION BETWEEN DR JULIUS PROD AND MR TONY KIRWOOD. LOCATION, DR PROD’S CLINIC.

DR. PROD:     I’ve diagnosed your condition, Mr Kirwood. It’s Brevicuspauriculaphobia - the fear of small pointy-eared people. Specifically, Hobbits.

TK FOAMS AT THE MOUTH AND ROLLS ON THE FLOOR AT THE SOUND OF THE WORD.

PROD:            Tell me your symptoms.

TK:                  Excruciating ennui and disgust. You must help me. They’ve infested my flat. I hear them sniggering under my kitchen sink. They get into my fridge. They leave their droppings everywhere. They jump out at me!

PROD:            (CALMLY) Of course, they don’t in reality.

TK:                 Yes they do. They’re in 3-D!

PROD:            Now you must ask yourself, how can a Hobb -

(TK CONVULSES)

PROD:            - er, one of these proportionally different people actually hurt you?

TK:                  If I see one of them, I know I’ll be trapped in a dark room and subjected to endless CGI battles….

PROD:            Ah! You find the battles scary?

TK:                  I wish I did! And then there’s three hours of stilted dialogue, cardboard characters, overloaded visuals, nausea….

PROD:            We’ll try Exposure Therapy. It’ll acclimatise you with a steady and constant exposure to Hobbits.  

TK:                 That’s what’s happening already!

PROD:            Then using hypnotherapy, we’ll send you to sleep over 9 hours of the Lord of the Rings trilogy…..

TK:                  I don’t like the sound of this.

PROD:            We’ll strap you in and brainwash you with electric shocks. Ha! Fool, you didn’t realise that Dr Prod is a mere disguise. My true identity is…..

HE RIPS OFF HIS WHITE COAT AND WIG

PROD:            …. PETER JACKSON!!!!!

LIGHTS DIM.  TK IS ENCASED IN METAL FETTERS. A SCREEN LIGHTS UP WITH THE START OF “AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY”.

JACKSON:     YOU…WILL….LOVE…HOBBITS!...YOU…WILL…LOVE…….

TK SCREAMS.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012



Notes From Beyond the Veil
Alas Poor Hamlet

I’m dead. This is not paranoia, nor some kind of acidhead hippy fantasy. It’s a clinically proveable fact.

How do I know this? Science, of course. First, I live in Lewisham. A survey says that male residents of this impoverished (in patches) area of London have a statistical chance of dying at 70.8 years. I regularly see men walking about who are over 70.8, but I address them bluntly: “What makes you so special? Think you’re cleverer than the doctors who’ve spent years studying this stuff?”

Another survey says that people who sit down for longer than 3 hours a day lose 2 years off their life. I’m a writer. I also love watching Scandinavian detective drama, sitcoms and the Toyota “Mob Guy” advert. None of this stuff is improved by doing it while sweating over an exercise bike. 3 hours seated? I did more than that when I had piles.

Yet another survey warns that every cigarette cuts 11 minutes off your life. I only smoked for 10 years of my reckless youth, but 25 cigarettes a day adds up to 91,250, which by my reckoning is 1.90 years deducted off my account.

Lewisham’s rated highly on the pollution scale. Our contribution to the world carbon monoxide count is pretty impressive. An EU survey says living in areas like this cuts up to 8 months off your life.

I’m 65.25 years old. I think you can see where this is heading.

My cholesterol is on the low end of the highish spectrum, although I reduce it by thinking of Chris Moyles whenever I pass a cheese counter. Totting up an average of cholesterol survey results, by my calculation a whole year’s gone ping.

So, if you have the adding up skills of the average 15 year old - change that – of the average bank clerk – you’ll see that there can be no arguing. 70.80 – 5.62 = 65.18. Statistically, I’m no longer alive.

