Time for a spot more Guardian-bashing today I’m afraid – I know I’ve been here before, but when they line themselves up so neatly in the crosshairs it’s hard to resist. I do read other news websites, honestly, and it’s not like I’m some raving UKIP loon out to lynch the lefties, but really no-one writes quality twaddle the way the Guardian does it. I suppose I could try reading the Mail Online, but that’s a bit fish in a barrel even for someone as lazy as me.
Today our champion of equal rights for all was slating outgoing banker Mervyn King for telling the world (well all right, the half a dozen people who listen to Desert Island Discs on a Sunday morning) that he was off on a gap year.
Guardian blogger Ian Martin takes issue with the phraseology here, clearly associating it with getting pissed in Bangkok, having ill-advised sexual encounters with peripatetic antipodeans and boring your co-freshers witless with tales of your amazing time in Africa. Or possibly Meribel.
No, Mr Martin is quite happy for Mervyn to chuck in his job as long as he refers to it as ‘retirement’ rather than a gap year, and spends his time wearing elasticated pants, getting pissed on warm beer and falling asleep in the garden centre before sliding inexorably into fumbling dementia. Which tells you a lot about how old the inside of Ian Martin’s head is, though not much about chronological age or Mervyn’s plans for his time off. Which might well involve ill-advised sexual encounters for all I know – and why not – though he definitely didn’t mention that one to Kirsty Young when I was listening.
But the good news for all of you contemplating the prospect of elasticated trousers and Gardeners’ Question Time with dismay is that while growing old is inevitable, growing up seems to be increasingly optional. ‘Old’ people, having shed the shackles of mortgage, family and tedious desk job, are out there in their droves doing things Mr Martin clearly assumes are reserved exclusively for spotty youth.
On returning to camping for a living after something which is apparently 20 years but which I swear can’t be any more than five, I find myself to be younger than most of my colleagues, a novel experience for the veteran seasonnaire. Europe’s campsites are crawling with ratrace escapees and survivors, lolling around in the sunshine, waving glasses of rosé and sporting lurid uniforms with name badges. I feel like a veritable baby in comparison.
Admittedly I have yet to see any of the older cohort getting falling down drunk in New Jack’s (though I’d be prepared to bet you could find one or two in St Anton’s Krazy Kanguruh) but in their own quiet way they’re having just as much of a whale of a time as their whippersnapper co-workers. And what’s more they seem to be outnumbering the whippersnappers by about five to one, from what I’ve seen so far.
This isn’t to say that the youngsters are no longer doing silly seasonal things of course – they come through a batch at a time as they ever did, enjoying a bit of sun before they trudge off down the long dark tunnel which is responsible adult life (travel tip: there’s an alternative road – it’s steep and rocky, there’s no barrier between you and the cliff edge and the surface can be a tad potholed, but the views are better). The difference is that we’re picking more and more of them up again when they pop out of the other end. They’re looking a bit worn, I grant you, but they’re still up for it. And definitely not wearing elasicated trousers.
So while you’re out at the garden centre in your crimplene slacks, Ian, the rest of your cohort is whooping it up on campsites and in ski resorts across Europe. Never mind raging against the dying of the light – this lot come armed with an emergency hurricane lamp and a box of waterproof matches.