While most children spend most of their childhoods (the waking part)
variously complaining that something isn’t fair, fighting with siblings,
shouting at parents, and generally being one way or another permanently
By contrast, I had a brother who was born middle-aged.
Now, no doubt some of you might start thinking, ‘Oh, I had a cousin like
that; we used to call him Captain Sensible,’
But I would have to stop you right there, for the level of juvenile midlife
behaviour displayed by my brother was incomparable (as well as being
For example, once, when I tried to goad him into a full-on dramatic and
He simply reminded me of his solicitor’s most recent legal communication.
‘The key phrase,’ he said, barely looking up from his Times crossword,
‘starts with the word restraining...
Now, enough of your foolish and puerile feigning,
Run along while I solve seven down:
Synonymous with younger brother, five letters – clown.’
For his sixth birthday, I rashly bought him a cute, cuddly teddy.
He just looked at me wearily, sighed, took his glasses off, rubbed his eyes,
and said, ‘What? That time of year already?’
The thing is, because he liked things to be ‘really straight’,
His transitional object to date
Had been a set square,
And I had naively thought that a teddy bear
Might be more suitable.
He unwrapped it and then sat there, his expression inscrutable.
‘I’m sure it’ll be very useful and it is just what I have always wanted,’
He eventually said, before placing it in the wastepaper basket.
My brother’s middle-aged childhood seemed to be an endless
Advising father about his pension,
Taking inhibitors for his hypertension,
Talking to ‘young people’ with complete condescension,
Spending Saturday afternoons cleaning the car,
Being snooty about music with ‘the electric guitar’,
Writing letters to the local journal,
In the hectoring tones of a retired colonel,
Using words like ‘preposterous’ and ‘infernal’,
Insisting his milk be at least semi-skimmed,
Keeping the edges of the lawn neatly trimmed,
And his favourite treat:
Pruning the wisteria while listening to The Archers’ Omnibus Edition.
You’re probably expecting me to say, ‘And then came the Midlife Crisis,
which turned out to be adolescence, after which he started hanging out
with other teens;
He even started experimenting: with the idea of wearing jeans.’
But my brother wasn’t cut out to be that unconventional,
He stayed middle-aged and continued to view us childish children as
dim and one dimensional.
I think it must have been a really tough gig, being naturally self-disciplined,
when all the other children were naturally self-naughty;
Adults always saying that you’re seven, going on forty;
And years later, when everyone’s forgotten,
Along comes a younger brother with some wholly misbegotten
Poem... reminding everyone.
I fully expect the last laugh to belong to my sensible sibling:
While we enjoy our ‘second childhood’, all senile and dribbling,
He’ll be gleefully running around, experiencing the new found freedoms...
of his first childhood.