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Sunday 25th April 2004

Last night I was in Edinburgh and I had a discussion with two women in their early twenties that I am sure many of you have had, about the inanity and pointlessness of the Katie Melua lyric "feeling 22, acting 17". As a 36 year old man I felt that there was very little difference between these ages. In hindsight you are essentially the same person and I was laughing at the idea of 22 seeming like an impossibly mature age. The young women disagreed: being 22 or thereabouts they felt there was a world of difference between those two ages. I was, however, confident that once they got to their mid-thirties they would see what a stupid distinction it is. I don't know if that makes them or me right, or whether I've just forgotten about what it is like to be young. However I posited that a much better song (probably for a bloke) would go something along the lines of "feeling 17, acting 17, but I'm 36".
I laughed at my own drunken wit.

In the morning, travelling home with a bit of a hangover and forced to sit in the smoking section of the train thanks to all the other seats being full, I had plenty of time to reconsider this. There was a bit group of smoking Scottish lads (they looked about 14, but I'm guessing they were nearer to 17) and I realised that my behaviour is a world away from theirs. They were shouting and constantly showing off the ring-tones on their mobile phones and playing hand-held video games with the sound up and not giving a shit about anyone else on the carriage, or their hungover old heads.
There were so many of them that I did wonder if they might be some Scottish version of the Blazin' Squad (or as I prefer to call them the Blazing Squad).
They were clearly irritating other passengers, but their sheer weight of numbers meant that no-one was going to be brave enough to tell them to shut up. I considered doing it as one of my challenges, but then thought maybe I should save it for the last task for safety's sake.
A gang of teenage boys has no regard for other people's feelings, or perhaps more accurately, are playing with a new power that they have discovered they have and are deliberately winding people up because there's little chance of them being reprimanded.
After a couple of hours they got out a CD player and some speakers and started playing some truly dreadful music at full volume. "Mysterious Girl" by Peter Andre was nearly enough to make me throw caution to the wind, but despite the fact that I had a sword, I did nothing; I mainly feared having become the kind of person that I would have hated as a teenager. I suppose we've all been there and so stuff like this is just payback, in the same way that having teenage kids is the punishment for the way you behaved to your own parents when you were young.
Eventually I opted for going to see if any of the other carriages had seats now. The next one did. I moved.
So maybe the difference between being 17 and 22 is that in those five years you start to have some consideration for other people. Maybe that's what the song is about. Maybe Melua likes to think she is a good member of society, but then finds herself intimidating the elderly on trains.
So though at times I may feel like I'm 22, I am no longer anywhere near to acting like I'm 17. Maybe I sometimes act like I'm 27, but that's about as far as it goes. And I don't think "feeling 22, acting 27, but I'm nearly 37" is quite as catchy as my other Barron Knights style version of Melua's song.

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