Friday, 26 November 2010


And just getting started, or so it sometimes seems. 

It is my birthday today, and having been quite preoccupied of late, it would honestly have slipped my mind if it weren't for all the well wishers out there (yet again, thank you Facebook). Certain events have made me feel older than seems appropriate, such as Sony's announcement a few weeks ago that the date of birth of the original walkman actually came a couple of years after my own. 

Walkman Mark I, in all its glory

This should have come as no surprise to me, as like many of my friends, I owned several of the devices growing up. I think when I got my first one I had yet to develop much interest in the popular musicians of the day, and it possibly startled my father when the first cassette I selected to go with my new acquisition was the soundtrack to The Sound of Music. I must have been eight years-old at the time, and my 'walkman' was actually made by Sanyo, who wouldn't have been allowed to use the appellation trademarked by Sony.  Although it does lend itself to generic usage much more nicely than the proprietary sounding 'i-Pod'. My most poignant walkman memory however, came a few years later, and it was on an official device, sleeker and less fun-looking than the one pictured above, but decorated with much the same logos. And it isn't a musical memory either, as I was sitting on a public bus traveling from Edinburgh to Peebles, listening to the radio (to save on batteries) when the chilling news of the murder of toddler Jamie Bulger, at the hands of two adolescents, hit the airwaves. A crime so unspeakable that it perpetually lingers in the minds of the public .

Never watching broadcast television does not keep me out of touch with the news, but perhaps it does lead to my failing to stay abreast of 'what the kids are into these days'. Only this week, I tried to engage some of my teenage charges at work about a singer who had skyrocketed to fame when I first began teaching eleven years ago, and felt a little red-faced when they professed to never having heard of the man in question. Fame has always been of a mercurial nature, but when, also about eleven years ago, I met groups of teenagers who had never heard of The Beatles, it was amazement rather than embarrassment which I felt. Though thankfully since then, the most influential musical force of the 20th century have gone through more of their periodic revivals, and the young appear to be enlightened to the roots of the modern pop song once again. 

Age leads to a frailer physique, which might seem a bit premature coming from someone in their early 30s, but mysterious ailments abound in my family, to which I'm no stranger, Having been pronounced acutely ill on more than one occasion during my life - with no permanent medical solutions to my maladies coming to the fore - in connection to being father to a small boy, is reason to ponder one's own mortality. It's not just me either, with all of my near-aged friends being far more susceptible to hangovers and the flu these days, and like me, choosing to pay closer attention to things such as diet and exercise. While I find much to love about living in Indonesia's capital, its dust and dirt clearly have a negatively potent affect on my system, and I must question all proponents of enviro-skepticism on this one simple point; pollution is painful!

As we near the holidays and my workload is dwindling down to next to nothing, it does seem as though the adrenaline-charged fourteen-hour days which have become my norm might actually be good for me, because since inactivity has been settling in, on my birthday weekend, I am suffering from the worst case of flu I've had in a good long while. But I still feel cause for optimism, as despite 32 jam-packed years of the good, the bad and the ugly, I still can't help but wonder at all there is around me of interest which I have yet to absorb. Being disposed to sloth-like habits when it comes to self-improvement, never mind the infinite nature of knowledge, it will happily always be an insurmountable mountain of knowledge for me. In the meantime, hopefully a couple of hours of horizontal living will make me feel bored and energetic enough to celebrate my birthday by having lunch with my son, whose table manners and conversational offerings aren't the best, but to paraphrase Bill Murray's great line in Lost in Translation; he is the most interesting person I know.

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