ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK SPECIAL: Now I’m 64, I wish that ghastly song by The Beatles had never been written
Turning 60 was no big deal for me. I scarcely noticed as it slithered past and frankly, if it weren’t for the wretched song, I would probably feel the same about 64, writes ALEXANDRA SHULMAN (pictured)
A few years ago, a friend invited me to a last-minute dinner for his 64th birthday. When I arrived, who should be part of the group but Sir Paul McCartney – which obviously provoked an even great number of jokes than usual involving the birthday boy and Lennon and McCartney’s well known ditty, When I’m Sixty-Four.
It wasn’t that funny at the time but this weekend, as I turn 64 myself, it’s even less amusing. I found it hard to raise the merest glimmer of a smile as my younger siblings mockingly chanted: ‘Will you still need me, will you still feed me?’
Turning 60 was no big deal for me. I scarcely noticed as it slithered past and frankly, if it weren’t for the wretched song, I would probably feel the same about 64. But it has added a dispiriting tarnish to the number.
Apart from the lyrics, I’ve always disliked its nursery rhyme tempo, which amplifies the infantilising ‘Let’s pop you up here, dearie’ tone that people use for the elderly, as if they can’t grasp normal conversation. I know it’s meant to be a love song but it’s an old people’s love song. And, tell you what. I am not old. Not in any way.
My friend Adam Boulton, a mere stripling at 62, announced last week that he’s leaving his political role at Sky News. He claims it’s the end of the era for his gang of media figures, born in the late 1950s and early 1960s, whom he describes in a Times interview as ‘tail-end baby boomers’. Various reports of his decision included such phrases as ‘the veteran’s retirement’.
Yet ‘veteran’ and ‘retirement’ are words I simply don’t associate with Adam, whom I still view as a young boy straight out of Oxford, hanging out at bring-a-bottle parties in Shepherd’s Bush with a load of other super-clever and ambitious young people.
However, he was only articulating something I was thinking recently. Which is that although we – I count him and myself as the same vintage – are not, repeat not, old, we are certainly no longer young.
And many of us were lucky to have fantastic jobs when we were very definitely very young. And kept them for decades. Adam and I entered the jobs market in the 1980s at a time when there was an explosion of UK media and there were huge opportunities in the newspaper, magazine and television worlds for bright young things in London. At 27, I became women’s page editor of the Sunday Telegraph. At 34, I became editor of Vogue where I remained until I decided to leave, aged 59.
Paul McCartney (left) and John Lennon (right) of The Beatles on 3rd October 1964. ALEXANDRA SHULMAN writes: ‘I wish that ghastly song When I’m Sixty-Four by The Beatles had never been written’
In 1989 when Sky launched, Adam, then 29, joined as political editor, having already worked at TV-am and the BBC.
We both had more than 30 years of great jobs and now it certainly seems reasonable that younger people should be allowed a turn.
I can’t speak for Adam, but when I thought about whether to leave Vogue, I knew I was more than delighted to hand over many aspects of my role.
The juggling of millions of often-tricky personalities, the growing bureaucracy of the HR department, the intractable diary block-booked for months ahead.
And, of course, the fact that I’d been round many of the race tracks not once, but maybe ten or 20 times, before. How long could I continue to be genuinely interested in compiling another Power List or wrangling for a cover star? These were good reasons to hand on the baton.
It’s never easy to watch someone else do the job that you had, but at a certain point, rather than keeping on doing the same thing, it’s more interesting and fulfilling to claim a different life.
Which is why that ghastly song rankles so, with its hackneyed depiction of a fading, dependent existence filled with weeding and knitting (no offence intended to either activity).
That’s not my 64 nor, if I have anything to do with it, my 68 or 70. With a smidgen of good luck in terms of health, now is the time for all kinds of new adventures. Gen Z and the millennials are more than welcome to the day jobs.
We tail-end boomers have new places to go, people to see.
Can I have the room? Let’s talk Succession
Fans of Succession are obsessing over Shiv, the media magnate’s scheming daughter played by Sarah Snook– not least for her wardrobe of silk shirts and wildly expensive trouser suits.
But my greatest pleasure lies in the show’s American corporate-speak. Americans have a way with such words.
I remember that the first time I heard the phrase ‘comfort zone’ was in a meeting about a dinner Vogue was hosting with Ralph Lauren.
Fans of Succession are obsessing over Shiv, the media magnate’s scheming daughter played by Sarah Snook (middle) not least for her wardrobe of silk shirts and wildly expensive trouser suits
Their very intense Vice President of Entertaining – or some such title – kept informing us that she wasn’t sure if Ralph’s son David would be ‘in his comfort zone’ as we discussed the guest list of people she wanted us to ‘reach out’ to. Back then, such now-commonplace jargon was completely new to me.
Thanks to Succession, my current favourite phrase is ‘Can I have the room?’ – an order for everyone to get out.
Next time I want a bit of privacy, I’m going to try this out and see where it gets me.
Is an intern lusting after Sleepy Joe?
Hillary Clinton’s long-standing aide, Huma Abedin, has just published an autobiography called Both/And, chronicling her journey from the outer circle of White House interns to the innermost sanctum of what she calls ‘a lifelong club known as Hillaryland’.
And there she remains today, having also survived the dramatic implosion of her marriage to Anthony Weiner, a US politician who turned out to be a mind-boggling sex addict. It’s intriguing to contrast her story with that of another White House intern, the unfortunate Monica Lewinsky, whose well-known tale is currently being dramatised in the TV series Impeachment: American Crime Story.
Hillary Clinton’s (pictured right) long-standing aide, Huma Abedin, (left) has just published an autobiography called Both/And
Huma became a gatekeeper for her boss and it’s been suggested that these two women further bonded over the shared experience of marriage to philanderers.
But it’s the utter infatuation of the two interns – Huma and Monica – with a Clinton that I find more fascinating. Monica has always appeared to be an eager, naive, star-struck girl who fell tragically for the most powerful man in the Western world. He took sexual advantage of her and then threw her to the wolves.
Huma, seemingly of greater brains and sophistication, falls in a different, non-sexual, but equally deep and unquestioning way for Hillary, to whom she dedicates most of her life.
Are there currently White House interns developing similar passions for Jill and Joe Biden?
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