Friday, September 6, 2013

The boy who was older than his parents

I don't bother celebrating my birthday. So you didn't die again and have survived to the impressive age of twenty-eight, well done! But there are two reasons today is a shade more significant than the average pointless birthday:

  1. Because I'm now qualified to use the classic '28 years old, I was' pull-back-and-reveal gag after describing an act of childish or delinquent behaviour, and more importantly
  2. Because I'm now older than my father was, to the tune of one day (we're equal on leap years), when the first fruit of his loins [some verb pertaining to fruit]ed into the world.

Not to overlook my mother's contribution to the incident, which was arguably greater, but that landmark passed a few years ago and I've had my crisis about that already. Now I'm older than both my parents were at the time I was born, have I got as much to show for my life without having produced a clone of myself polluted by someone else's rubbish genes?

Those pompous eighties idiots thought they'd accomplished something by bringing life into the world, but had they travelled to 25 countries? NO! That's one reliable achievement I've got in the bank.

Had they... let's think about this now... there must be... yes! - had they completed all 96 routes on Super Mario World, including that second Super Star Road stage that's dead hard? HAD THEY BALLS! Admittedly the Super Nintendo hadn't been invented yet. But I've still made something of my life.

If I'd been born a day later, I'd share the same birthday as my dad. He allegedly asked if my mum could just hang on a bit, but for some reason she preferred not to extend the searing agony of labour by another 16 hours for the sake of a fun family factoid. Some people are just selfish.

What if I'd been born in my father's time?

May not be historically accurate

Does your mind ever wander to the topic of preincarnation? Mine does with worrying regularity, mainly because I'm grateful for having been conveniently born in a time and place where lounging on a bed on a tropical island and writing about Venetian blinds for an hour before going to play with the monkeys is a viable career path.

Could I have done anything like that if I'd been born in an earlier, pre-internet generation? If it was more difficult to get into freelance writing and I didn't meet the right people, would I even have tried? Or just have given up and bashed away at a typewriter in an office, waiting for the seemingly inevitable nuclear armageddon?

Obviously there would be too many variables involved to have any realistic idea what my previous self would have done with his life, but there are some timeless traits of Daveness I'm confident about. As a child, he would have written stories about talking wardrobes and mad scientists and wanted to do something involving the quill and parchment when he grew up (did they have biros in them days?) Growing up as a teenager in the early 1970s, he wouldn't look particularly seventies, or at least only in the drab, tan-and-creams way seventies people looked when they weren't trying. He wouldn't have long hair; that's just impractical.

As much as I'd like to keep you speculating whether this is actually one of my time-displaced predavecessors or actually my dad, he's not (Image: PROG)

That's not to say he wouldn't get swept up by the culture, which he feels more at home in than his out-of-time successor. He would have had an extensive collection of LPs that he'd cherish, discovering psychedelic and progressive rock as a teenager and being drawn to the ghoulish imagery of Black Sabbath and early heavy metal through his love for Hammer Horror films. He's still a sci-fi nerd too, likely growing up with Doctor Who right from the beginning. His gigantic book collection would rival his record stash, and when home video eventually arrives he'd go a little crazy, like me prior to the download age when I luckily had a very limited budget due to being a child. This incarnation of Dave would be a big fan of Stuff, I'd love to see his room.

When punk shows up he's a little too old and isn't very impressed with these angry kids. It's not music is it? It's just bloody noise. Listen to Robert Fripp or Andrew Latimer and get some lessons, punks (incidentally, this Dave also bought a faulty electric guitar off his friend at 15, like I did, and similarly failed to discover any talent or passion there, but maybe he saved up for a synthesiser too). He despairs at the 80s as that decade engulfs him, so it's helpful that the Cure and their gloomy brethren come along, acting like an atmospheric support group.

In terms of his livelihood and career, I can be optimistic about the possibility that he'd become some kind of author, comic writer or screenwriter without the internet to distract him, but that's probably giving him too much credit. After all, he's got a lot of books to read. I at least hope he would have ended up working from home, faxing off the press releases, menus and other corporate documents he'd edited that day and mailing his contributions to a Blakes 7 fanzine so he can spend more time basking in the ambience of all that vinyl and musky paper. The best thing about this Dave is I could be him if I wanted to. Sometimes I do want to. He didn't get that choice.

What if I'd been born in my grandfather's time?

May not be historically accurate

Again, I'm not actually comparing my life to my Grandad's (my mum's dad, Ken Speed, is the only grandad I knew), but for convenient historical context I think he was born in 1921 or '22. Those were among the essential numbers I had to include when marking my Nana's lottery tickets, and I think at least of those was his birth year... actually, there was a 28 too, could it be that? It's bad that I don't really know this. Nana and Grandad were both ace.

The most terrifying prospect about being born in 1921 is that I'd be exactly 18 years of age in 1939, when something pretty significant happened in Europe and I might have been required to participate. Was there some sort of loophole for budding young journalists or H.G. Wells wannabes? (Since we're predating most of my own archaic tastes by this point, I can only guess what I'd be into).

If this Dave wanted to travel around Asia when he grew up, it would be a much more difficult, intense and expensive experience, but knowing our inherent thriftiness he'd probably find some way to cut costs by travelling in the hold with the tea and spices and take a few years off his life. Would he be a horrible racist when he got there, like some people from that generation in my family, or does common decency and respect span the ages? He'd make a point of making a German friend when that all blew over, just to show how liberal he was. He wouldn't sign up to any religion nonsense, but maybe he'd involuntarily cringe if he saw two blokes holding hands in the street. It's just not natural, he'd state.

Wow, Daves used to be right dicks. I'm glad I was born when I was, though a little earlier would have had its charms too. The generation gap really narrowed after the sixties, didn't it? That decade changed everything.

What lies ahead?

May not be historically accurate

I'm not under any delusion that the brief glance I've been granted out of this particular window on the advent calendar of human history is going to be looked back on nostalgically as a golden age for our species. Unless we screw things up even more for each other, subsequent Daves should hopefully have things even better, with even more freedom to swan around pretending to work and writing things for the love rather than the money, or just for the sake of a distraction. So unless I do embark on the ultimate vanity project of producing offspring, I'll have to throw all my eggs in with reincarnation.

What glorious dawn lies tantalisingly over the horizon for my Davescendants? Will all their high-tech, impossibly-fangled gizmos actually make them happier and more satisfied than Dave c.1933 being engrossed in a novel about rockets and spacemen, Dave c.1973 picking up his copy of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon from the record shop or Dave c.2013 polishing off the final paragraph of an unbelievably self-indulgent blog, even by his standards? I doubt it, especially as we're only one generation away at most from the inevitable robot rebellion and embracing our destinies as living batteries.

Happy birthdave, everyone! (Do they work like that?)

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