Crisis? What Crisis?

I’m 43 years old. Blimey.When did that happen? In my head I’m still just a flibberty-gibbet, a teen angel, a babe in arms. But I’m not; I’m 43. Bloody hell. When I got caught smoking at school, aged 15, I had to take a letter home to my parents. I recall being terrified about my parents’ reaction, and dreaded the sound of them coming up the stairs on their return home from work to confront me – yet also recall, really vividly, that in the midst of my telling off all I was thinking was how OLD they looked, with their disappointed faces and angry folded arms. And how superior I was, with my youth and brilliance.

They would have been at least five years younger than I am now, so God knows how my kids see me when I’m laying down the law. Youngest inexplicably thinks I’m 29. He has no idea about age; he thinks his granny (70) is 43.

So, like it or not, I’m officially middle aged. The least I can do to mark such a momentous event is to take up hang-gliding, take a lover, or take a dive into insanity. I have no desire to do any of these.

I’m writing this in a French forest, at a picnic table outside our holiday home in a Yelloh! village an hour and a half’s train ride from Paris, in the complete darkness, drunk on wine and contentment, while my beautiful family sleeps and snores feet away. The thrum of busy insect life is occasionally punctuated by a scurrying beast or the incredibly loud thwack of acorn against roof. It is amazing here; a place of complete and utter tranquility. I am at peace.

It was not always thus. Three years ago, approaching my 40th birthday, I did go a tad insane. For people who have read my blog for a while, or who know me, this was proper off the rails – for a couple of weeks I was barely able to get the kids to school of a morning, let alone be much good for owt. (By the way, I’m not from Yorkshire, but it does seem to be my default setting when merry to get all “owt” and “twas” and “twat”.)

But – and it took a while admittedly, and needed the support of my ace family  – I got through it. I still have my moments of stress and anxiety, but mostly I am totally sane. (Hahaha-hahaha-hahaha *runs like loon around holiday park dressed in nothing but a figleaf and elf ears*)

The last three months have tested my sanity to the max. I have taken on a trying new role (part time, they said – part time, my arse) combined with looking after the kids, house and family stuff, and trying to drum up a bit of business of the PR variety. If I was going to lose it, I probably would have by now. Admittedly, I’ve come close once or twice. Only two weeks ago I was so caught up with juggling work demands, childcare, general household responsibility and a million other things that, in the midst of rowing with my 10 year old, I drove off after filling up with petrol at my local petrol station without paying. Thankfully a nice policeman and the garage manager trusted in my innate honesty and recognised my misdemeanour for the absolute mindblock that it was, and let me off.

Other than that blot, I have generally remained calm and collected in the face of considerable pressure. Now, finally, three years on, I feel a corner has been turned, a hurdle cleared, a lesson learned. It seems I can cope after all; I am not destined for the loony bin just yet.

I can, it seems, do a job that I am falling in love with, despite its excessive demands on my time and brain power, while also caring for and spending quality time with my kids and family. Friendships have definitely suffered along the way, but I’m desperately planning to make amends on that score over the next few months. Generally, though, I feel I have survived a tough few months and things can now only get better.

So, now what? What have you got planned now, middle age?

As increasing numbers of friends and acquaintances face up to illness and disability, to loss and pain, it’s obvious that becoming middle aged brings increasing vulnerability to the rigours of being a mere mortal. I used to feel I was immune, infallible, that somehow I was one of the chosen ones who would not succumb to such boring rituals as getting ill or bereavement. I don’t feel like that any more. It’s a shame, losing that carefree notion of a carefree life, but there it is.

Middle aged suggests midway. If that’s true, that means I will pop off this mortal coil at about 86. Now, that actually sounds like a fair deal, speaking from my 43 year old berth. I’m pretty damn sure that when I’m 85 it will be a less attractive proposition. However, I also know too many people who have breathed their last long before getting close to middle age. It is something to celebrate you know, getting this far intact!

Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips had it about right when he sang “Do you realise everyone you know, one day, will die…” I mean, it’s hardly a revelation is it, yet we all block it out, and avoid thinking about it – but we are all DOOMED.

Time really does go fast; and it is hard to make the good times last. All we can do is appreciate every drop of goodness, every day of happiness. We can watch the sun set every night, until the day we die, but only if we also remember that the sun going down is just an illusion, caused by the Earth spinning round.

My family is still sleeping. The forest is still alive with rustling and creaking and scuttling. I feel like I am the only person awake in the whole of France. A candle burns fiercely beside me, my glass of wine stays resolutely filled up, as if by some magic hand (mine, if truth be told) and the air is still. The stars are shining bright in an arc over my head. It’s a beautiful evening, still warm enough for me to be sat here on the laptop outdoors at the midnight hour. I could be in paradise. I’m not, it’s only France, but I’ve got everything I need right here, within feet of me. But most of all, right now, today, I may be middle aged but I’ve also got peace of mind and a happy heart. Who could wish for more?



  1. Bravo Jane. You always manage to articulate my thoughts better than I can myself. The above distills how I feel most of the time but in your usual beautifully metred prose. I too feel lucky to get this far without major illness or catastrophe but still feel the need to worry about the future more than I should. This whole blog applies to me too. You have a gift. Which is probably why you are in sunny France and I am huddled in a tea room in the rain in Northumberland. But you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Great stuff. Today Shropshire Life tomorrow the world

  2. Thanks Mark, you’re too kind. I had to quickly read this again this morning to see what I’d written (you know that feeling I’m sure!!) Up until last Thursday we too were heading for Northumberland before making a last minute decision to blow the budget and head to France instead…it does not gladden me to hear it’s raining on you; hope it clears up soon and the sun shines on you all. It’s been really nice to get back to a bit of blogging and photos this week, both activities that have fallen by the wayside of late (along with getting fit, which has not yet put in an appearance…). Ah well, better to be fat and happy than thin and glum I say….see you soon x

  3. Made me fill up, Jane, you rotter 🙂

  4. Hello there modernmum – middle age is such fun, really; such jolly fun. A young man i was admiring on the metro yesterday looked up at me, I thought in a way that suggested he was returning my admiring glance; then he stood up to offer me his seat, in that way nice young men are taught to when faced with an older woman. Bastard.

  5. Absolutely spot on Jane.My Mum always says that to me when I moan how old I feel or repeat comments that may have touched a raw nerve ‘just tell them that at least you got that far, you never know whats round the corner’ and as a lass from (pretty near) yorkshire you always had to look at someone else worse than you. Of course I realise that that gives no help to your own personal dilemma, but it took a fair few years to break!! And that last quote is often followed by some doom and gloom story to reinforce that she was (is) right!!
    For me my 40’s have been being a Mother and all that experience (I always wanted to be fabulous and 40 but instead was fabulously fat) so its been amazing, knackering, frustrating and rewarding. The other quote I always get is ‘ I bet you don’t know what you did with your time before kids’ to which I always reply ‘yes i did’ – out doing stuff and living life, as i do now in a different way!!

    Glad you had a great time in France, followed by folk festival in Shrewbury (???) i miss my travels but am looking forward to all my amazing trips with G.

    Great blog, loved it

    kate x x

    Oh yes the other lovely Yorkshire anecdote from my Mum is ‘ when your parents are dead you know you are next in line’ Cheers Mum!!

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