Having said that, life improves when you’re dead. For a start, I’m much less worried about my health. I read fewer surveys. I’m probably more fun to be around. Who knows, I’ll come across another survey which says that being dead increases your life expectancy by 5.62 years. And I’ll be back to where I was when I started. Except 1 ½ hours older.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012


The Beautiful Virus
Inner Space

I’m just getting over a rotten cold. It hasn’t been nice, but, as a Brit, I feel I’ve done my bit. Colds are one of the glories of our culture, along with Shakespeare and Blake, and you’re expected to participate. Immigrants from warmer countries should be offered classes in the social significance of being a bit congested.

In fact, we should all do them, Brits and non-Brits. It’s a matter of sharing our National Heritage.  Here are just a few of the deep-rooted Folk Customs of the Sniffling Season.

The Ceremony of the Spreading of the Germs.  This is held where large numbers of people are crushed together, mainly on commuter trains and the tube. The ceremony begins with a few people tentatively sniffing into their Kleenexes. Someone (maybe in olden times they would have worn stag’s horns), sneezes out loud. There is a ritual Giving the Disapproving Glare and Holding up the Newspaper. Then someone responds to the sneeze. By the time the train pulls in, nearly everyone will be joining in a Mass Snort. The effect is overpoweringly emotional.

The Respectful Concert Cough  When an orchestra plays, in between movements it’s customary to encourage the players with a low cough which goes round the Hall. When this fails to happen, conductors turn round and glare at the audience until someone starts to splutter.

The Water Cooler Moan Game  This involves delicate conversational skills which can take years to master. The opening gambit goes something like “I’ve got a real shocker. Had it for two weeks.”  The response is “It’s going round.” People with real finesse might come out with something like “Honey and lemon’s best”. Intimidated pre-initiates should not hover round the margins. By getting in close they’ll catch the cold and tomorrow have a bash at the opening gambit.

We should celebrate Cold Culture with an International Mucus Day. Your suggestions are welcome. For example, at midday everyone could participate in a Two Minute Sneeze (sponsored by the hanky industry). We could market it with the slogan “It’s like Red Nose Day, except you don’t need to buy the nose”.


When to have it? In the classic period for British colds, of course – the summer. 

Monday, 3 December 2012


Shopping With Babes and Mum
By 2050 they'll have taken over

He nearly crashes into me at the Cakes corner. He’s steaming round with his baby buggy from the Desserts, I’m heading from the Deli Fridge. “Do we really need more rice?” he asks.

I’m about to suggest he tries couscous, although he doesn’t look like a couscous kind of man, when the cord dangling from his ear tells me it’s not my opinion he’s canvassing.

“OK babes” he sighs, moving on as he stuffs another packet of Uncle Ben’s into the basket balanced by the child’s rack of toys, “Your mum….”

I examine my crumpled shopping list.  Milk Toothpaste Chilli Powder Pasta.   I feel like a relic of a simpler time, like a mastodon who’s made it into the Bronze Age. I check what we need, write it down, and get it.  In other aspects of my life I’m as chaotic as a teenager, but my shopping runs along rigid lines, thanks to that Pleistocene scrap of paper.

Hands-free guy has parked the buggy by the cheese. “Does it have to be Cheshire, babes?” he moans, spitting “Your mum!…. no, not three….” but he slips the packets into the basket anyway. As I pass I hold up my list to show him there’s another way which involves no arguments, no looming relatives, no payment plans. He’s too busy balancing the crammed basket on the top of the buggy to notice.

The milk has moved. I curse the chain stores and their way of shifting the shelves around hoping you’ll be tempted by all the crisp packets you pass as you search. But Tescos Inc have met their match with me and my list.

He’s now by the cereals, having a furious argument about Cocoa Pops. Mum doesn’t like Shreddies, and he’s outnumbered by her and babes. I cruise past, but they’ve moved the pasta as well so he just beats me to the till queue. Baby’s begining to moan. His basket is overflowing while mine contains the four items. “Chicken nuggets on two for one? Look, I’m… OK, OK….”

He pushes his way past me back into the shop to dig out the nuggets. I’m left alone with baby and pull a face at it.

