I always wondered if I'd know when I'd reached that stage in life where middle age ceases to be far away, and starts to thunder towards you at breakneck speed. I now realise that this stage in life manifests itself in a sudden obsession with mortgages and interior design. However, to make it clear. I am not middle-aged. I am approaching middle age, and indeed may never become middle aged.
Self-delusional? Au contraire. I honestly believe becoming middle-aged is much more a state of mind than a physical state of being. Modern society is nowadays directed towards the concept of the eternal teenager. Is that what I think of myself as? Don't know, but whatever I think of myself as, it's not middle-aged.
Middle-aged men wear side-parted hair. They wear chunky patterned sweaters from Marks & Spencers, creased slacks from same (usually modelled in floor display giant-sized photos by gracefully ageing models pointing out to sea), and aviator spectacles. Terrifyingly enough, it is only as I type these very words that I realise I have perfectly described someone I know. Although now into middle-aged territory, I don't recall this person dressing any other way since I met him, and he must have been just past thirty at the time, almost thirteen years ago. It is also the way the man who runs the design & print shop I freelance at dresses.
Middle-aged people will, like said employer, fail to understand anyone under the age of forty, let alone twenty-one. To illustrate: said employer received a request from a local rock & metal nightclub to put together some designs for tickets for a gig by a couple of metal bands. I recall him flicking through books of clip-art and coming up with ... some jazzy-looking, fifties-style cocktail glasses. A man adrift, indeed, in the stormy cultural waters of the early twenty-first century, and unlikely to be rescued. I managed to persuade him to let me use something else.
(Here's a tip. If you ever ask a printshop to design anything, the amount of effort they put into the design is directly proportional to how much money you're paying them. In most cases, the effort amounts to half an hour of design, incorporating approximately 105 seconds worth of artwork origination. There is a fundamental conflict between the person running a printshop and the person doing the design work that makes itself known at this point: the business owner wants the job done and out of the way pronto. The designer wants to do something nice. Fast work and decent design are frequently incompatible. However, the printshop owner, being the one who pays the designer, usually wins. Ergo, why your printshop frequently gives you printed product that looks like mince.
Another tip: if you want a book of tickets designed for your band Killdozer, don't ask someone who dresses like a golfing catalogue and wears aviator spectacles. Curiously enough, if you ask someone wearing a Killdozer t-shirt to design a golfing catalogue, you get something that looks like a golfing catalogue.)
On the other hand, people who refuse to believe they are anywhere near middle-aged will shop in Gap. I shop in Gap. I shop in Gap with the weary knowledge that it is a sure sign of someone who refuses to believe they are anywhere near being middle-aged. Which I'm not, I can assure you. However, there is a point in life where killdozer t-shirts and ponytails cease to be as effective as when you were twenty, and Gap nicely fills the, er, gap between where you used to shop (probably called Pretty Hate Machine and located in some dank basement), and where you were always afraid you'd end up shopping (Marks & Spencer).
Which is all probably the longest route possible to saying I spent most of the past week looking at yet more houses. I am likely to opt for Ibrox/Cessnock, which is just over the Clyde from the West End, ten minutes walk from the SECC, where the Worldcon will be held in 2005. There is a cycle and pedestrian bridge which connects the two areas, and you can cycle from one to the other in perhaps fifteen minutes. A subway station is also located conveniently nearby. I'm buying a two bedroom house in order to rent out a room and make the mortgage more affordable. I've been assured a lot of people rent rooms and property in the area, so I'm certainly hoping that's the case. But also, and more importantly, property in this area goes for about a third of what the equivalent goes for in much of the West End, making it a very attractive proposition. Hopefully I am within a few weeks of making a final decision.