Middle-age approaches – and I’m taking it seriously… sort of

2012 is a very important year. Well, it is for me, anyway.
This has nothing to do with the London Olympics or even the fact that I have tickets to see The Stone Roses in concert.
No, 2012 is the year I officially become middle-aged.
Some would argue, of course, that this begins when you hit 30.
However, we all know that the big Four-O is the age everyone really dreads and I’m just 68 days away. (Hard to believe, I know).
Yes, I was born in 1972 – a year of momentous events such as Britain finally joining the E.E.C… and the airing of the first episode of Emmerdale Farm.
It’s hard to work out which has since proved the more entertaining soap opera, isn’t it?
One thing’s for sure – there’s nothing like a looming milestone to make you reflect on what has gone before.
In the last decade I have experienced endless sleeplessness and the indescribable pleasure of watching my daughters be born and grow into brilliant little people with whom I can now have proper conversations.
In the last 10 years I have also done things I never thought I’d do – such as visit relatives in New Zealand, try my hand at public speaking, start an internet blog, appear in a pantomime, beat cancer (touch wood) and, crucially, meet Bon Jovi’s guitarist Richie Sambora and The Fonz.
Through my job I’ve also crossed paths with some amazing people in the last decade – people like the Treetops Hospice kids and cancer drug campaigner Dot Griffiths.
My thirties have been very painful for me, at times – not least because the fortunes of my beloved Port Vale have taken such an awful nose-dive.
During the last 10 years, many of the people I looked up to and actually helped to shape who I am have also passed on – leaving genuine voids.
Remarkable people like my old Boys’ Brigade captain Roy Harrison, my Sentinel colleague John Abberley and my nan Ethel.
Suddenly I’m the one people are looking to for words of wisdom or leaning on and, frankly, it’s a sobering thought. As most people are fighting the urge to break two-day old New Year’s resolutions I am trying to crystal ball-gaze into my next 10 years.
Oh yes, I’m taking 40 seriously, alright. Even so, as of March 12 don’t expect me to suddenly start acting my age.
I may wear slippers and I may be on the cusp of middle-age but I’ve still got all my own teeth and (most of) my hair to let down.
There’s certainly no danger of me suddenly liking gardening or starting to watch BBC period dramas.
I won’t be getting a tattoo or anything because I did that when I hit 30. (Chinese symbols – right upper arm, in case you wondered).
However, I will be marking my 40th year with my first trip to the States and having a party with everyone I’ve ever met. More or less.
If you don’t get an invite, don’t worry – just assume yours got lost in the post.
Mine’s a bottle of Newcastle Brown. Cheers.

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My plan to beat the New Year blues

YES. I’m just as lethargic and fed up as you. Christmas has flown by, I’m back at work and every man and his dog is predicting the next 12 months will be bleaker than back-to-back episodes of Jeremy Kyle.
Still, new year, new start and all that.
In an attempt to discipline, cajole and inspire myself I have come up with my version of New Year’s resolutions – a dozen dos and don’ts which I hope will make me a better person and keep me focused during the dark days of 2011…

  • I will lose the stone-and-a-half I’ve put on since I had my thyroid removed. That means no chocolate, biscuits, sweets, crisps or cakes. None. You see, it has to be all or nothing for us blokes. None of this “all things in moderation” mullarky. Be warned, however: Offering me treats may result in a sulk.
  • As part of a feeble attempt to get fit, I will walk our fast-growing puppy Starbuck every night without fail – no matter how knackered I am or what the weather is doing.
  • I will use my orange asthma inhaler – the preventative one – as well as the blue ‘reliever’. After all, the doctors and nurses have been pestering me for the best part of 30 years and so middle age is probably the time to start listening.
  • I will dig out our enormous tent and treat my girls to their first camping holiday in the glorious British countryside. It will be worth the sleep deprivation. It’s also healthy, we can take the dog with us and – crucially – it’s probably all any of us will be able to afford by the time Chancellor George Osborne has put his axe away.
  • I will come up with alternative ways of raising cash for my daughter’s primary school other than spending a whole day playing pool in a pub with five blokes who do nowt but moan about being there. I mean, which part of 24-hour did they not understand?
  • I will stop driving in the middle lane of the motorway. I now concede that it wasn’t purpose-built for yours truly and that I really ought to move over into the slow lane every so often.
  • I will endeavour to keep the computer room tidy, unravel the kids’ clothes before putting them in the wash basket and not place empty boxes, bottles or cartons back into cupboards or the fridge. You’ll have to bear with me on this one.
  • I will maintain my proud record of watching no reality TV shows. That includes continuing to boycott The X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Strictly Come Dancing, I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here and absolutely anything involving Davina McCall. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.
  • I pledge to give some contemporary music a try. I accept that everything that isn’t Frank Sinatra, The Stone Roses, Bon Jovi or stuff that is post-1990 isn’t necessarily rubbish and perhaps I ought to, just occasionally, visit the here and now.
  • Now I’ve finally found a sport I’m half-decent at. I will earn my First Class archery award and enter some competitions so that I’ve got more than just the two tiny badges to pin on my quiver.
  • I will find the time to finish the first draft of my novel – if only to prove to myself that I can complete it without doing a Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
  • I will not get drawn into arguments with my fellow Port Vale fans over the future of our club. Everyone is entitled to an opinion – even if it’s wrong. We’re all on the same side, after all.