I finally make it through the till. “Want our Loyalty Card?” asks the woman. 

I check my list.  Milk Toothpaste Chilli Powder Pasta.   “No” I say. 

Sunday, 25 November 2012


Having a Pint in the Senior’s Arms

He's actually converted his sitting room


My Teenage Self wants a word with me.

“It’s your drinking” he mumbles.

“I’ve had four pints and a double scotch,” I say, “That’s respectable boozing!”

“Nah. It’s your conversation. Your demeanour.” Then MTS hisses, “Old man’s pub!

We’ve always detested old man’s pubs. They reek of stale beer and pee. To remove the old blokes from their stools would need surgery. They glare at anyone who’s not over 70, male or from the other end of the counter. Their conversation is torpid and their attitudes mean enough to steep their dentures in.

I’m nothing like that. Am I?

“What’s wrong with my conversation?” I ask. In fact I’ve just been chatting to Fred. I said “Beer’s good tonight.” He said “Joe in?” I said “No.”

MTS was unimpressed. “Boring! Nothing  happens here!!!!”

“Yes it does – look, Joe’s coming in.”

Coming up, Joe said, “Beer good tonight?” I said “Yes.”

MTS sneers. “You’re starting to glare at young people. Like those ones over there.”

“What do you expect?” I cry, “They’re drinking lager!”

I try to rise up from the bar stool to make my point. Inexplicably, I’m stuck to it. This makes me think. Does MTS have a point?

Things used to be livelier. I remember when Joe and I held Harry by the shoulders as he danced on the ceiling. I remember getting thrown from a pub for singing “Three German Officers”.

Maybe I could make the conversation more challenging. Maybe I could drop my trousers and do a tango along the counter….

Maybe not. The company’s fine. And the beer’s good.

I’ll tell MTS to hop it. I’ll start singing soon. And he doesn’t want to be anywhere near.


Sunday, 18 November 2012


High Heels – the Staggering Truth


We went to a do recently. I can’t think of another word to describe it – it was too small for a party, too static for a dance and too boozy for a prayer meeting. The women got talking about shoes. Normally when women get on to the subject of their shoes, I start to count the number of tufts in the carpet. Then one woman said she had 35 pairs. Her tone was confessional, a bit like admitting to owning just two teaspoons. Another woman, with purple highlights, said she had 50. She’d be bringing the stock up to normal soon.

Call me out of touch with the current female zeitgeist, but I’m baffled. 50 pairs? All for the same feet? It’s like having 50 phones. Per hand, it works out the same mathematically. By the time you get to pair 50, pair 1 will be out of fashion. You’ll have to hit that mail order website again, but I suppose that’s the idea.

I blame “Sex and the City”. Some women now think their lives are meaningless unless they can open the wardrobe door and 75 pairs of Jimmy Choos fall out. I’ve seen them staggering out for a pint of milk in a £5.99 Primark tracksuit and a 4” pair of Manolos. I’ve seen them running for a bus and falling over their stilettos. I’m sure they stockpile shoes like nuclear weapons  and creep out at night to gloat at them, glowing in an eerie radioactive light.

“How do you work through 50 pairs -” I asked highlight woman, “on a rota basis?” “Oh no” she replied, “some of them I never take out of the box.”

Quite right. Nothing wrecks a pair of shoes so completely as wearing them.

Saturday, 10 November 2012


Downsized Abbey
"It's the neighbours complaining again about the clinking teacups"

Series 3 of “Downton Abbey” has finished, to the usual criticism that it doesn't reflect everyday life in the UK.  To refute this, here is an extract from my diary, to be published by Harper Collins next year at £57.65 and expected to outsell Pippa Middleton’s next etiquette book. Readers can study the extract below for free.

Weds. 8.30am  Carberry, my under-valet, brought up my tea and copy of “Radio Fun”. He inserted the sugar lumps into my shirt and dropped the cufflinks into the tea. I need to speak to him about this. Yesterday he spread toothpaste over my collar, which did at least whiten it. But a man can’t face the day with wet cufflinks.

