Friday, 27 March 2009

Talking ’bout my generation

Finally someone has acknowledged what I always knew. I am part of the lost generation.

‘As in the 1980s recession, another generation is at risk of being washed up, never being connected to working life,’ writes Polly Toynbee in the Guardian, showing rather more sympathy to Generation Y than I can find myself. They’ve had it too good too long: we never had that chance. I just want to shout: what about us?

Somewhere invisible between the baby boomers and Generation X, we don’t even have a name. If the current lot are Generation Y, we must be Generation What.

We were on the receiving end of the Thatcherite recessions as we started out working life. And now we’re on the receiving end of the 21st century recession as we anticipate the end of our working life. Except it probably never will end, because we can’t afford to retire.

We were the ones who couldn’t get on the career ladder because hundreds of jobs were being lost every day. Who couldn’t get on the housing ladder because we didn’t have steady jobs. Who, in many cases, never even had the chance to think about a pension - and if we do have one, are likely to watch it disappear to nothing.

And we were the ones disenfranchised because as soon as we were old enough to vote, the wrong party kept getting in. For eighteen years.

I went proudly to university, one of the ten per cent they let in at the time; the first of my family to do it. I left with a 2.2 that’s now worth nothing because a 2.1 is the default setting for 50 per cent of the population. I spent the first few years of what should have been my working life signing on, re-training and on a job creation scheme.

I was one of the lucky ones. There are people my age who have never had a proper job. After I found my feet, I managed to find work. I’ve always been skint, but I’ve never been destitute.

But life has always felt precarious. Once, I imagined spending my twilight years in a nice retirement home, playing the Sex Pistols at full volume. (If it’s too loud, you’re too old. And if it’s not loud enough, you’re so old you’ve gone deaf.) Now, it doesn’t seem so likely… what was that line about ‘no future’?

Am I a ‘grumpy old woman’? No. Am I an angry middle-aged woman? Bloody right I am.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Fool's Gold (remix)

I knew there was another reason I hated Spandau Ballet. It wasn't just the rubbish music, or the preposterous clothes. There was something else. As Michael Hann in the Guardian puts it: ‘Thatcherism on vinyl’.

At the time of writing, there are 304 comments on this article. The subject has obviously touched a nerve.

One of the threads is that the Guardian should not be carrying arguments about pop and politics. But it’s been obvious for ages that the Guardian is the NME for grown-ups; exactly the same relationship that Radio 2 now has with Radio 1, or punk rock has with country.

And the idea that pop is outside the important things in life has never really held water. What happens in our culture – and particularly pop culture – has as much to say about an era as who is in the government.

This is why I watch TV series like Pop on Trial and its sequel Style on Trial. Not because I am shallow but because what we wear and what we hear is as much part of our history as the traditional (men’s ) version of monarchs, politicians and wars.

The 1980s was one of the most divisive decades in this country. You had to take sides. Two decades on, it’s still dividing opinion.

It appears that Spandau Ballet are still relevant to our social history; that’s why we are still arguing about them. Not because they matter, but because, whether we like it or not, they still mean something.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Fool's Gold

I’ve just heard a TV news item about Spandau Ballet re-forming. Please no. It was bad enough seeing all those fat middle-aged punk bands back on the road, but at least they made good music.

‘They were incredibly stylish’ says a talking head, who is old enough to know better. No they weren’t. They were incredibly stupid.

Being all style and no substance is not the same thing as being stylish. It's the same thing as being a waste of space.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Not Stupid

Being a dutiful environmentalist, I went along to the ‘people’s premiere’ of Age of Stupid on Sunday. In case you haven’t heard, it’s a drama documentary about climate change starring lots of real people and Pete Postlethwaite. The real premiere was at Leicester Square, complete with celebrities and green carpet. The one I went to was in that temple of consumerism, the local multiplex. As I collected my ticket from the pre-paid tickets machine, a recorded voice told me ‘Don’t forget to visit the retail stand’. Under the circumstances, it seemed a bit incongruous. Actually, it would have been incongruous under any circumstances. It would be embarrassing to find myself saying ‘this is a Very Important Film’. But it is. It’s funnier than Al Gore’s as well. Go and see it. Please.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

In praise of younger men

I only recently heard about Madonna and Jesus, on account of I mostly get my news from the Guardian and Channel 4. And it’s not really what I usually describe as news. Still, you could say it’s good news for older women. Good news for Madonna anyway. I expect she needed cheering up.

I’d never claim to have much in common with Madonna, apart from age and a broken marriage (just the one in my case). But, around the time of my divorce, I did snog a young man who was born the year I did my O Levels. He was better looking than Madonna’s boyfriend, too. It wouldn’t have worked out: I didn’t have much in common with him, either, apart from a college course and a love of the Clash. But I have to say it did cheer me up at the time.