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I Am Barbara Cartland’s Love-Child September 16, 2012

Posted by markswill in About me, Cars and Bikes, Media, Navel Gazing.

It’s not often I claim anything in common with the late Barbara Cartland, but right now I’m writing this in bed… albeit not wearing a pink nightie. This is because having just had eleven teeth removed at one go, I’m drugged close to the eyeballs with industrial-strength painkillers: something else, judging by the rubbish she wrote, I suspect Ms Cartland was also partial to. And the reason for that is that they all had to be extracted in one hit so’s I could immediately start wearing a pair of  horrid if temporary dentures.

This modest revelation is not, I promise you, a prelude to an outburst of self-pity, but rather to a broader treatise on aging… although perhaps that’s almost as bad. Almost as bad, in fact, as the Observer’s price rise this week, but more on that later.

The problem with teeth is part of the problem with aging, inasmuch as like the rest of one’s mind and body, they wear out. Unkind voices have suggested that all the cocaine and speed I took in a past life accelerated my dental decline, but be that as it may, the deterioration of one’s molars is but one of many symptoms we baby-boomers must apparently suffer, sooner or later. Hair-, hearing-, sight-, stamina- and memory-loss, thickening girth, wrinkled faces and flabby limbs are some more of the almost common ones, others such as calcified joints, poisoned livers, loss of muscle tissue and libido, plus of course the Big ‘C’ being less widespread but more serious.

As a reasonably vain man, I try to stave off such deteriorations as I can reasonably afford, so I go to the gym, watch what I eat, avoid alcohol a couple of days a week and so on, but I clearly didn’t look after my teeth carefully enough and when various bridges and crowns collapsed earlier this year I was somehow rather shocked. Moreover after 18 months on an NHS waiting list, I wasn’t best pleased to be told that unless I went private, the best the state could do would be to hoik most of them out and provide me with acrylic dentures for the rest of my days. The thought of plonking a set of false teeth into a glass of Steradent each night after passionate sex with my 24 year-old love goddess frankly appalled me, so with the rigour typical of an aging hypochondriac, I investigated implants and even paid for consultations with specialist clinics both here and in Hungary (where life, and dentistry, are cheaper).  But even when you tot up the cost of airfares, hotels and the lonely nights of painful recovery doing it abroad, I was looking at the price of a brand new Mini to get my mouth looking and working good again. Plus various friends in the know recounted lurid tales of surgery gone wrong and implants having to be removed from infected gums.

Although I won’t elaborate here, my solution was a halfway house between conventional falsies and implants, but the overarching point I want to make is that NO-ONE PREPARES YOU FOR THIS SORT OF THING. Just as kids today aren’t taught how to cook, manage their finances or, it seems, read and write, we weren’t trained how to deal with middle-age. I dunno about you, but with the exception of drug abuse, I still think and try to behave pretty much as I did in my 20s. I still have poor impulse control, still want to dance and drink late into the night, still like fast cars and motorcycles, still like s-e-x, still dress to impress even if it’s only for myself etc., etc. And if I could afford a hair transplant as well as the dental work, I’d do that too.

Is this growing old paranoidly (a word I just invented), embarrassingly or disgracefully? Or should I and my peers, most of whom seem to act to varying degrees as I do, behave more in line with the generation in front of us, swaddled in beige, slowly driving sensible Toyotas, joining the bowling club, shuffling round town with our Zimmers and doting on grandchildren with a passion that transcends our own intellectual and cultural curiosity? Sooner or later we are all going to peg it, but these next couple of decades are uncharted territory for the likes of us who cut our teeth (sic) in the laissez-faire late ‘60s and a lot of us don’t have a nice pension to cushion the blow. Any suggestions?

And talking of pegging it, today’s Observer has just raised its price from £2.20 to £2.50, a hike justified in a pious little editorial by claiming “it is the only way we can hope to continue to invest in the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper… (and provide) excellence in journalism.” This excellence is doubtless exemplified by page three’s main story about a British businesswoman setting up an “erotic website as an antidote to hardcore sexual imagery” and a double-page spread on London’s “opera wars” between Verdi and Wagner (yawn). But worse still is the Observer Magazine which is now little more than a unctuous showcase for expensive fripperies, fancy food and C-list thesps no-one cares a damn about. If the Observer ditched their magazine, had the balls to drop its price by 50% and put some backbone into their editorial offering my guess is that circulation and thence ad. revenues would rise significantly. But we all know that like its Guardian sibling, their management myopically believe that getting everyone, including their core 45-60 year-old readership, to shell out for an iPad and access it online will be their salvation, no matter how much their thus far failed attempts to do so, and make money out of it, costs them.

So the Observer now costs more than having my copy of the New Yorker air-mailed to me each week, which is beautifully written, far more interesting and arguably news-worthy. But then it’s aimed pretty much at middle-aged readers who want to, and still can, really get their teeth into something.

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