11.45  I got out of bed. On the way to work, played my usual couple of games of cricket with the servants. I invariably win: it’s hard to throw balls about when you’re balancing silver trays.

12.10pm  Work involves staring at a book in the library while stroking my chin and sipping a sherry. It may not sound very strenuous, but I have to keep it up all day.

 6.00  As usual the entire household assembled in the conservatory for the daily family crisis. On Monday the second footman had fallen off the roof, on Tuesday anthrax spores had been found in the kitchen garden, today one of my daughters had been caught listening to jazz. It is always solved by 6.05pm so I can dress for dinner.

6.05  I have 27,000 collar studs which Carberry lays across the lawn. Today he recommended the ruby-studded one as it would perfectly match the Strawberry Mousse.

7.30  At dinner, an ancient family tradition: the weekly vote on which family member is to have an affair with the Chauffeur. Cousin Ethel won by a narrow margin but the Chauffeur has finally escaped across the Channel with the Bentley.

11.05. In the bedroom, my wife asked me the difference between a second footman and an under-valet. Embarrassed to say that I didn’t know. Summoned Carberry, but he didn’t know either. I thought about sacking him, but wouldn’t know what I was sacking him from.

Thursday 8.30am Carberry brought up today’s “Beano”. He told me there’d been a revolution and now the servants were in charge. I was sent down to lick the grate clean. Carberry may be speaking the truth, but I don’t know. I never read the papers.

Monday, 5 November 2012

The 1960s. Everything you wished to forget.
There'd been a run on grey paint during the War

The 1960s are turning into a mere memory. That’s bad news for a decade which no one claims to remember. So here are some Pass Notes for the kids. My recollections, of course, may not be more reliable than anyone else’s…..

SAN FRANCISCO  In 1967 the San Francisco Police Chief had a brainwave to make pedestrians more visible to drivers, urging them on TV to “Be sure to wear a flower in your hair.” No one took much notice.  To make the message punchier he set it to music. The song went global and the city was thronged with people following his suggestion. Traffic incidents went down, but there was a big spike in hay fever fatalities.

PSYCHEDELIA  Delia Farrington was a sociopathic London go-go dancer who would wait outside her club to bludgeon people who hadn’t tipped her. The dazed victims would stagger down Oxford Street, ears ringing and vision blurred, screaming “Man, I’ve been zapped by Psycho Delia”.

LSD  In the 1960s the CIA had a plan to destroy the Soviets: by introducing unpronounceable words into the language they’d drive the natives crazy. Operatives infiltrated the country to introduce the letter combination “lsd” into Russian; “Dlsda”, “Nylsdet”, etc. Of course, Russians have been speaking unpronounceable words for centuries and easily assimilated the phrases, which were exported back to America. Soon Americans were behaving bizarrely and unpredictably, driven mad by “lsd”.

THE BEATLES  As everyone knows, post-Shakespeare England was a cultural desert for centuries. A minor civil servant was ordered to find a UK version of French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. The best he could come up with was John Paul George Ringo. On being asked to interpret “L’enfer, c’est les autres” their funny Scouse accents turned it into “I am the Walrus”, which proved much more palatable to the paying public.

FLOWER POWER Hippies were notoriously aggressive. They would attack passers-by with clubs disguised by wreaths of marigolds. In those days “Pow” meant “To strike” or “To impress”. Hence, “Hey punk, get a taste of my flower pow-er.”

BOB DYLAN  For years this obnoxious untalented wannabe scoured Greenwich Village folk clubs for open mic spots. Embittered by constant failure, he flung open the doors of the Village Vanguard to the icy January blast, shouting to the punters as he stomped out, “Your asses, my friends, are blowin’ in the wind”. Both phrase and Dylan soon faded into obscurity.

Monday, 29 October 2012


Old folks - no sex jokes please
Wait till you see what they get up to when the car's gone past....

