I’ve been keeping a secret.
It wasn’t really that much of a secret because most people knew about it. I was just relying on the fact that they might forget.
I can now reveal the secret.
On October 8th 2012, I turned 50.
Why did I keep it a secret? The reason is that I really feel uncomfortable being the centre of attention and I really didn’t want an over the top celebration. Mrs PM was under orders not to throw a surprise party or organise anything without consulting me first.
But now, almost a month later, I can and will reveal my age, though regular readers may have guessed anyway.
As I enter my sixth decade I can look back at my life so far with some satisfaction, a little sadness, a little regret, a fair amount of embarrassment but, ultimately, a feeling of total and utter contentment.
Because 2012 was a milestone year, I took a look back through my life in January accompanied by a soundtrack of music that has been quite special, in a series of blog posts, one a day. I recently read some of that back and was quite surprised by how open I was.
Maybe twenty or even ten years ago, I would never have dreamed of doing that. The fact that I feel comfortable and satisfied with my first fifty years has led me to open up to the world a lot more. Or perhaps it’s just age; my addled brain no longer cares about how people react to me any more.
I have to say that although I tried to keep my birthday low key, I didn’t get away with it totally without embarrassment.
A good mate of mine, also called Dave, was 50 in September, and it seemed like a great idea to go away for a long weekend as a joint celebration. We did something similar when we were both 40. On that occasion, we were still clinging on to stupid youth and, together with six other lads, took a trip to Madrid where we ate, drank and generally over-indulged. I think at the end of that particular trip, I realised that I was getting old.
For our 50th birthday, Dave and I opted for Rome and, again, eight of us took the short trip across Europe to one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This time, however, we took our better halves, and the eight lads out for a good time became four lads and their wives/partners, for a weekend of good food, great sight-seeing and, of course, a modicum of beer and wine.
The couples were PM and Mrs PM, Dave and Shelagh, Ian and Chris and, last but not least, Nigel and Janet.
However, because women were involved, they weren’t going to let Dave and I get away with a quiet weekend.
We flew from Manchester at around 9 am. As I sat listening to my iPod, I noticed a stewardess walking down with a bottle of champagne.
“Bloody Hell,” I thought. “What pissheads have ordered champagne at this time of morning?”
Imagine how mortified I was when the stewardess stopped at our row handed over the champagne to me and said “Happy Birthday, Mr Mancunian. Shall I get some glasses?”
Here are photos of Mrs PM, Chris and I enjoying champagne at stupid o’clock, with Dave and Shelagh also joining in.
We arrived in Rome and spent the first day strolling around and embracing the beauty of some of the wonderful sights of Rome – like the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Parthenon and Piazza Navona:
And here is Arthur, meeting Eric across the table.
On the next day, we visited the Vatican Museum and St Peter’s Basilica:
In the evening, unbeknownst to Dave and I, the girls had booked an evening meal in a restaurant and we were both forced to wear badges:
We had to wear them for the rest of the evening.
On our penultimate day, we visited the Colosseum and Forum, with Eric, before the girls went shopping and the boys enjoyed a football match in an Irish Bar:
At the start of that day, Mrs PM and I were getting ready and but I failed to notice the image emblazoned across her top. It was only when we met the other girls that I noticed. Why? Because this was what they were wearing:
I actually got into trouble for not noticing. If you can’t see the picture, it is an image of Dave and I, presumably slightly the worst for wear, with our arm round each other enclosed in a heart, with the caption Happy 50th BirthdayYou Old Gits.
As flattering as it may seem, it was also highly embarrassing and noticed by quite a few people as we wandered around ancient monuments.
Thankfully, that was the only trauma I had to endure and no other surprises appeared.
Here's a picture of everyone in the evening of the last day:
I'm missing, of course - I was taking the photo.
And now I am 50. It sounds really weird to be honest and when I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t see a 50 year old staring back. I see the 15 year old child, the 21 year old man, the 30 year old settling down and the 40 year old, shocked at becoming an old man.
You see, turning 40 was a big deal for me; I fretted as I stepped over the line from 39 to 40, thinking that my youth had gone and part of me had faded away. Acceptance came a year or two later and now, I am happy.
Passing the 50 barrier has caused no additional distress or suffering and I am quite happy to be where I am today.
There is something I have come to realise. Inside my head I am still a teenager.
And I love that.
I hope that feeling stays for the next 50 years because, dear reader, I plan to live forever.
Well – you can dream can’t you?