Once the elastic's gone, it's all over

THERE'S nothing wrong with getting older. After all, it beats the only alternative on offer. But this week I'm definitely feeling the unglamorous side of 40.

It was getting my Action Man Deep-Sea Diver out for Tom that started it all. This was supposed to be a treat but we found that during his 30-year sojourn in the attic the toy's elastic had completely disintegrated and his legs wobbled precariously.

What a metaphor for middle-age. As was discovering that the person who these days uses my razor to shave her legs is neither girlfriend nor wife but my 12-year-old daughter.

But undoubtedly the biggest shock of the week has come from seeing Fiona Shaw in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the National Theatre.

I can remember watching the Maggie Smith film of Jean Brodie back in the early 70s with Pamela Franklin as Sandy (the schoolgirl who models half-naked for her lover, art master Teddy Lloyd).

In those heady days a clothed schoolgirl seemed to me to be the most exotic thing that God had ever put on this earth. Imagine, therefore, my envy of Mr Lloyd's amazing luck. Twenty-five years on, however, I felt outrage rather than envy as I watched Susannah Wise in that life-class scene.

First of all, why wasn't that bounder Teddy Lloyd sacked for his turpitude, rather than poor Jean Brodie who has done nothing worse than support Hitler? Secondly, wasn't poor Susannah terribly cold standing there in the Lyttleton without a cardigan? Then it was I realised what middle age is all about.

When I started giving creative writing classes at our local university one of the professors gave me a very useful piece of advice: "Its easy to avoid getting involved with your students. Just think Daughter." I'm glad to say this does work.

However, what happens when your own daughter is old enough to lock herself away in the bathroom with your razor is that it soon becomes difficult to think anything but Daughter. I even find myself worrying if the page 3 girls phone home often enough. Worst of all, you realise it's the teacher you're drooling over, not her pupils. I'm not saying that Fiona Shaw isn't attractive, but when I start fancying Jean Brodie I know that the elastic is definitely beginning to disintegrate.

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