I went to a comedy club this week to watch a friend do his act. It was in a packed South London basement: it felt like going steerage on the “Titanic”. I was the oldest by about 30 years. The compere wanted to warm us up, even though it was about 45° down there. “Hug the person next to you!” he yelled.

I’m a Brit. I don’t really do hugs unless you’re Mrs K or the Kirwood sister or you’re rescuing me from a fire. The two girls on either side of me wrapped themselves round their blokes. “Hey – don’t leave him out!” screamed the compere. All eyes swivelled to me. Thanks, mate. One of the girls gave me a peremptory shoulder pat. I thought of screaming “Fire!” but it would have disrupted the evening.

The first act was in her 40s and her routine was about “fanny farts”. To the uninitiated, these are nothing to do with breaking wind. They involve a female sexual organ, an intimate act, and suction. Yep, you’re right. She wasn’t subtle. But her impressions of how ageing affects these noises - a twenty-five year old (like balloon air escaping) and then a thirty-five year old (imagine quicksand) - raised a lot of cackles.

She said “Now for a forty-five year old…” and someone shouted “Please – not that!” Then she “did” a fifty-five year old and was drowned out with groans of disgust. To these kids, jokes about older people having sex were about as off-limits as ones about strangling babies.

I was the only person laughing. All eyes flipped back to me. I touched volume control: maybe an older person actually chuckling in public is disgusting, too. I lifted my beer to my lips… NO! the sight of a sexuagenarian physically ingesting liquid would start a riot…

Luckily my friend was on next. He has a great routine about the difficulties of keeping your sex life going when you’re married. How we all roared. Mind you, he’s only 32.


Monday, 22 October 2012


History – what’s the point of having been there?
The Fender Stratocaster. It didn't  reach  England  until  '58.  Along with  the wheel. 

I had an acting job last week - a commercial for a Games Console. I played Klutzy Granddad. In a gap between filming I was sitting around with the young actor playing Cheeky but Clever Son. To kill time I asked the kid, “Who’s your favourite band?”  I expected his answer to be some dreary modern bunch I’d never heard of and that our exchange would go something like:

“It’s got to be the Wet Paint Watchers.”

“Oh. The Wet Pant Washers….good, are they?”

“Well, duh – they are my favourite band.”

His reply was “The Shadows.” What - my favourite band when I was his age?  Then he said, “Hank Marvin, the coolest pre-Clapton guitarist. You know ‘F.B.I’? Du du derrrr, du du du derr, du du derrrrr du du durrrrr….” as he meticulously air-picked the tune. “I got it off Youtube,” he said blithely.

“The Shadows!” I cried, “Wow, Daddy-oh!” Fifty years had slipped away faster than the fizz in a pint of Harp lager. “Hank, Bruce, Jet Harris, and I’m still getting over Tony Meehan having to quit the drum stool in ‘62”.

He looked at me coolly.  “I think you’ll find if was ‘61” he said.

“Whatever,” I said hurriedly, “But he was great in ‘The Rumble’, eh?”

“‘The Rumble’ featured Brian Bennett. Meehan’s replacement.…Don’t you ever look at the internet?”

“Anyway” I gulped, “What pioneers! Marvin, the first UK guy to own a Telecaster.”

He looked at me as if he’d just caught me chewing a bar of soap. “Stratocaster,” he said. I now began to notice his slightly pointy ears.

This kid knew more about my youth than I did. Soon he’d tell me what the attractive brunette in the Carlisle Dance Hall had said in 1964 after she’d laughed out my chat up line. And then give me the Youtube link to it.

All we had to refer to in our day was “Juke Box Jury”, and your mate’s grubby copy of “Melody Maker” which had been passed round the class. How the hell were we supposed to about the music that was going on?

Luckily the two of us were then called back on set to film the second scene in which Cheeky but Clever Son finally showed Klutzy Granddad how to work the console. How he loved it.

