Having long known we were living in strange and troubling times, I am frustrated, but not altogether surprised by the latest grim episode to grip the world. I first became aware of it in January as a result of my wife’s mounting concern that what was happening in China would inevitably happen here unless our leaders took immediate action.
When I moved to London back in 2012, I never could have imagined that I would still be here, seven years later. It had not been my ambition to live here. As a teenager, I wanted to live in the North partly, I think, because I liked a lot of Northern bands, but mostly because I’d spent some time there and thought it seemed like a friendly part of the country. London, by contrast, always struck me as distinctly unfriendly. I grew up associating it with avaricious types, desperately trying to climb the rat pile of ambition, and as a place where excessive greed and deprivation exists side-by-side. If my girlfriend hadn’t found work there I probably would have stayed where I was, in Leeds. But having spent six months on the dole while living in a damp flat on the edge of the city I was only too happy to try to make a go of it somewhere else.
For as long as I can remember I had never minded getting old, since being young has never really suited me. I don’t engage with or care about youth culture, I don’t own a smart phone and my idea of a good time is a night in watching kitchen sink dramas from the 1960s. What’s more, I don’t consider myself attractive or fashionable, which has meant that I’ve never had to worry about losing my youthful looks, because I don’t have any. It is only now in fact, a month before I turn thirty, that I have begun to think seriously about no longer being young and what, if anything, this means. For me the chief concern is that I might have wasted my time: wasted time working bad jobs, wasted time being friends with spiteful people, wasted time being unproductive or lazy.