In the 1970s, my grandparents took in a lodger called Elsie. In the twilight of her years and resplendent with the white permed look sported by many a woman of that vintage, the spinster had quite the turn of phrase. Each time I would remonstrate with "it’s not fair!", she would retort "Well…it’s not raining!" Another favourite was her saying "you don’t know if you’re hairy or Mary". Now aged 45, I am none the wiser as to what this means, although my money's on Mary.

Reminiscing, as one is wont to do as one navigates middle age, I thought of Elsie this morning on my way to work and how, even though it was a lifetime away, the reality of white hair, aching bones and comfortable jumpers is now becoming a reality. In denial, and still clinging to youthful pursuits such as ‘new tech’, I played music as I drove, via Bluetooth to the car speakers. The negative of this action is that any songs bought or downloaded through Amazon come booming out of the speakers at 7am as I crawl along behind a tractor in deepest darkest Welham Green. With two daughters at primary school, there is a large selection of musicals and I must admit I am developing a bit of a penchant for some of the tunes.

Matilda’s When I Grow Up is one such ditty. I listened to the lyrics intently as I wondered when it all changed and I officially became a ‘grown up’. I have this week alone wasted valuable evening ‘me’ time on the phone to the RAC haggling them down after they ramped up the subscription fee yet again, paying the council tax through that irritating automated payment service, attempting and failing to get a doctor’s appointment and trying to book the car in for an oil change. All extremely dull adult pursuits that leave me wondering where did it all go wrong? When did I stop coming home at 4am from the pub? When did I last backpack across countries where the mother tongue is not English? And when did I become such a dullaton? It’s the kind of mental quandary that I’m sure leads many of us into that mid-life crisis purchase of the convertible Mazda as we dream of reliving our youth with the wind blowing through our bald patch.

The lyrics to the song state that, when I grow up, ‘I will be tall enough to reach the branches that I need to’ and I did some analysis as to how these childhood dreams play out in reality. Having spent two days up the apple tree with a hand saw this summer, I did manage to reach the branches I needed to. Sadly, I was laid up for a week afterwards as I had pain from muscles that to the best of my knowledge had never seen active service.

‘When I grow up I will be smart enough to answer all the questions that I need to’ is a fail. After watching Only Connect this week and not understanding the questions, I tried my hand with Mastermind and found that my knowledge of Victorian industrial machinery is lacking somewhat.

‘I will eat sweets every day on the way to work’ (check) and ‘watch cartoons until my eyes go square’ (ditto) are inspired lyrical choices, and unavoidable due to my kids' penchant for Sanjay and Craig and The Loud House.

Grown-ups also have the ability to ‘fight the creatures lurking under the bed’, ie spiders and, on the odd occasion, a hamster when my youngest has forgotten to shut the cage door for the thousandth time.

I guess looking at being a grown up through the eyes of a child is a land of freedom, No kid has ever said ‘I can’t wait to grow up and mastic the leaking shower’ or ‘jet wash the drive’, all dull adult activities that we overlook when taking into account the ability to stay up all night and eat what we want.

Being a grown up is no picnic, but, nearing the half century, I still feel like I am not one, I am a fraud and an infiltrator still sneering at those who clothes shop in M&S for a new pair of brogues or cords that are built for comfort not speed.

I plan to not go quietly into my dotage. I will buy that convertible Mazda and eat copious Haribo fangtastics on the morning commute, as I forget about the dentistry fallout and try to prove to myself that I am no longer Mary, but a new breed of hairy.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher who lives in London Colney