Friday, 12 October 2012


Is you is or is you ain’t a baby boomer?
That's what you get for dropping the marker pen in the laundry  

It's come to my notice lately that all kinds of people are claiming to be Baby Boomers. Some of them have even been born in the 60s! Out of pure public spiritedness, I have decided that, once and for all, there is absolute clarity on this crucial social issue. Answer the following questionnaire and your generational uncertainties will be sorted once and for all.

Your mobile battery runs out in the middle of a call to your stockbroker. Do you:
A.    Plug in your laptop and Skype her?
B.     Swear loudly – and borrow your wife/husband’s mobile?
C.     Wait till you get home and use your land line?
D.    Throw the phone into the canal and say “Hey man, I’m quitting this breadhead rat race”, drive your car over a cliff and join a commune?

You’re having difficulties entertaining your daughter’s moronic, monosyllabic boyfriend whom you’ve invited round for dinner. Do you:
A.    Try to bring him out of his shell by talking about the latest hip hop music?
B.     Recommend him to a social skills counsellor?
C.     Put on the telly and ignore him?
D.     Dust off your ancient Stratocaster and tell him “You’re going to love this Eric Clapton number, man”?

You’re in the pub and suddenly can’t remember the name of a 1963 pop band. Do you:
A.    Look it up on your iPhone?
B.     Think “It doesn’t matter, I never heard their stuff anyway”
C.     Bore everyone else in the pub by describing the band to them and saying “Go on, you know who they are”?
D.    Go very quiet, and when you get home, google “Alzheimers”?

At work a young female colleague strolls in dressed in totally inappropriate “slut” gear. Do you:
A.    Post racy banter about her on your Facebook page?
B.     Complain to your Line Manager?
C.     Ignore her. Women these days are all crazy.
D.    Stare at her, slack-jawed, thinking “I’d forgotten what it looked like”?

If you score mainly As: You’re under 35. You think a baby boomer’s some kind of music app on your phone. What in friggin’ heck made you do the questionnaire?
Mainly Bs: You’re a 90s person, so you’re in between the “Me” generation and the techno crowd. You don’t know who the hell you are and I can’t help you.
Mainly Cs: You’re a Thatcher/Reagan child. You’re still sulking because you’ve looked so skinny since shoulder pads went out of fashion.
Mainly Ds: You’re the real thing and I love you! Come round to my house whenever you want, as long as you have a boot full of beer.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Drinking's too important to be left to the young

He's been drinking the same beer for 40 years
Went to a folk concert last night. Hey, don’t get like that - it’s not all “Hey nonny no I’ll give my lady a necklace made of frogspawn”. Folk music can rock. If you don’t agree go back to licking the bacon rind off Lady Gaga’s headgear or whatever it is you think trendy.

At the station we met some young people I know.”We’re going out to get tanked!” screamed one. “Whooo – slaughtered!” said another. “Sooooo pissed!!!” they all yelled in chorus. They were dressed in modern young woman’s drinking kit: five inch matchstick heels for more spectacular falls, necks covered in bling as handles by which their mates can drag them out of the gutter, and thin diaphanous tops so they can shiver properly after missing the night bus.

My generation got drunk in simple gear which we could shove easily into the launderette the next day, or whenever our hangover could bear the twirling motion. And we’d get drunk by accident.

We’d meet in the pub because it was the only place that would fit all of us. How convenient - they sold beer there! So we had some. It tasted nice, so we had a bit more. And then we drank some more because drinking makes you thirsty. There were no idiots singing Karaoke. No huge sports screens. No eardrum-bleeding DJ trying to make you wave your arms around. All there was to do was drink.

And so we got uncomplicatedly, quietly drunk. Nothing to shout about. When we left the pub, we didn’t fall three feet over our shoes. We didn’t scream in the gutter. We didn’t vomit over the mate who’d come to pick us up.

We just fell over, that’s all.

