My brief career as a marijuana farmer

The latest heatwave reminded me of my brief career as a marijuana farmer. This wasn’t in the summer of 1976, when I was 13, but three years later, by which time my family had moved to Devon. My father had been commissioned to write the biography of Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst, the founders of Dartington Hall, a utopian community in South Devon, and wanted to be nearer the archives and the couples’ friends and colleagues whom he was planning to interview. Having been brought up in London, I was terrifically snobbish about how behind the times the local teenagers were – still wearing flares and listening to Status Quo, gawd

The BBC’s obsession with youth

At long last the state of Oregon has got around to installing tampon machines in the male lavatories of its many schools. I have campaigned long and hard on this issue. It has always seemed to me grossly unfair that girls should be provided with this facility but the poor boys utterly ignored. The sense of shame that these young men must have felt when their monthly cycles arrived unexpectedly – and remember that many of them will be victims of ‘period poverty’. Now, though, thanks to the state’s chirpily named Menstrual Dignity Act, equality has been achieved and I will therefore turn my attention to another consequence of social

Should the young pay less tax than the old?

In evolutionary terms, it is obvious why we get more conservative with age. Two strong forces, acting in the same direction, lead us not to bet on rank outsiders when we’re nearing the last race of the day. First, older people have more experience to draw on when making decisions: if you already know what you like, the need to experiment is much less. But that’s not all. The elderly also have far less time remaining to benefit from experimentation. If you happen on a new cuisine, band, social circle or holiday destination in your twenties, you have many decades to profit from the discovery. Someone in their sixties might

When does ‘middle age’ end and ‘old age’ begin?

I was a bit irritated by all the millennials saying the Superbowl half-time show made them feel old. The 15-minute musical extravaganza at Sunday’s game was a tribute to the golden age of hip hop and featured Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, Eminem and Dr Dre. The reason it made so many people in their thirties and early forties feel a bit long in the tooth is that all artists are now candidates for the Hall of Fame. Dr Dre is 56 and Snoop Dogg turned 50 last year. Seeing their idols thickening around the waist and sprouting grey hairs was a mementomori for people who came of

What angry young French men want

Chatting on the café terrace with my new friends Didier and Emile made me aware that certain political ideas, which before the Covid-19 pandemic I had comfortably assumed belonged on the wilder shores of political discourse, are now mainstream among the under thirties. I felt a little envy, perhaps, for Didier’s undoubting conviction that questions of equality, gender, race and white supremacy were the ultimate verities for humankind. But a single word often betrays a great design, and his supplementary advocation of voluntary euthanasia for the chronically sick and elderly indicated all too clearly in which direction his ideal post-Covid society would be headed. Also, it seemed to me that