Sunday, September 06, 2009

A Good Age

You know you're getting old when you start to hear slang that takes you a minute to translate: today I was momentarily confused by 'fingerbang', but only momentarily. The practice itself is one with which I have a happy familiarity, but it is a new word for me. Also a good name for a band, I think.

Having dyed my hair in an attempt to ameliorate my advancing seniority I was appalled when, upon raiding my local Sainsbury's for bourbon (their own brand stuff is surprisingly palatable), I was carded at the till. Carded. At the age of thirty-five. The Berlin Wall was still standing the last time I was asked for ID, and I said so: the till person, a lady of surely no more than fortyish herself, must have heard the burden of decades in my voice as she made no further demands and sold me my poison without argument.

Friends have sinced pointed out, upon relating this diabolical anecdote, that they would consider such a mistake a compliment: these friends are all female, however. For a man it is akin to being accused of boyhood, that most heinous of states, redolent of spots and clumsiness. Women have a tendency to treat age as a vile and insidious enemy: men generally don't, regarding age as mostly beneficial. All our heroes - James Bond, Tony Stark, Stephen Fry - are middle-aged, men with the self-possession and wit that grows only in a bed of ripe decades.

My two weeks in Germany, my first visit to that country, left a solid impression. It's conservative in government, television and architecture, yet this conservatism is punctuated by marked creativity and coolness: their elections have been coloured by the campaign of a local comedian's spoof character (sort of a German Sacha Baron-Coen) which has been worryingly successful; their supposedly strictly-censored media (I saw little evidence of this myself, though I gather videogames are heavily cut to make it past their censors: then again, the most contentious primetime TV I saw over there was a live poetry competition. I swear I am not making this up) is happy to have highly pornographic versions of those meet-girls-in-your-area adverts, dispensing entirely with the dunderheaded innuendo of our own nation's ads ("Hey! Why the long face?") and going straight for women masturbating frantically (no more accurate in their depiction of bored telephone sex workers but at least up-front about it)... for the record, I don't want to meet girls in my area, because my area's shit, but it's oddly reassuring to know that a country more conservative than Britain is so much more relaxed about porn.

German food is good, very Atkins-friendly if that means anything to you (they regard pork as a dressing), their drinking culture much calmer and more grown-up than our own, and the country in general just more mature and civilised. I could easily settle there, even with my shaky grasp of the language (I can reliably start a conversation, but rarely end it without reverting to English, which fortunately almost everyone there speaks). Broken Comedy is still funny even if you have no idea what they're saying. I would miss Doctor Who, of course, but I could always pop back every few months or so to catch up.

So, I shall add Germany to my short list of countries I'd like to live in (Iceland is the other one). In a lot of ways Germany is like Britain used to be, like some parts of Britain still claim it is: the world's elder brother, the practical and sensible but occasionally idiosyncratic grown-up. Britain today seems like a loutish teenager by comparison.

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