No, I’m afraid 40 is 40.

It is not the new anything. It also has been and always will be just 40.

Just like grey will never be the new black and stand-up comedy was unlikely to become the new rock ‘n roll, 40 is not the new 30, 50 is not the new 40 etc etc etc.

Don’t believe the marketing types who are trying to sell lifestyle products or services, or those in denial about reaching middle-age. 40 is 40, end of.

I turn 40 in about a month and I’m a curious mixture of underwhelmed and galvanised.

The last time I got anywhere near excitable about a landmark birthday was when I turned 13, but then I found out like all teenagers that things don’t really change that much.

So, 16, 18 and 21 were all celebrated but hardly felt like life-changing moments. For my 30th I whisked myself away for a few days and enjoyed being anonymous and alone in a large European city, but there was no blinding realisation.

But now I’ve done the inevitable and reflected a bit. Actually it isn’t taking a long hard look back at the last 40 years, more a case of looking forward to the next who knows how many I’ve got left.

I’ve been compiling a list in my head over the last few weeks.

It isn’t exactly a “40 Things To Do Before I Die” list (mainly because I can’t think of 40 things). But it features stuff I would like to do – either again, or try for the first time - now that mid-life is upon me.

I’m not a great forward planner, so I don’t know if any of this is practical or realistic. But, what the hell, you only live once and life is short and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah…

Here goes. This is the list – in no particular order of importance or timescale:

1). Get back on the bike – push-bike, obviously, as I’d look frankly ridiculous on a motorbike on account of my exceedingly short legs and general countenance. I started going out and about on my bike a couple of years ago then stopped in the run up to our wedding as I was afraid I’d fall off and look (even more) horribly disfigured in my wedding photos.

2). Take my wife on the honeymoon – we had a great few days in Paris after our wedding, but my wife’s health problems meant the grand plan – touring around New Zealand for a while, or a bit longer – was put on hold and still is. But one day…

3). Write for me – yes, I am a journalist and I blog and I write all sorts of interesting things for interesting clients, but there’s stuff in my head that doesn’t get to come out as much as it should.

4). Beard – I need to make a final decision about whether I should bother or not, all this fannying about isn’t helping. I love the idea of not shaving, just trimming, but I’m still concerned that with a beard and a bald head my face will look upside down.

5). Learn a language or two.

6). Fly – take some plane/helicopter lessons, at the very least do a proper bungy jump again.

7). Get creative with my hands – I think I’m a frustrated carpenter. But I might not be, I might be an incompetent one.

8). Become a kept man – as close to being a lifelong ambition as I’ve got (apart from the writing thing), I’m hoping my wife’s amazing creativity and talent will help me to ease myself out of the world of work and into a life of leisure.

9). Kick a rugby ball about – a boy, a ball and a big open space. Life doesn’t get any simpler or better.

10). Try to get interested in gadgets – I like looking at pictures of them and reading about them, but I turn into a cack-handed imbecile when I get my hands on them. Why?

11). A dog – a tricky one this, I love the theory of having a big silly dog but I’m not sure the reality will live up to my daydreaming. Plus, we still have a narky cat eating, sleeping and well, eating and sleeping some more, at home and he’s likely to get the hump big time if we introduce a dog.

12). Write a song – every list needs a random wild card, welcome to mine.

13). Lose the chip, or at least learn to control it.

14). Explore more – (a bit like the honeymoon one) travelling with my wife is great, but we’ve had to seriously curtail our expeditions over the last couple of years and I want her and us to reach a point where we can start heading off into the bright blue yonder again.

15). Ignore lists and people who make them.

16). Go to the Olympics - as long as it isn’t taking place in China.

17). Go to the Rugby World Cup – not counting any matches held in Wales, too close to “home”.

18). Buy a camper van – for driving about in, obviously not for camping in. One reliable enough to take around the world, maybe.

19). Kids – hhhhmmmmm…

20). Paint – I used to love doing it in my teens and maybe should have kept at it (instead of doing Economics for A-level – silly, silly boy).

