I lie in a hot bath, a little too much of my expanding waistline visible above the steaming surface of the water. I am contemplating turning forty. “Life begins at forty,” I keep hearing.
My namesake, my mother’s great uncle David, had signed up at 17 and fought in the trenches in World War One. He’d seen his father’s bakery go bust in the Great Depression, leaving the family destitute. And then, after spells of unemployment and working in factories and on the land and well into middle age for the time, he’d re-enlisted as World War Two loomed, only to be horribly wounded at Dunkirk just a few days before turning forty. He lived for another twenty-five years, angry and constantly in pain but his life had ended before forty.
And me, just a few days before turning forty? A secure childhood and a good education. And now, three wonderful children, a lovely wife, a beautiful home, good health – as far as I know and the temporarily expanding waistline notwithstanding – and I am, it seems, successful, respected and economically secure.
Forty. Double top in darts. 101000 in the binary numeral system. The number of points required to be pretty sure of avoiding relegation from the Premiership. The duration, in days, of Christ’s fast in the Judean desert. What does it mean? With luck, that I’ve got about the same again to go. That I’m about half way. Another forty years. But of what?
Emma comes in to brush her teeth.
“I’m glad we decided to keep it low key next week,” I say.
“Ha ha. My 40th. Onset of middle age. Beginning of the end,” I offer, in sarcastic clarification.
“Not disappointed are you?”
“I have everything I could possibly want.” I reply, almost believably.
City Dad will continue next Tuesday. For previous episodes go to cityam.com