Terms for our time. “He is a walking, talking exclamation mark.” writer Craig Brown, describing Tony Blackburn.
Having reached a Significant Birthday some weeks ago, my mail these days seems to consist mostly of health plans, funeral plans and opportunities to live like a lord. The latest of the lordly-lifestyle brochures invites me to buy an apartment in a refurbished manor house.
And very grand it looks, too, with its towering Tudor-style chimneys, mullioned windows, half-mile drive, immaculate lawns and tower with a view. However, being a builder's son, I see it through sceptical eyes. For example, who re-points those huge chimneys? Who keeps the lawns mowed? Who pays for that long drive to be resurfaced? Where does the water supply come from for this remote pile? Ditto the electricity. I shudder to think what the annual service charges are. There are very good reasons why so many real lords have sold their mansions and moved into sensible houses.
So despite all the glossy brochures and their promises, I take the same view of ancient buildings that I do of veteran cars. I am delighted that somebody else is maintaining them. It was the artist and critic John Ruskin who said one was “probably much happier to live in a small house, and have Warwick Castle to be astonished at, than to live in Warwick Castle and have nothing to be astonished at.”
There was no graduation party, no prom night, no work experience, no holiday. One graduate in North Carolina spoke for his generation: “Memories,” he told the Guardian. “I wanted more memories.” That's the form of long Covid that strikes even if you never had the virus and hangs around for years after lockdown, long-blighting your life. We older people can miss a proper holiday or a proper Christmas. We can even cope with a mini-funeral when the dear departed was a great person who really deserved something better. We can put things on hold. But when you're young it's different.
The rites of passage, the parties and first-love affairs that kids dream of have been snatched away and can never be properly recreated. Theirs is a generation denied memories and we can't even reassure them that things will get better. Even the brightest optimists must be looking at the latest Covid figures and asking, will 2019 be remembered as the last proper year?
A muntjac deer found swimming in the Solent was rescued by a lifeboat crew who named the creature Ebbing, “because of the tide at the time”. I have never known anyone called Ebbing. But I did once work with a lady called Flo.
American parents are reporting that their children, fans of Peppa Pig during lockdown, have begun speaking in Peppa's English accent and referring to British things such as biscuits, telly and petrol stations. You may detect a significant cultural triumph for the Brits. Or you might just figure that the silly season has started.