Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who has the pointiest face of all?
I will be 60 this summer but the thought wasn’t worrying me too much before last weekend; age ain’t nothing but a number and all that. Then I sat down to wait my turn at a barbershop in Greenwich. Glancing up from the Daily Mirror after a few minutes, my eyes were drawn to the mirrored walls. A reflection of a reflection showed two men in half-profile: one was the young chap to my left, but who was that old guy with the pointy face and deeply etched frown lines? I glanced around, briefly mystified until the depressing truth dawned.
It was me. This was what I actually looked like. Not the flattering front-on view in the bathroom mirror, but my own face from an unfamiliar and unexpected angle. When we see our own image most of us filter it through a lifetime’s delusion of what we think we look like. And I’d just found a way to bypass my filter. I told myself not to reflect on it. So I got up, walked out, and went to a rival barbershop; one where the walls don’t reflect either.
The loo-mirrors on Eurostar trains have a similar effect, though the angle and proximity make them more suitable for inspecting the progress of your bald patch. A newer hazard is when the man sitting next to you (at your seat, not in the loo) suddenly drops to his knees and starts fumbling around behind your legs. Don’t panic (at least not straight away). It may well be me and I’m only trying to find the mains supply to plug in my laptop. The latest trains have sockets below the seats but they are devilishly well concealed. I was convinced they didn’t exist until the day I had two places to myself and got on to the floor for an exploratory grope. So allow for this possibility before you resort to self-defence. If you are in fact being assaulted, just whack your assailant on the head with the in-house Metropolitan magazine from your seat pocket. Thanks to the weight of three languages (English, French and a sprinkling of Flemish), it makes a sturdy weapon.
Here’s another Eurostar tip for anti-social types like me who prefer having two seats to themselves. If you log on to the website a few hours before you travel you can find out if anyone is sitting next to you and move if necessary. However, if spreading this info causes a frenzied outbreak of musical chairs, and the website crashes, you didn’t hear it from me.
Hands up all those who pay £9.99 a month for a subscription to Spotify, the music-streaming service. Now keep your arm aloft if you have ever listened to your ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist. ‘My what?’ you say. Go and look for it now. It’s in Your Music / Playlists. It has 30 tracks and Spotify fills it up with new ones every Monday morning. Feedback from other users is mixed, but for me it’s a weekly revelation, which is remarkable when you consider that it is put together by a computer algorithm. I’ve taken to saving the items I particularly like and after four months I have amassed more than 150 new pieces of jazz, rock, folk, country, world, classical, ambient and you-name-it. This is a godsend to a listener who cannot tolerate any UK music radio for more than 10 minutes. (The French station FIP, on the other hand, is reliably wonderful).
To stave off decrepitude a while longer I have become a late-adopting MAMIL (Middle-Aged Man In Lycra, though after that barbershop moment maybe I no longer qualify for the word ‘middle’). I now cycle to work at the Spectator in Westminster via a backstreets route which dodges the scary traffic and choking fumes of the A2. But with no hills — not even one slight incline — this is not adequate training for the three-day, 214-mile Glasgow-to-Carlisle expedition that I rashly agreed to join last November. Now it’s only a few weeks away and Dave, my brother-in-law and fellow backmarker-by-a-mile, may not be riding thanks to the trifling excuse of major spinal surgery. So if you happen to be swishing through the lovely forest of Glentrool in Dumfries and Galloway in your luxury motor this June, do watch out for an apparently solo cyclist pushing a Trek 7.5 FX hybrid up the hills. You will know me by my pointy face and frown lines.