A couple of days ago I heard on the wireless that the Over-60s are increasingly suffering from a condition labelled post-life crisis. Actually, I made that last bit up. I have no idea what the crisis is called, I’ve already forgotten that part of the item.
All I remember is that my ambulant corpse gave a deep shudder of recognition, as I realised with a mildly guilty start (the Over-60s don’t really do full guilt) that I had just ordered online, at a cost of nearly £500, a bass guitar. Not just any bass guitar, ANOTHER bass guitar……
Now, I live alone, apart from my cat, Scat, and my faithful shchnorzer, Hunzi. I own my own house, except obviously for the parts they own, like the end of the bed where my feet used to be, and my gorgeous new living-room rug (handmade in India, 100% acrylic), on which small acts of bloody sacrifice are performed nightly. My tiny pension just pays for the fixed expenses, a kindly bank covers our food. My son is in China, leaving behind only a roomful of books about tanks in modern warfare and a jumble of complex electronic surveillance equipment.
So I can afford to indulge the odd whim, even if I am not a bass player. Not yet, anyway.
Yes, reader, I sold the car at Easter, my lovely little Alfa Romeo, sob, so I have a bundle of cash hidden in a cookie jar labelled Burglar, seek and ye shall find. Oh, not all of it. I did the sensible things: paid off some credit, or debt as it used to be known. Redecorated the living room. Ordered a new carpet to go under the rug (still waiting). Budgeted to have the roof fixed (builder has disappeared without a word). Went back on the wine, thus doubling at a stroke my daily groceries bill (but halving my chances of having a stroke!). Those sorts of sensible things.
It’s amazing, the sense of freedom and infinite possibility you get, when you no longer run a car. No more tax and insurance, no more grinding your teeth at the price of fuel. No more bitter little notes on your windscreen from residents obsessed with parking issues, no more rows with other motorists in supermarket car parks vehemently accusing you of opening your door on their side. No more worries about drinking too much wine (no such thing). When you acquire a car, you take on a vast and forbidding agglomeration of civic responsibilities and petty legislation. Not to mention a depreciating hunk of expensive metal whose more obscure parts can be dangerously worn.
Cars can get you in a whole lot of trouble.
But it occurs to me painfully that my Alfa was indeed bright red. With pale-beige leather seats. And could go at 130 mph. That I was 62 when I bought it. And that while I had it, no-one ever travelled in the back seats, access to which was academic. And that I now also own something like nine guitars, a drum kit (in storage), four amplifiers, a PA system, two microphones, a piano and a digital recording device whose instruction manual seems to be in Korean.
In God’s name, why?
I suspect these are all possible signs of some kind of systemic disorder, brought on by growing dissatisfaction with Things As They Are.
It occurs to me that I wake up feeling miserable and unfulfilled, and that I go to bed feeling miserable and unfulfilled, and that inbetween while going for long walks with and sometimes without the dog, while trying desperately in vain without panicking too prematurely to remember the title of that song I was rehearsing all last week (let alone the lyrics, and the tune), and when it was, exactly, that such-and-such a thing happened in my life (such as my first marriage), and why carpet salesmen can’t understand their own stock control systems, I have fantasies of being a bass player?
It occurs to me, in short, that I am living with some sort of crisis, whatever it’s called. And then, a follow-on, I wonder when, in fact, I have n0t been living in some sort of crisis? And if life is, in effect, not one perpetual crisis punctuated by fleeting unnoticed moments of tranquility; rather than, as the experts on the wireless seem to think, a gentle stroll through a verdant exurban space enlivened by the occasional urgent need to find a concealing bush behind which to pee?
Dum de dum.