After the concert (a great singer called Nancy Kerr) we headed for the bar. Shockingly it was empty. Twenty years ago we’d have clustered with all our mates and gone through the motions described above. Where have all the wrinkly drinkers gone? Maybe they’re all at home terrorised by the new high heeled screeching set. They need an example. Come on, oldies. Let's show youngsters how to get pissed properly.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Can't they see I'm just right for Romeo?


Another commercial audition today. I was “Wizened old man in petrol station.” I wizened about as best I could while refraining from whizzing. These days I sometimes feel my entire acting range is shuffling before the camera, sniffling, grunting and scratching my head.

This is what old men are supposed to do, you see. I’ve been up for “Weatherbeaten old boy”, “Grizzled old storekeeper”, “Eccentric bushy-eyebrowed old guy”, “Wispy-haired old professor”. I can be eccentric, I can feel that weather on my face, I can really capture the essence of bushy-eyebrowedness. Inside. Yep. I can stoop. I can shuffle. I can even snuffle. My tut-tutting has won awards. Except it’s not what I am.

Up to about four years ago I was still doing quirky dads, neurotic vicars and mad academics. There was variety. I was once up for a “loveable and knowledgeable Cheese Judge”. I’m not sure how loveable I am, I don’t know that much, but I am a great judge of cheese. As Stanislavsky said, “It’s all to do with Truth, especially when it comes to Camembert.”

The trouble is all these commercials are written by guys about 32 years old. Faced with anyone over 50 their eyes glaze over and all they see is a blurry mass of wrinkles and a stoop. I don’t live in a Home (Mrs K might disagree), I don’t wave my stick at teenagers and I don’t mutter to myself (except when “Downton Abbey” is on).

You see, the real me is a fresh-faced, boyish, nubile young Adonis. It’s just a matter of persuading these casting directors….

Thursday, 13 September 2012


Are you a bona fide baby boomer?


The three at the back are genuine kids. The thing on the  girl's knee is  Caspar.

I’m a pretty inclusive person (I’ve even been known to talk to teenagers) but I have a strict definition of “Baby Boomer”. We are people born during late World War 11 and up to the mid 1950s. For five years our Dads had been fighting Hitler and our Mums chucking hay around. They needed a break and for the next five years they were at it like rabbits. Hence, us.

If you’re not sure whether you’re a genuine Boomer or not, take the following test:

1)      Do you say “Cooooooooool” or do you pronounce it as “Kule?”
2)      Do you still instinctively jump up when the CD ends in case the needle has got stuck in the groove?
3)      Do you regard “Reality” as something you wake up to, rather than a mind-numbing TV show that puts you to sleep?
4)      Do you still automatically upend your trousers before cleaning in case a coin has fallen into the turnups?
5)      Do you know what turnups are?
6)      Do you intersperse your conversation with inadvertent Bob Dylan quotes?
7)      If someone says “Bieber” to you, do you envisage an exotic feathery boutique (and not a pimply underage singer)?
8)      Do you still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night pondering what “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” really means?
9)      Do you moan that modern music has no tunes, then realise that it’s just what your Dad used to say?
10)  Can you whistle?

If you have 9-10 “Yes’es” then you’re an authentic Baby Boomer. A big peace sign to you and can I call you “Man”, man (or ma’am)?

If you have 7-8 “Yes’es”: You’re trying hard and are quite convincing. But I bet you can’t name every track on the Beatles’ first LP. Still, I’ll wave a friendly joss stick at you when I see you.

If you have 6 “Yes’es”: Mmmm. More work needed. Learn all the words to “Desolation Row” and come back to me next week and quote it in full.

Below 6: Sorry, you’re not a Baby Boomer. You’re a baby.

Sunday, 9 September 2012


Is it a phone? Is it a car? Is it an app?

Went to a Promenade Concert this week with Mrs K. I left My Teenage Self cringing in the bedroom. “Classical music? Yuk”  he said, spitting out the chewed-up fingernail in his mouth, “They’re not even old – they’re dead.”

