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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Friday 19th August 2005

Londoner's Diary


The Perfect Excuse

According to a new market research survey, men as young as 25 are now capable of experiencing a "mid-life crisis". I wish I'd known about this 15 years ago when I was still living at home and sponging off my parents. Whenever my mother fought her way through the pile of empty pizza boxes littering my bedroom to complain about the fact that I stayed in bed all day, I would have had the perfect excuse.

"Leave me alone, mum. Can't you see I'm suffering from a mid-life crisis?"

Then again, I'm not convinced that 25-year-olds need any more justifications for doing absolutely nothing. If we allow them this one, why stop at pinching excuses from 40-year-olds?

"Sorry, dad. I'd love to help clean the car, but my rheumatoid arthritis just won't allow it."

In all seriousness, if 25 year olds imagine they've got problems now, I hate to think how they'll cope when they're my age.

Take the mysterious line that appears each morning about four-fifths of the way up my forehead. It took me a year of squinting into the mirror before I finally worked out what it was: the tidemark indicating where my hairline used to be the day before.

As for my ever-expanding girth, I've now given up buying suits. Why spend £500 on an outfit that's no longer going to fit you in three months time? Indeed, I was on the point of investing in a pair of draw-string trousers and a kaftan top when I read the following passage in The Hungry Years, William Leith's fascinating memoir about his battle with over-eating: "I know that the next stage, wearing loose, baggy clothes, will be the end. When you 'Go Floaty', you have admitted defeat."

Unlike Leith, I no longer entertain fantasies of returning to my ideal weight. Rather, it's simply a question of slowing down the rate of growth. This is one of the key differences between being in your 20s and being in your 40s. You stop worrying about whether you'll ever realise your dreams and start concentrating on preventing things from deteriorating any further.

For instance, I used to imagine I'd live in a large, detached house in a beautiful Georgian square in one of London's more pleasant neighbourhoods. Now, I'm much more concerned about how I'll keep up the mortgage payments on my terraced Victorian house in Shepherd's Bush.

Once upon a time, I entertained hopes of sending my children to Britain's top public schools and visiting them on parents' day, resplendent in a blazer and straw boater. Now, I'm fighting tooth and nail to get my daughter into the one decent state primary in my area.

Back in my 20s, I even hoped to be the proud owner of a Porsche one day. As I potter back and forth to Sainsbury's in my Skoda, that fantasy seems like a particularly cruel joke.

Still, there are compensations to being middle-aged. A few minutes ago, my two-year-old daughter toddled into the room, clamboured up onto the bed and invited me to join her in jumping up and down on it. The notion that a man of my advanced age could do any such thing is laughable, of course. But I'm still rather touched that she asked.

Holidays in the Sun

One of the things men in their 20s are particularly anxious about, apparently, is whether they'll be able to take frequent enough holidays when they're older. As someone who's just returned from a one-week trip to Tuscany with my wife and two children, I find this completely ludicrous. I wouldn't even use the word "holiday" to describe the experience. It was more like a seven-day endurance test.

I'm not just talking about renting the villa and booking the flights. The logistics of travelling anywhere with two children--particularly a two-year-old and a four-month-old--are fiendishly complicated. Can I rent a car at Pisa airport with a child seat and a baby seat? Will there be a microwave so my wife can sterilise the baby's bottles when we get there? How many travel cots do we need to bring?

Walking through Stansted Airport with my daughter tripping along in front of me, I felt like Sherpa Tensing accompanying Edmund Hillary on an expedition to conquer Everest.

I've seen supermodels with less luggage!

Who's Not The Daddy?

Who's The Daddy?, the sex farce I co-wrote with Lloyd Evans about last year's Sextator scandals, is about to come to the end of its run, never to be seen again. We've had several offers to take it into the West End, but we don't want to push our luck. The response to the fringe production at the King's Head has been so overwhelming--both critically and commercially--we've decided to quit while we're ahead. Apart from anything else, we have no wish to prolong the agony of the real-life figures involved, particularly Boris Johnson. We both work as the Spectator's theatre critics and many people predicted Boris would sack us if this play ever saw the light of day. In fact, he's been very good-humoured about it, never breathing a word of criticism, and we thought it would be appropriate to respond in kind by calling it a day. It may be a terrible mistake--we may never write anything half as successful again--but we've decided to focus our energies on producing a follow-up instead. This time round, we're not going to write about anyone we know.

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