It’s only now, when midlife has long passed, that my midlife crisis is hitting me. ( Google says that Midlife crisis” may be another name for the grief, exhaustion, and anxiety that can affect people for a prolonged period between ages 40 and 60. The origins may be physiological, emotional, or societal.) When I was in early midlife my attention was on surviving. Now, in old age, for the first time, motivation is lacking, targets and goals have vanished and there is a panic-stricken feeling that time is not only passing too quickly but also being wasted. Could that just be the effect of Covid?
I would love to be able to boast that all the idleness under Covid has encouraged me to broaden my horizons, to give serious time to serious reading, to watch critically acclaimed TV programmes, to catch up on concerts, plays and philosophical discussion, documentaries and improving lectures, all widely available digitally. What riches there are to be sampled, what depths to be explored.
No, sadly, what I have done is broadened my bottom instead, sitting for hours, watching endless repeats of ‘Midsomer Murders’ and ‘Morse’ and ‘Poirot’. Yes, I have spent many hours reading, book after book, mainly novels, but of the calibre that needs almost no engagement of brain cells :’Mary Stewart’, Angela Thirkell’, 'Georgette Heyer’, ‘Marcia Willett’, ‘A. Mc Call Smith’, ‘Barbara Pym’, and others, whose names I have forgotten. Whenever that diet of 'warm bath’ literature has become too cloying I have picked up slightly more demanding non-fiction but for the life of me I have not been able to choose the option of reading Kindle-downloaded writers like Hilary Mantel, H. Jacobson, Garcia-Marquez, Sebastian Faulks, or Ian McEwan. I have a highly acclaimed production of Checkhov’s'Uncle Vanya’ recorded, ditto several series of ‘Deutschland’. They are all awaiting less fraught times. For now I need that warm bath escapism.
I recently had an email from a former blogger who still reads blogs but no longer writes herself, saying that she felt a little intimidated by me, because: " You are so articulate, possessing an air of intellectualism and, with your considerable and impressive knowledge of literate, poetry, art and theatre; your husband, a Classical musician; your friends, most of whom seemed to be cultured and well educated, made it a little daunting to leave a worthwhile comment.”
Well, did you ever! Dear commenter, I don’t know if I am flattered but, if you are reading this, you will have been disabused of your false impression of me for good by this post. Intimidated, Goodness, Gracious Me.
As for further reading material, I picked up my March 81 diary last night, which had the following gem:
“A silly clot from the Gas Board came on Monday. He pronounced our Ascot Boiler unsafe for use. It is now an offence to use the thing. We know all about the danger from gas fumes and we are all quite careful about using the bath or shower, always leaving the window open. Nobody wants to die there, after all. Still, I suppose there will be a letter soon, giving instruction on future use. The silly fool trod in Kavli’s (the cat’s) toilet tray and tipped the whole mess over his shoes. He wasn’t particularly friendly when he came, he was even less friendly when he left."
I found some good advice easily adaptable to pouring over old diaries in "Finding Henry Applebee” by Celia Reynolds:-
"If you want my advice, kiddo, Uncle Frank once told him, you’ll do as I do and think of the past as a casual acquaintance: warmly, but not to the point you want to invite it over for a beer every other night of the week. “