Category Archives: Something To Say

The mental age

I’ve been thinking lately about age. It occurred to me rather suddenly that I am now officially of ‘middle age’ – probably a little past the middle if I’m honest with myself. However that’s just the physical me, my chronological age. The ‘I’ in my head is somewhere around twenty five years old and he is just as real as the somewhat scuffed body he occupies.

That line of thinking brought with it a question; have my chronological and consciousness ages always been different or did they only start to drift in my mid-twenties?

Thinking back, I can’t remember a time in my early childhood where I felt older or younger than my age, I was a kid and every now and again a Birthday would roll around and I would count myself one year older. It was really pretty simple. I had no concept of age really other than to think that everyone taller than myself, was ‘old’.

My teens were spent wishing I was older. I remember that very clearly. I just wanted to be finished with school and the awkwardness of puberty and I desperately wanted to be able to drive a car. No one on this planet could possibly have wanted it more. Driving represented freedom and control of my own destiny and being able to play my own music on the car radio.

Oh, and I wanted to grow my hair. It was the eighties after all where every rockstar at the time had long hair and I wanted that more than anything too – except of course for being able to drive. But there, I always still felt my age, albeit in excruciating detail – by that I mean I was seventeen for what felt like an entire decade. True story.

I guess the argument could be made that the ‘I’ inside was actually younger than my physical age during those teenage years. Plenty of poor choices were made, which I won’t scare my mother with by committing them to this post. My early twenties were also filled with many poor choices but here I made a few good choices too and I think my ages aligned more closely for a short while.

Then, rather curiously, my mind stopped aging in my mid twenties while my body followed the clock. It’s difficult to put a finger on what happened though.

What was the catalyst for this split? Who is this person living inside my head that does not align properly with the body he’s in? He can still do a five kilometer run at the drop of a hat and then eat a Cleveland Burger from Clans without skipping a beat. Whereas the guy in the mirror needs to take a nap after eating protein – much like a toddler.

My eldest is beginning to wish himself older, not because he’s unhappy with his lot in life in any way, but rather because Star Wars: The Last Jedi is coming to a cinema near us in a couple of months and he desperately wants to watch it on the big screen. He must have asked me if the new episode is PG rated about a thousand times since I told him it was coming out. He simply cannot contain his enthusiasm and I think secretly, after he’s said his prayers each night with me, he adds an extra shout out to the big guy about Star Wars being PG rated. He really is an open book, he draws people in with his sunny disposition and is very difficult to say no to. I imagine great things ahead for him because he has such a big, open, generous personality.

The little guy on the other hand is barely even aware of what day of the week it is. It’s not that he doesn’t know because he can’t comprehend the days of the week and the progression of time, rather it’s that he simply does not care. He’s also a huge Star Wars fan, but only to the point that he often asks if we can just go watch it today. No? Oh well. On to the next thing then. I am in a constant state of surprise, confusion and amazement with him. Sometimes I check his pockets just to make sure he’s not carrying around the one ring to rule them all. I imagine great things ahead for him because he is already in charge of his own universe, it’s just a matter of time really before he’s in charge of ours.

As my boys get older, I wonder if I will recognize the points at which their ages start to differ inwardly and outwardly. Perhaps I will. Perhaps not.

I do think though that asking them how old they are and how old they feel (on a regular basis) would be a good exercise. You never know, I might find myself living in a house with a twenty five year old pre-schooler plotting how he’s going to reach the pedals of the car when he takes it for a joyride.


The manual

I firmly believe that there is a fundamental flaw or gap that we as humans have somehow failed to correct in the last 200,000 years or so of our existence.

We, do not come with instructions.

I mean we’ve evolved opposable thumbs, we walk upright, we have a far more aesthetically pleasing forehead than the fossil record of ourselves would suggest. We have far less cause for knuckle-dragging too and with our ability to write ideas and facts down, we are all able to share any information with others in a detailed, widely understood and accepted way.

As an aside, in other respects, we seem to have regressed.

Take Bieber for example. He appears to be an evolutionary step backwards for men in general and masculinity in particular. He represents an androgynous, dystopian future that I care not to dwell too much on. I don’t care how many tattoo’s he has, he still hasn’t grown up and he seems to hold the world in contempt. Suffice to say, if he doesn’t grow into a human man soon, an entire generation of girls will come to believe that he is the norm – what then for human kind?

Back to the point of this post though; something we are all in desperate need of is an operating manual. An honest to goodness list of operating instructions containing a candid declaration of what’s in the box, a list of requirements, a list of parts, known issues and incompatibilities, standards and deviations. The lot.

