Posted by: lialeendertz | May 6, 2011

At the age of 37

I’m going to be 37 on Sunday, and so this song has been going around my head. It’s a very dark vision of turning 37: suburbia, frustrated fantasies, boredom, a losing of identity under kids and husband, and ultimately suicide, but I’ve always strangely liked it, and been particularly intrigued by the line: ‘At the age of 37, she realised she’d never ride through Paris in a sports car, with the warm wind in her hair.’ I suppose I’ve always wondered how I would feel when I reached 37, and whether any of that would relate to me. And whether I would have managed to ride through Paris etc…by now.
The day before I turn 37 will see the last of my Guardian Q&A columns, by neat coincidence. They are little things, but I have done them for a long time, almost ten years* according to my editor (I’m sure it’s closer to eight, but am not a great record keeper), and I feel a need for a little self-indulgence over this, so humour me. I started off under Christopher Lloyd (I was meant to be the cheeky younger female to his er…cheeky older male). Then after his death I shared it with Carol Klein, then a page of my own for a while, and then finally in with a load of other questions about removing stains from toilets and where to buy verjus in Doncaster. Perhaps I should have seen that the end was nigh. At every previous redesign it has clung on, to my amazement and relief, and it is by a very long way the longest running column in the magazine. I got it within months of turning freelance and it really marked the start of something. So it’s been a little thing in the magazine but a big deal to me.
It isn’t a bad turn of events though. It was time, I think. I will still be in the magazine every week doing tips, and I have a spanking new features contract, plus I get to tout my wares to other papers, which is exciting if terrifying.
And I like the timing of it, I like the fact that, at the age of 37 I’m being propelled out of what has been a pretty easy, cosy gig into a new and challenging time, and that I can listen to that song with pity and understanding, but not recognition. Boredom is not an option. I haven’t actually driven a sports car through Paris with the warm wind in my hair, but I’m not about to rule that out just yet.

* Pity plug: you can buy the book of a collection of the columns here



  1. Most important thing – a very happy birthday!

    Least important thing – thousands of years left in which to drive in Paris.

    Not really sure where your emotions are at but, even if there are other good things – feeling with you about the loss.

    Hurray for summer and all good things to come.


  2. Ah, one of my favourite songs. Thanks, it’s in my head now, too.

    Happy birthday for Sunday. You seem to be dealing with your age of 37 better than I am with my new age of 30. I have pretty much been depressed for three months.

    And it’s sad that your Q&A section is going, but look on it as a good kick up the bum. It will lead to bigger and better things, no doubt, and I have every confidence that this will be A Good Thing.


  3. (not that you need a good kick up the bum..but (hopefully) you know what I mean x)

  4. It’ll be sad to no longer read your Q&A column, but I have huge confidence that I’ll be reading your features in all the mainstream press in the coming months. Massive good luck with it all and happy birthday for Sunday. xx

  5. I think you’re right – it sounds like an exciting opportunity especially as you’ll still have loads of Guardian stuff to do.

    Plus, as a seasoned 39 year old, I have to say life’s not quite as suicidal as the song makes out (although I’ll admit I’m more likely to run screaming naked down a shady street than drive through Paris in a sportscar, but that’s just me…)

    Happy birthday for Sunday! Dx

  6. Well as a veteran 40 something – 37 isnt that bad. Personally my 40s have been my best decade so far and I have learnt that you are never too young and life is certainly not over at 37 by a long way. Why cant you drive through Paris with the wind in your hair when you are 67 (provided you have some of course).

    I am sure you will get lots of work from other papers – you have a good reputation and it will be exciting, it a little scary at times.

    Happy Birthday for Sunday

  7. Well a very happy birthday on Sunday. Wish I was 37 again – I will be 60 in July. Just when I thought I ought to be winding down at work and taking things slowly, I have been promoted with more responsibility etc. Oh well, as you said boredom is not an option.

    Someone suggested writing of list of things you want to achieve in the next year. Doing acrobatics with silks was one of them…. well maybe not! I am sure you can add driving around Paris in a open topped car.