Listen to me, MTS, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto rocks. There are killer tunes. There are solos Eric Clapton would have trouble getting his fingers round. There’s lots of Ludvig’s stuff you could bang your head to.

Except you don’t at the Proms. People just listen. That’s what I like about them. Unfortunately some of the crapness of modern life has been seeping in. It’s getting a bit “Whoooh!”. People clap in between movements, which is really dumb because the piece hasn’t finished. You don’t clap Hamlet halfway through “To be or not to be” (“Whahey, that was one great iambic pentameter!”) If you’re applauding, you ain’t listening. If Coldplay launch into one of their hits and everyone roars, it’s because they can’t bear to hear it.

Mobiles twinkle across the Albert Hall like glow worms. Soon they’ll be waving them over their heads and filming the violinist. Promenade floor? Mosh pit, more like.

The orchestra was playing Schoenberg. Schoenberg, I know -  gives me a headache too. Too tricky altogether, apparently, for the two young guys in front fiddling with their iphones. Guy 1 started whispering to guy 2. I leant forward to hiss “Phones down and shut the **** up”. Then I saw what he was googling.

It was “Atonal music.” “It’s the same theme as his Piano Concerto” he was saying. Young bloody people. They don’t even misbehave properly. 

Monday, 3 September 2012


“Hair” today

What makes them think they'll all fit in the taxi?

Believe it or not, it’s just under 45 years since “Hair” opened. It was bollocks, but some people said it was the theme music of my generation.

Let’s listen to what those guys in the hippy tribe would be singing today…..

Ain’t got no teeth    ain’t got no eyesight
Ain’t got no breath    ain’t got no knee joints
Ain’t got no muscles  ain’t got no hair
Ain’t got no liver

Ain’t got no memory   ain’t got no wind
Ain’t got no hearing    ain’t got no hips
Ain’t got no friends left   ain’t got no six-pack
Ain’t got no reflexes

And what have I got?
Why am I alive anyway?
Yeah what have I got
Nobody can take away?

Got my cramps
Got my nose hair
Got my prostate
Got my spleen
Got my dyspepsia
Got my false teeth
Got my prescriptions

Got my bad breath
Got my aches
Got my floaters
Got my shrink
Got my bar stool
Got my check-ups
Got my alimony

Got my spectacles…… Hang on, I did have them somewhere, now where did I put them?  Give me a minute, I’ll find them, they’ve got to be…..




Friday, 31 August 2012


Walking Blues

Not available at Footlocker

Just come back from a week with the Ramblers. You don’t meet any teenagers when you’re rambling. It’s extremely uncool, you see. You’re out in the country. There are no shops to loot. The mud does nothing for your Nikes. The rain flattens out all the spikes in your hair.

My Teenage Self, in fact, is disgusted with me spending all that time with boring sexagenarians (that’s a misnomer – there’s not much sex). But I’d like to reassure MTS that the holiday conversations of sixty five year olds are no more mind-rotting than those of younger generations.

In my 30s, people on walking breaks obsessed about gear. Gore-Tex was the thing. At first I thought they were discussing the next phase of Massacre Movies.

People in their 40s went on about their kids. Damien had just got an A in History so was clearly destined to be PM in twenty years. Rambling, of course, only took second place to their main holiday in Mustique – just because they didn’t buy you a drink they didn’t want you to think they were cheap.

Ramblers in their 50s waffled on about equity release and endowment payments. “Stop!” yells MTS, “This is just so boring and irritating”. Well, MTS, wait till they got on to their garage extension. And then their Audis...

Now I’m in my 60s ramblers have finally got real. They talk about styles (the country walk type, not the catwalk). Specifically, how they’ve suddenly got higher. “I have no problem myself, of course – it’s the others I’m worried about.”

And they talk about cats. I spent half an evening hearing about Sue from Chorley’s killer tom who’d dragged a seagull through the catflap. That was more fun than mortgages. Especially after a large Glenmorangie.

Now, whatever happened to Damien?…