21). Don’t have regrets – what’s the point, its too late. That’s why it doesn’t matter if some of the things on this list do not happen, even if none of them come off then there’s bound to be a good reason.

22). Busk – I have no musical talent and I’m a Welshman who can’t sing, but I reckon I could earn a few pennies.

23). Build a house – I don’t care if it is a kit house, but it would be good to find the right design and the right location (and the money) - using my new-found carpentry skills, obviously.

24). Canoe the River Usk – from the muddy banks of Newport, floating by the Legendary TJs and the old Art College, through Caerleon and the numerous pubs of my mis-spent teens, 20s, occasional 30s, onwards down the Usk Valley to who knows what.

25). Learn to play electric guitar like a cool person – the fact I’ve put “cool person” shows how unrealistic this one is. It is probably a fairly stock dream too, but quite a feat for someone as musically challenged as me.

26). Continue to have fun writing – tricky one this. I’ve never been one to analyse what I do or how I do it, I just do it and I enjoy doing it. I want that to continue forever and not feel pressured, precious or any other negative p-word about it.

27). Be a mascot for the Welsh rugby team – those bloody kids shouldn’t get all the excitement, especially when they can’t truly appreciate it. Right?

28). Perfect my impressions of Bogart, Brucie and Dave from the Winchester Club.

29). Love and be loved.

30). Learn how to chop veg and other food stuffs like a professional chef – not that my continued enjoyment of cooking hinges on it.

31). Do a stand-up routine – I’ve already taken to the stage in an acting role because it represented a personal challenge for someone who prefers to shrink into the background, so why not try comedy too?

32). Have my own van – I love driving vans. My dream job would be to write features for a newspaper or magazine for a large sum of money, then deliver the copies myself in my own van – or just drive around aimlessly if I’m a kept man.

33). Never wear blue denim jeans again – I don’t know why, but I haven’t worn a pair of proper denim jeans for about 10 years and so it seems unnecessary to start again now.

I think that’s enough to be going on with. I don’t want to add stuff just for the sake of getting to number 40.

But I will reserve the right to make additions to this list if new ideas come knocking. Equally, I will alter and subtract as I see fit – after all, this is my life and my list.

I’m planning to update on any progress I happen to make.

Life begins at 40, so some continue to say.

But if you think that, surely you’ve already wasted too much of your life already?

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22 responses »

  1. Welsh and can’t sing … but you want to learn languages … (1) yn well hwyr na hwyrach … more writing .. (2) Cymraeg? … (3) Mae’r gadair yn aros arnoch chi …

    Didn’t you win the chair at Cwrs Cymraeg in 1999? or was that Paul Graves?

    1better late than later
    2Welsh language
    3The chair is waiting for you (I may have the wrong preposition on this one .. )

    Shirley

  2. Paul Groves says:

    Shirley – Welsh would be one of the two (I can sing the anthem, obviously).
    I was a teenage Gwent boy at a time when learning the language really wasn’t an option – although they even have Welsh language schools in Newport now (!) – and I’ve been promising myself ever since that I would try.

    No, I didn’t win the chair in 1999. Maybe I could use my new-found carpentry skills to create my own chair?

  3. You forgot start baking … cakes and biscuits and bread and pastries and puddings. Yum.

    And practice amusing topiary on the front hedge.

    Then there’s stroke a tiger, start inline skating, learn to weld, shoot a gun, train the cat to do housework. No wait those last 5 are off my list.

    You have my full support. And I shall attempt to build up my strength so I can give you the bumps on your birthday.

  4. Paul Groves says:

    MsCreative: I did think about the topiary thing – but my plan would be to shape an obscene gesture for all those who leave bottles, food wrappers etc in the front hedge.

    If you’ve built up your strength that much, then the bumps is not what I’ll be wanting from you on my birthday…hhhmmm, does that sound a bit ruder than I intended ;-)

  5. Brinley Groves says:

    Paul,
    Reference #9 in your list,we had some great times in Beechwood Park but I could always outkick you! (what about the Cricket and Soccer epics,too?)
    Dad

  6. Paul Groves says:

    Dad, that sounds suspiciously like a challenge to me…you’re on.

