I had settled down to watch Grand Designs on Channel 4. It was just the kind of build I love - eco-friendly, with a small budget, and passionate and principled builders getting their own hands dirty, not a "£2m throw money at it and produce an identikit piece of modernism" build. Ian was watching with me. I had a glass of wine in my hand and a fire going in the woodburner. Perfect.
Then the commercial break. A young and beautiful woman was being used to sell skincare products to women at least ten years older. So far, so normal. I can't remember the name of the magic moisturiser which was being promoted, which I must say seems both ironic and pleasing, but suddenly a line in the advertising pap leapt out at me "Der der der der der der der .... skin seems older..... der der der" with the exhortation to use whatsit and improve things.
"Skin seems older"? Well hang on, if you wake up one morning and "skin seems older" that's because it is. With every day, with every minute, with every breath, we are getting older. We are all of us on the same trajectory, from birth to death, slowly or quickly and we are all responsible for how we use the time in between. But whatever we do with our life, it passes. Your skin doesn't "seem" older from one week or month to the next, it is.
That weaselly little word "seems" set me off on one of my rare rants. We age, we die. Face it, understand it, as much as anyone can. We are all getting older. Our society puts such a premium on youth, while demonising children and young people in the next breath. Everywhere the young, slim and beautiful are used to sell things to us and the pressure on us all to look good is phenomenal. Even for the young, there is the pressure to be slim and beautiful and teenage girls undertake a grooming regime which needs the energy and commitment of a full time job. But for anyone over about thirty five there is on top of that a huge pressure to look young. Particularly for women but for men too, there is a whole industry devoted to persuading us that we must be line free, slim waisted, with glossy hair without a thread of grey. The plastic surgery business is booming to the extent that we may soon forget what a face looks like at fifty three, not like Madonna's, that's for sure. And not like Liz Jones's, who seems to have gone through the pain of surgery to look strange but not young.
Don't get me wrong. I like to look good. I dye my hair. I don't think it would be grey if I didn't but I am not really sure what colour it would be if you left it to its own devices. I have liked being blond since I was eighteen and don't intend to stop just yet. I wear mascara. I try to prevent my appetite for good food and good wine getting totally out of hand. But I don't look like my daughters and I don't want to. When Facebook throws the adverts at me about 52 year olds looking 34, I neither believe it nor care.
We are all caught up in an act of massive self delusion. If we spend enough, groom enough, moisturise enough, exercise enough, have enough plastic surgery we will surely not grow old. And on the same day we hear on the news about old people in hospital uncared for, unable to feed themselves, meals left to go cold while nurses sit in front of computers. We don't want to engage with the old. They remind us that we will be them one day. They challenge the delusion that we can be young for ever is only we try hard enough.
Skin doesn't seem older from day to day. It is. That's the way life works. I think we live life better if we grasp, however imperfectly, that we are moving through it, getting older. That's just the way it is.