Today is exactly one month before my thirtieth birthday. Contrary to popular late-twenties sentiment, I am totally psyched about this. Thirty is going to be awesome. My twenties have been adventurous and exciting and I’ve done and learned heaps beyond anything I could have imagined. But judging by everyone I know already in their thirties, things really do just get better.
I’ve always been ridiculously excited about birthdays. It’s the eldest child coming out, I suppose: birthdays are individual, not to be shared days in which the birthday celebrator is queen and everyone else gets to bask in the fact they were born. This isn’t purely selfish, either. I get just as excited for other people’s birthdays and will spend the entire day bubbling over in vicarious glee for the very fact it’s their day. (The rather fantastic thing about this, of course, is that EVERY DAY is someone’s birthday, which means that at some point almost every day I get momentarily blown over by the fact that all over the world people are celebrating their birthday RIGHT NOW. It’s pretty incredible.) Though I’ve been too skint to lavish anyone with gifts for the past few years, birthdays are instead feted with cupcakes, a favourite pasta sauce or the best bottle of wine I can afford (my rule that if it’s half-price it must be bought comes in handy here, especially).
Regardless, birthdays aside, being thirty in a month makes me a true child of the Eighties. All my single-digit years were spent in the decade currently being delighted in by feckless youth who, very often, hadn’t even been born yet.
These sweet children will likely never have experienced a remote control-less television set, let alone the off-air pixellated bars buzzing back at you after midnight.
Surrounded by Wiis and X-boxes, it’s easy to forget how utterly incredible Tetris seemed — the increasing cascade of geometric shapes that must be shifted out of the path of those that follow and manoeveured into lines that ping softly out of existence — it was like magic.
Not that I really played much Tetris. I begged my parents for a Gameboy when they came out, but the old Atari and Nintendos, with their clunky controllers and tangled web of cables, largely passed me by.
I think this is largely because my parents managed to get me hooked on a concoction of books, music and Lego early on. I would spend my nights alternately ruining my eyesight trying to read in the dark and feverishly adding another tower, buttress or bridge to whatever magnificent castle I was working on, brick by brick.
At the weekends, my sister and I would write stories and illustrate them, in hand-bound (re: stapled) books, with cardstock covers, and then read aloud to each other. My sister usually got bored with the process of writing and would run off to find something more interesting to do (generally tearing apart the bits of fortress I’d spent all night carefully building). But she would arrange Rocky (the raccoon) and Mousie (the mouse) in chairs for our afternoon book group. Since my parents’ move back to the old country a couple of years ago, I’m not sure if any of these are actually still in existence, which is a shame because I seem to recall they were HILARIOUS. If only my parents had been more interested in computers, we may have been able to convert them into some kind of electrical version. (As it was, they didn’t get a computer until I was 19.)
Between the ages of about four and eight, I would set up interviews with my sister and our wide collection of stuffed toys for my radio show, which I diligently recorded onto cassette and played for my parents. My mum found a copy of one of these a few years ago, in which my dad was a special guest and I introduced both a Beatles tune and a John Coltrane number in the course of the twenty-minute show. I was a strange child.
It’s funny to think about how all these things seemed so normal when I was a child and yet were revolutionary at the time. It makes me wonder what quaint, out-dated gadgetry my own children will grow up to look fondly back at.