Ian McMillan: Groaning about the signs of middle age

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Signs of middle age in the male of the Yorkshire species, number one: the sprouting of the eyebrows to privet hedge thickness and tagliatelli length.

Signs of middle age in the male of the Yorkshire species, number two: the continued growth of the ears until they resemble the leaves of exotic spider-eating plants only found in the Amazon Basin or the more remote reaches of the Dearne Valley. Signs of middle age in the male of the Yorkshire species, number three: the aggressive use of nostalgia almost as a weapon of mass destruction, as in “the news was never this bad when Richard Baker presented it in black and white!”

I’ve suffered, and continue to suffer, from signs one to three, and I can just about put up with them, although I resent having to part my eyebrows to see where I’m going, but I’m suffering more and more from sign four these days and that’s not pretty.

Signs of middle age in the male of the Yorkshire species, number four: the deep and heartfelt groan when one rises from a settee. You know the kind of thing I mean. You have to get up from the settee because you want to put the kettle on. The settee isn’t particularly low but because you’ve been sat on it for a while watching a High Chaparral box set you’ve almost become part of the settee. You’ve fossilised, mummified. You begin the move somewhere in your lower back and your thighs. As you begin to stand up you marvel at the way that evolution has made it possible for you to get up from a settee, but as you stand up you find that an involuntary sound escapes your lips. I described it earlier as a groan but it’s somewhere between a moan and a groan. It’s a bit like the kind of sound you sometimes hear through the thin wall of a cheap hotel (presumably a middle aged Yorkshireman getting out of bed. Or something like that.) and a bit like the kind of sound those cowboys on the High Chaparral made during a bar fight when a chair got shattered on their skulls. You didn’t mean to make the noise, it wasn’t a planned part of the move, but there it is, torn from your lips and hanging in the air. The first time you do the get-up groan you’re embarrassed by it. It’s like you’ve dribbled something down your shirt or you’re trying the wrong key in the lock.

Then, after a while, it seems to become second nature. It’s as though the moan-groan is actually helping you to get out of the settee, providing you with some kind of noise-propulsion from the depths. You become self-conscious but you can’t stop doing it. You sometimes do it in public, getting up from a settee in a coffee shop, and people stare at you and point and you try and turn the groan into a cough or a whistle or you stare at your phone as though you’ve got a groaning ringtone. Indeed, sometimes you even pretend to answer the phone. Now that’s pathetic. Then the second stage of the groaning occurs: you groan more often, in more situations: getting up from a dining chair, opening a heavy door, lifting a suitcase onto the luggage rack of a train, bending over to tie your shoelaces. And now you’re trapped in The Land of Groan. It’s a land you’ll never leave. So it’s no good moaning about it. Or groaning!