Here’s the trick though, it should be up to each one of us to write our own manual from the time we are able to write and then keep it up to date. Prior to us being able to write, our parents should be documenting our quirks and behaviours as they uncover them. A biography if you will. Once we take over, it should then be mandatory for us to keep it up to date. Complete honesty, should be driven through the customer experience – more on that later though.

With our manual in tow, whenever we meet someone new that will play a role in our lives more significant than say – exchanging cash for coffee at the local starbucks, we can then exchange manuals, giving the new person in our lives a crows-nest view of ourselves and vice versa. The idea being that when you experience a glitch with another person, for whom you have a manual, one can quickly check their manual to see how to sort the problem out. That’s assuming it is a problem, it might just be standard operating procedure for that person, in either case, we’d know exactly how to handle that person.

Imagine someone you work with passing an idea of yours off as their own. You would immediately be able to check their manual and see that yes, they are, in fact just complete assholes. It says so right there in their manual. You would then also be able to annotate their manual under the asshole declaration section and say yes, this person is quite accurate in their assessment of themselves. Here’s my rubber stamp, asshole. Or you know, you could check their asshole status when you first meet them and then, armed with that information, you could make more informed choices when dealing with that particular asshole.

The entire premise would be based on complete honesty. For instance, an undocumented asshole would instantly become a pariah for not declaring their asshole status. So while it may not seem like an obvious thing to do, this honesty idea, it would be far better to declare yourself an asshole, and act like one, than not declare it at all and then subsequently act like one.

That would, in this new future, be a social faux pax on a level about a thousand times more serious than say farting in a crowded lift or peeing in a pool.

There, I’ve planted the seed, now let’s all think of the potential applications for this idea and spread it far and wide.

As I proofread this, I realise that this post has mostly been about the word asshole. To the more sensitive reader, I humbly apologise. In my defense however, my manual would, on page one, read as follows:

Uses the word asshole a lot.

The grands

Grandparents. The word alone should conjure up memories in anyone’s minds eye of silver haired smiles, of being spoilt or comforted, of wrinkles and spots and grey hair, of quiet afternoons and the tic toc steadiness of time spent with them.

I have a number of clear memories of my maternal grandfather. He was an avid lawn bowler. Quite a good one at that. I remember some afternoons spent leaping through hedges at the Sturrock Park Bowling Club where both he and my grandmother (Grannypie) played. His picture was on the wall at the club, above the big doors if memory serves. I remember the parking lot for the club being on the opposite side of a railway and I, for whatever reason, decided one day I wasn’t going to cross the bridge over the tracks. I’d been to the bowling club before and since but on that day I remember him having to try convince me that the trains really weren’t going to run over me. I remember he was a quiet man, a gentleman and he loved to wear hats. He passed away when I was quite young after a long illness.

My paternal grandfather was a real family man that loved a big party. He worked well into his retirement years and I remember his love of animals (dogs in particular) and his parrot (Popeye). He had four boys with my father being the second youngest and then thirteen grandchildren. Yes, thirteen and I was the youngest. He drove a red beetle and when that little car made its way into our neighborhood, every dog for four blocks around would make a beeline for our house so that they could claim their little treat which he always seemed to have handy. As I cast my mind back, many of the memories I have of Grandpa were at family gatherings which he’d orchestrated. Actually, my memories of him seem to jump from one family party to the next at one of my uncle’s homes or ours. I remember a few holidays he took with my grandmother (Nanna) where my father was tasked with caring for Popeye the parrot. Popeye, by the way, grew up in a home of four boys that loved Elvis and as such was a big fan of 50’s music and of ‘the king’ in particular. He absolutely adored my Grandpa. He’d pine when he was away and literally do loops on his perch when he came home. Grandpa also passed away when I was quite young after a brief illness.

My Nanna was a free spirit, not in the new age sense but rather in the fact that she seemed to rediscover her youthful exuberance long after most grandparents would be zimmer-framing from the kitchen to the lounge. She actually stayed in her own apartment in Braamfontein and would zip around the country on a whim to visit a casino without even having to ask anyone to so much as give her a lift. Her disappearances always caused great concern among my father and uncles. She was loving and fun and I get the sense that had she been alive when Facebook started, she’d definitely have had a page with great stories on it. She’d probably have had a Twitter handle too and I expect she’d have had a huge following of people admiring a granny with such a young heart. I was on holiday when she passed away.