  7. I am taking bets on who will pull a hamstring first …

  8. Ursula says:

    Paul, you poor spring chicken – in the grip of existentialist angst. Yes, 40 – half way there (providing you leave off those chips). Though age is no excuse to run out of steam at No 33.

    Forget about the beard. Trust me on this one.

    Lists are useful as they focus the mind. You can always lose them once written.

    And yes, write for yourself, write a poem, write a song – even busk if you must. How much more we’d enjoy life if we did what we want for our own enjoyment rather than with an eye on being approved by others.

    Language – I might be able to help you there. On the other hand, why waste time? English will see you through.. And if the worst comes to the worst, remember how Italians communicate: Never be afraid to put your body (language) to good use.

    Gadgets – like blogs – take a lot of time. Don’t you marvel at how long the human race survived without a mobile clamped to its collective ear?

    Dog – yes, definitely. They are not all stupid. Though don’t go for a Border Collie or a Doberman. They are prone to mental health problems. Flyman will survive the inital trauma of being temporarily upstaged as top dog of the Groves household.

    Travel – if you want a breath of sea air you, Rachel (and the dog) are most welcome to stay with us in Bournemouth. I know it’s not exactly New Zealand, but at least you won’t have to navigate Terminal 5. Bournemouth is quite cosmopolitan now and there are wonderful walks to be navigated, both along the beach and across the New Forest.

    As to regrets, Paul, there are bound to be a few once you are on your death bed. But, as you say quite rightly, no point wasting time and energy on them now.

    Your No 29, the very foundation on which we exist.

    May I urge you to attend to No 24:. Forget the bungee jump for the moment, but – whatever else you do to celebrate the four O – go for that canoe ride down the River Usk.

    U

  9. Paul Groves says:

    Thanks Ursula. I might have some news about the list a lot quicker than I thought.
    I’ve already got a Gallic shrug perfected, but a few choice words to go with it would be good.
    A very kind invite, Rachel knows Bournemouth well.

  10. [...] this month and I’ve done some inevitable reflection on reaching middle-age by compiling a (Not Quite) 40 Things To Do Before I Die list. The fact my dad chose this post to comment on my blog for the first time in a couple of years [...]

  11. Clifford says:

    …resolve to never again the use ‘before I die’ cliche and to reflect on the pain the usage causes those (like me) whose partner has, at a young age, a terminal illness.

  12. Paul Groves says:

    Clifford: The post is a celebration of the life I’ve had, I’ve got and hope to have. The use of cliche aside, life is too short for us all without imposing limitations on ourselves. My wife’s chronic illness has reinforced this belief and I will continue to focus on filling my days and our days as productively as possible for as long as possible.

  13. [...] We’re off for a long weekend so that I can turn 40 in something approaching style and hopefully enjoy some of the more important things on my “40 list”. [...]

  14. [...] rachelcreative on May 13, 2008 A month ago before his 40th birthday Paul, my husband, blogged a list of things he’d like to do in [...]

  15. [...] on May 17, 2008 by Paul Groves A short update on progress of the list I compiled to mark my 40th birthday, which comes with two [...]

  16. [...] I revealed a desire to canoe the Usk Valley of my childhood as part of my 40th birthday list, Rachel wanted to make sure I could do it safely and so one of her presents was this day-long [...]

  17. [...] the reason, I included “writing for fun” on my 40 list purely as a kick up the arse to myself and it is about time I did something about it. I [...]

  18. [...] It is 12 months since I turned 40 and compiled the “40 List”. [...]

  19. I’m turning 40 this year (YIKES) and you’ve inspired me to blog a ’40 List’. Thanks.
    The big day isn’t till late September. Stay tuned.

  20. Paul Groves says:

    Excellent!
    I will look forward to reading it.

    To be honest, compiling and publishing “the list” was far more worrying than turning 40 :-)

  21. [...] revisited my 40 List recently after a social media friend revealed he was hurtling towards his own 40th [...]

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