One of my favourite Mark Twain quotes is, "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
I think I like it for two reasons. First of all, I feel slightly distanced from it in that my father wasn't around when I was growing up, so at 21 I somehow felt exempt from ever having been a callow youth – although, of course, I had been as callow as the next. Secondly, it's just a great quote to pull out when you're well into your middle-years. By this time, if few people credit you with having attained any real wisdom, they might at least be impressed by the fact that you can quote Mark Twain verbatim!
Last night BBC Four screened the Woodstock movie on the 40th anniversary of the event. But it's also been 40 years since the first man landed on the moon and the release of The Beatles' Abbey Road album.
In his own youth, my grandfather was assured that any notion of a man travelling to the moon should be regarded as little more than science-fiction. As it happens, he witnessed the lunar experience in 1969 from the comfort of his armchair like many of us did. But for him, Woodstock, The Beatles and their like must have seemed as distant as the stars.
Strange though, to think that if I referred to anyone over thirty as 'grandad', I never made a direct association with my own grandad. So what was I saying in those days when our generation thought we had all the answers? Something for the Sociologists to argue about or back to Mark twain?
© 2009, copyright Martin T. Hodges