My Grannypie, so named by my sister, was a Dame. She really was. She was one of those people who would pat the seat next to her to indicate you should sit down to speak to her. Very proper. Very steady. She loved to listen to the radio. She had a great sense of humor and she almost closed her eyes when she smiled. She lived with us for the last years of her life and she had one drink a day which was a tot of Gilby’s gin, a tot of lime, two blocks of ice and water in a short tumbler glass. I made one for her almost every day before I left home and eventually spread my wings. At my 21st birthday party, her and her two sisters all managed to make several trips to the gents restrooms, completely in error of course. None of them questioned the row of urinals or the stick man on the door. Much mirth followed when it was finally explained to them what they’d been doing that day. My Grannypie lived a full life and passed away quietly at my family home. I arrived a day late.

My paternal Grandparents were often backups when I was not well enough to go to school as a pup. I have memories of doing ’rounds’ with my Grandfather in his building in Johannesburg where he was the caretaker. They lived on the top floor and going there was always a treat. I’m pretty sure I slowed him down on those days but he never once made me feel like I was a burden. I do remember him having to take a nap on the odd occasion that I was visiting in order to recharge though.

For a few years after I learnt how to drive I would fetch my grandmothers on a Sunday morning and bring them home for lunch. They were never back seat drivers but my mother always cautioned me to drive sedately with them, though I’m not sure I always did. All of my Grandparents played a role in my life and all of them have special nooks in my mind where I can easily reach them.

I wasn’t there when any of them passed away so I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Each of them just disappeared one day and life sort of moved on without them. Everything pretty much the same, just a little emptier. So I encourage those among you who have grandparents to take time out to sit next to them, to listen to their stories. Today. Now.

I guess what I’m trying to say, in a very roundabout sort of way, is that I’m almost 43 years old and I still miss my grandparents.

The birds

There are two types of people in the world; the early birds and the night owls.

Early birds leap out of bed in the morning full of smiles and energy seemingly having been launched off the mattress by a happy explosion of some sort. They operate at that level all day long and then they usually switch off the light and crash into bed immediately after supper, falling asleep before the residual light in the room fades. In short, no personality immediately after sunset.

Night owls on the other hand are still awake long after the moon has risen into the night sky and can maintain good spirits throughout the night and well into the early hours of the morning. However they are much less likely to be good company immediately after they wake up, only warming up to operating temperature from about midday onwards. In short, no personality immediately after sunrise.

This got me thinking about the way schooling is structured. You can, for instance, send your child to a pre-school which is attached to the primary school that it feeds. This has a major and measurable benefit in that this is the place is where you will drop off your child for school every morning for a total of nine consecutive years (that’s two preschool years followed by seven primary school years). That means that you don’t have to change your morning routine at all for the next nine years. I’m sure I don’t have to point out the obvious here, but I will anyway, this is a huge plus for night owls because, let’s face it, mornings are not the best time of day for night owls and the less change they have to endure in their routines in the morning, the better.

In point of grumpy fact, the majority of the human race are not early birds. It’s only the sunshine yellow personality people on the planet that are really happy in the morning, the rest of us just pretend to be happy because we don’t want to appear to be flawed in any way or indeed judged by the early birds. However I think that the world has it backwards because to my mind, the night owls, are the normal ones and as such shouldn’t have to feel like they have something to be ashamed of by being less than chipper before midday.

It’s the shiny, bouncy, smiley, perky, slept like a baby, handy-clappy and rah-rah-rah shouty morning people that are the weird ones and I think we should round them all up, administer a medical procedure of some kind to cure them of their ailment and then release them back into the population to blend in with the rest of us morning curmudgeons. Over time I think we’ll be able to cure the planet, we just have to get them all and be ever vigilant not to let their numbers get out of hand or we’ll all soon start feeling like modern day lepers again.

Now, these early birds account for about a quarter of the human race so it seems like a daunting task but I believe we can do it. I admit too that it all sounds a little sinister and grim to engage in what appears to be discrimination against and herding of these people but it’s really not a discriminatory stance. Don’t think of it in negative terms. Rather try to think of it as a cure for an illness that plagues a quarter of the people on the planet. There’s no vaccine possible because people are either born with this affliction or they are not, so we can’t eradicate it entirely, but a cure is just as good if you identify and treat the sick promptly, that is to say, as soon as they start displaying the tell-tale signs of early birds.

Doesn’t it sound like a worthwhile cause to get involved in? I mean curing so many people of an affliction that not only affects the sufferer’s, but also affects the balance of humanity indirectly, truly has to be one of the greatest undertakings we can embark on as a species. I for one would love to see this cause taken up by the medical community and addressed in our lifetime (just not in the morning obviously).

My boys are not shaping up to be early birds, in point of fact they are decidedly on the other end of the scale. They can keep going well after their respective bed times have passed if they’re given even half a chance to do so but then they’ll be the exact opposite of enthusiastically joyous to get out of bed the next morning.

I can completely understand that though. Hi, my name is Dad and I’m a night owl.