This blog has looked a lot at the tense all students hate:
Jay Doubleyou: the present perfect with goldilocks and the three bears
Jay Doubleyou: present perfect for experiences
You can learn it through song:
Jay Doubleyou: music lessons from the british council
Is it that important?
Jay Doubleyou: antimoon
Do it yourself!
Jay Doubleyou: where to go for some english grammar...
Jay Doubleyou: practicing english with yourself
It seems as if everyone is talking about The Secret Life of 4 Year-olds, Channel 4’s fascinating fly-on-the-wall account of a group of 12 pre-schoolers engaging in friend courtship, conflict resolution, the forming of alliances, the handling of rejection and concealing of disappointment. “Life as an adult really isn’t that different from life in the playground,” said one of the team of educational psychologists hired to observe the four-year-olds from a hidden gallery of video monitors.
Certainly, there were behaviours that I completely related to at 40 years old and it highlighted that while children have The Secret Life of 4 Year-Olds, and 20-somethings had Big Brother, there hasn’t yet been equivalent anthropological-entertainment show for the middle aged.
Having celebrated my 40th earlier this year, hitting my fifth decade hasn’t exactly been what my younger self had imagined it would have been.
So, considering the unique, defining feelings and behaviours of life after 40, here is my list of what would be essential to include were the producers ever going to commission The Secret Life of 40 Year Old’s..
1. We say no to all manner of things that we might have previously have accepted.
This includes any social engagement that requires standing up for extended periods.
Gigs - once my night out of choice - must now be seated and within an hour’s travel of my home. Queuing to get in anywhere is out of the question, and music in bars must be low enough to allow conversation. Table service is preferable; clear access to bar and clean loo, a non-negotiable. A last minute cancellation feels like a Lotto win for all concerned.
2. Aches and pains become A Thing.
Every time I move my neck or wrist after a period of inactivity, I hear the sound of someone gently palpating a bag of nachos. Noisier still is the entirely needless grunt I expel as I hoist myself from a chair after dinner. I now need reading specs which I clean by leaning over an open dishwasher door and waiting for them to cloud up.
3. We want fewer, but better friends.
I simply don’t have the time to spend on crazies (a madness score of up to 7/10 is within normal range), untrustworthy gossips or joy-sappers. Friendship comes full circle and is suddenly every bit as important as it was at four years old, except that unlike Tyler in the show, you don’t attempt to woo those who don’t like you. Quite the opposite - you just cull them from your life without dwelling on why you’re not their bag.
4. We won’t entertain any holiday accommodation that’s less nice than where we live.
I’m old enough to know and accept that Dubai is not for me, and am cheery in the knowledge that I will never go skiing anywhere. Otherwise, any week off in which I laugh, eat and watch films somewhere lovely with my partner, constitutes the holiday of a lifetime.
5. We can deal with nuance
Having spent my teens, twenties and thirties feeling entirely certain of my every opinion, I’m now far more likely to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t think it’s that simple”. This extends to politics, relationships, jazz music, caravans, religion and Taylor Swift, but not karaoke or offal. I walk away from arguments not because I’m vastly more tolerant and nice, but because I can simply no longer be arsed. The more I know, the less sure I am of anything other than that life is irredeemably messy and most people are well meaning and essentially good.
6. We have irrational crushes
Having been appalled and dismissive of their abject uncoolness in my teens, I now really, really fancy Take That.
7. We wonder about those in charge
I look at almost everyone in a position of authority - doctors, teachers, bank managers, librarians - and invariably think they look about nine. I’m shocked and appalled that anyone other than my children was born post Berlin Wall and Bros.
8. Death becomes a pre-occupation
Not in some nihilistic or maudlin way – I think about death every day simply because I am more accepting of its inevitability. This is in some ways a positive thing. I’m much less interested in having “stuff” than I was when I was younger. By contrast, I now collect happy memories obsessively, take time out to enjoy my loved ones and actively plan things I want to do instead of putting them off. Less maturely, I become irrationally furious at all the obnoxious people allowed to live while my loved ones are stolen by cancer.
9. We know the price AND value of everything.
Despite my new found appreciation for the preciousness of time, I waste hours of the stuff on wholly irrelevant pursuits. I can digest a week’s worth of junk mail catalogues in one extended sitting, unfathomably intrigued by everything from equestrian wear to mobility aids. Likewise, I can spend five hours on Google, researching exactly the right £3.29 anti-slam door bumper. I now keep warranty cards, register appliances, insure everything up the wazoo and will never let my AA cover lapse, because I no longer enjoy the blind optimism of youth.
10. Looks still matter
I am broadly disbelieving of those who claim not to give a damn about their changing face and body as they enter their forties. I’m not thrilled that my eyelids are hooding slightly and I definitely do care that I’m a whole dress size bigger. Just not enough to get surgery, take up yoga and pretend that shredded courgettes are any kind of substitute for spaghetti.
11. We can say sorry
Like bossy 4-year-old Tia in secret Life of 4-year olds, I am able to say I made a mistake. I make hundreds. I know I’m often wrong about things and I’m happy to say so because the belligerent are completely unbearable company.
12. Crying becomes A thing too.
The John Lewis Christmas ad is now enough to set 40-year-olds off
I cry often - at game show wins, song lyrics, old couples holding hands, dogs with jobs, anything involving war veterans, David Attenboroughdocumentaries (especially those featuring polar bears) and yes, even theJohn Lewis Christmas advert. Conversely, things make me honk with laughter, much louder and longer than before.
13. Fashion becomes complicated
I have, for the first time in my life, stopped to consider the concept of “mutton dressed as lamb”. I don’t yet act on it, but do occasionally catch myself in three clashing prints and wonder if I’m now less House of Holland, more Su Pollard. I carry ballet flats in my handbag, along with Swiss Army knife, safety pin and three packs of antibac wipes. I wash my tights in a hosiery bag and refuse to buy anything that needs dry cleaning or even ironing.
14. Just one glass too many can tip us over the edge of sociability.
I can no longer drink alcohol until it flows from my eye sockets. Today, my head spins and my hangovers are biblical. Two consecutive nights out on the sherry aren’t just inadvisable, they’re physically impossible. I find myself being the tedious party guest who alternates proper drinks with sips of Pellegrino, then leaves without saying goodbye, in time to catch the third-to-last train home.
The series continues with The Secret Life of 4-year-olds, Tuesday at 8pm, Channel 4