Metro column 24

Richard Herring: I finally understand the phrase 'over the hill'

As age catches up with him, our resident comedian Richard Herring laments the gradual passing of his brown hair.

A few days ago, I turned 45. Forty-five? I can’t be 45. I still feel like I’m 19… unless I’m walking up some stairs. Where did the past quarter of a century go? I feel like one of those people who fall into a coma as a teenager and wake up 25 years later, feeling exactly the same, only their bodies have aged and the world has moved on without them. Except I haven’t fallen into a coma.
I’ve been awake for at least six hours a day. How haven’t I noticed the sands of time swirling away? Or that Margaret Thatcher is no longer prime minister? I look in the mirror and see this gonk-faced, grey-haired idiot staring back at me and assume I’m a victim of a prank on Game For A Laugh. That’s still going, right?
I was 21 when I noticed my first grey hair. In those days I thought it was funny to have this one wayward, maverick follicle. Didn’t it know I was young? The pileous idiot.
I ignored the rooftop protest and dealt with the situation with callous brutality, by pulling the rebel out and throwing it down the sink. Undeterred and faithful to its cause, ‘Old Grey-ey’ grew back, only to be discarded again and again. Its persistence and the injustice of my totalitarian methods inspired others and, slowly but steadily, brown hairs turned their allegiance to the side of the unpigmented.
For a while I continued to purge the greys but it became too time-consuming. If I attempted it now I would be left with strange bald patches, like a doll given an inadvisable haircut by a three-year-old.
An uneasy truce has been declared. The apartheid has ended and brown and white live together side by side. But for how long?
This morning I spotted three grey strands mingling with my otherwise dark chest hair. I expect this of the splitters on my head and chin but not you guys. If my chest hairs can go grey, then what next? Oh God, it doesn’t bear thinking about. Ever southward. Surely it won’t affect my… you know… toe hair.
But now I finally understand the phrase ‘over the hill’. Because getting to 45 is very much like reaching the top of a steep elevation. For the first half of your life, you’re rushing, struggling to climb the knoll – you’re not even looking around you, just desperate to get to the summit to see what’s on the other side. Finally you reach the peak and you get a clear view both ways.
Behind you is a lush, fecund valley, full of vines and fruits and cavorting young people who want to make love with you. You’ve left that behind; you rushed to get away from that.
Ahead is the promised land that was hidden from view – an icy, rocky crevasse littered with the bodies of the dead and dying.
You ask if you can go back down the way you came and come up a bit more slowly, enjoying the stuff you missed out on. But you get pushed on to a toboggan and go hurtling towards icy oblivion.
You’ll probably get thrown off straight away and die. You might manage to hang on until you get to the bottom, where you will die. The only certainty is that you are going to die, very soon, along with all the other idiots who rushed to climb the hill, not realising that it was the climb that it was all about…
Have a lovely Tuesday!

Follow Richard Herring on Twitter: @Herring1967

Read more: