Very soon now I shall reach my half-century. I would have preferred to keep the horror a secret but there’s no point. My stock-in-trade as a me-journalist is: everything — good and bad. Also, I have a Wikipedia entry and, perhaps worse, a Facebook page which announces to the world how old you are — and you wake up to find hundreds of people you scarcely know wishing you Happy Birthday, and you’re expected to be gracious about it: like, thanks for reminding me, you’re too kind.
Anyway, I thought that now I’m old and wise I’d make some resolutions. Perhaps they’ll help the next 50 years to pass more smoothly than the first.
1. Be nice. I was watching Rupert Soames at Glastonbury. What an operator. Everyone he meets he makes feel special, wanted, like he’s really interested in them. I’m sure in his case it’s breeding and natural charm but even if you just wanted to deploy it as a cynical tactic it still makes sense. Friendships are enhanced; enemies are disarmed. And I’m sure it works on a karmic level too: as you sow, so shall you reap.
2. Read the small print. All the most successful people I know do so, with the rigour of lawyers. I’m the opposite. Big mistake. Bigger than you could possibly imagine — unless, of course, like me you’re one of those people who never reads the small print.
3. Funny is money. Fact: as Ricky Gervais channelling David Brent might say. I’ve got this new project I’m working on where the rule I’ve made with my partner is: ‘Every time it’s a toss up between making a serious point or going for the joke always go for the joke.’ There are sound reasons for this, as I’ll explain at greater length another time. But look, it’s not an adamantine rule. I’ve broken in it in this column and it’s not like my career has been ruined, is it?
4. Do more fox hunting. I know I keep banging on about this but here’s the deal: if you were suddenly to find a hobby which combined the buzz of class A drugs, the adrenaline rush of a second world war dogfight, in outfits by Beau Brummel, on an incredible leaping beast on the same trip as you, while totally pissed, at the most convivial and glamorous party since the Duchess of Richmond’s ball, in country as magnificent as God has ever devised, why on earth would you not want to do it all the time?
5. Never forget that the best things in life are free. This isn’t actually true by the way. Kids, for example, are incredibly expensive. So are skiing holidays. So is foxhunting. But a week in La Gomera is still pretty reasonable. And bridge, provided you don’t play for money unless you’re Susanna Gross. And long country walks with the dog. And swims in the Wye. And holidays in Salcombe in my Uncle Perce’s apartment. And books, especially out-of-copyright classics. So yeah.
6. Get my teeth done. When I was younger, with beautiful golden shoulder-length hair and a motorbike, I could get away with it. Not any more. I look like shit and the terrible teeth are the thing you notice. Problem is, I gather it’s hideously expensive and the best things in life as we know are free. Any suggestions? Is there some Eastern European country that does deals?
7. Worry less. Of all my resolutions this is by far the least achievable. Every second I’m not worrying about money I’m worrying about my health. Unless, of course, I’ve got some pressing distraction which temporarily worries me more than either the money one or the health one. It’s not going to get any easier over my next half-century, is it, as my earnings power diminishes and all those imaginary tumours start metastasising into real ones?
8. Become immortal. All the world’s great religions — the lesser ones too, probably — are about finding a way to deal with the inevitability of death. I don’t honestly think it matters which one you choose, or whether you simply prefer to cherry-pick the best bits and make up one of your own. Ultimately they’re about transcending the corporeal through meditation, prayer, ritual, acts of devotion, posters of fluffy kittens that say: ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life.’ I hear heroin’s pretty good too.
9. Face it, you’re stuffed. Apparently — I forget where I read this, possibly someone famous said it — the career you’re doing at 50 is the one with which you’re stuck. Pity. I still think I could have made a bloody good hedge fund manager, once I’d worked out what it is hedge fund managers actually do. But I guess, fate having decided otherwise, the thing to do is to go for plan B, stick to my knitting, hammer the journo/writer/broadcaster/minor celebrity thing and see if I can’t do it properly now that I’ve run out of all the other options/found my true purpose. I’ve tried and failed at lots of stuff in my time but the one thing I’ve discovered I’m amazingly good at, better than anyone else in the world in fact, is being James Delingpole. Question is: how big’s the market?
10. Stop trying to save the world. There’s a reason why revolutionaries are always young. Because only the young are naive enough to think they can change anything and arrogant enough to imagine that their proposed solution will really be any improvement on what has gone before. Don’t get me wrong: I know I’m right on loads of stuff. But I also know that Frodo Baggins, Harry Potter and Neo are all fictional characters. We’d all like to be The One. Turns out none of us is.
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