    Good luck with your new adventures. Ronnie

  8. Well happy birthday just think how great it is to have all that angst of the young behind you.I loved the 40’s and 50’s feeling confident in who I am feeling able to just do things because I enjoy it. I’m 60 end of this month and looking forward to it and a long hot summer in the garden

  9. Happy Birthday Lia. I have enjoyed your Guardian Q&A and also your contributions to their website / blog. It’s a cliche but “for every door that closes a new one opens”. For me redundancy led to a new job at double the salary, feeling under utilised at work I set up my own management consultancy etc.

    At 37 I was still balancing children and a full time career. At times I felt that I had lost my identity but it is just being reformed (at least that was what I told myself) and you learn a lot about yourself from your children.

    At 64 I am having some of the best times of my life. However I am selling my beloved sports car although have never driven around Paris with the top down. Though we had a memorable holiday crossing the Cevennes one September with temperatures of 40 degrees having to keep the sunroof up and the air con on!

    Don’t lose sight of your dreams – and explore thoroughly all options open!!
    Love Jacqueline X

  10. I’m sure it’ll turn out great, I love your writing 🙂

  11. Odd numbered birthdays and the year that follows are always worse than even numbered ones – or at at the very least seem older than the year that follows. It’s a fact. Maybe to do with odd numbers being ‘bad’ because they are indivisible by two. I don’t know. I feel a blog coming on. Anyway, this next year will be worse than the one that follows – ther’s nothing you can do about that, as it’s an odd number – so why not settle for drinking in a sports bar with a warm gin in your hand. I’m buying. Happy birthday for Sunday x

  12. My fellow Birthday girl.. Hope you have a lovely day. I have a life crisis every few years. I think of loved one’s I have lost in the past, breath and smile. Good luck with your new path.xx

  13. I’m so glad you will still be writing regularly in the Guardian plus the chance to write for other papers too. Change is scary but this sounds to be mostly pluses. I like the coincidence of your turning 37 (just a number to me, but significant to you) at the same time – kind of exciting.

    I hope you have a lovely birthday and that your career blossoms (as a gardening writer’s career should!) from now on.

    Big birthday hug.
    Gilly xxx

  14. Lia I don’t know you very well apart from thru your blog, FB and Twitter but you need to give yourself a shake girl…. You’re going to be 37 not 97… Your post depressed me but there was a hint of positivity towards the end and as for your choice of song…. Well!!!! Marianne Faithful is a neighbour of mine so to speak ie. she lives in the next county and I’ve been an admirer or hers all my life…. I’m in my mid 40’s (dare I say it….) and I’ve lived in Paris and I can assure you you wouldn’t want to drive through Paris in a sports car especially if you value your life!!! On a serious note may I wish you the very best for your birthday on Sunday. Once you’ve blown out those birthday candles give yourself a huge hug and realise that you are where you are and ENJOY!!

  15. I’ve been 37 – 15 times & it really is nothing to cause concern, although if I remember correctly the thirteenth of the fifteen wasn’t anything to write home about. Nowadays the only way I can hang on to thoughts of 37 is by looking at the waist band of my trousers. 🙂

    Happy Birthday & have a goodun on Sunday

  16. Yep, one of our Marianne’s best that one.
    By the age of 37 I had done warm wind in Tuscany. Does that count?
    I restarted my life at 33 and then again at 51.
    You will do great!

  17. I hope that, in spite of the demise of your column, they are keeping the embarrassing stains bit as that was always my first stop.
    Happiest of happy birthday to you.I cannot remember what I was doing on my 37th birthday. I suspect that I may have been up to my ankles in a muddy trench as that was how I spent much of my time in those days. Not exactly driving through Paris with the warm wind etc etc but equally glamorous in it’s own quiet way.

  18. OMG! (as the young people say) I am old enough to be your Mum!! Take heart – when you weren’t even a twinkle in your father’s eye I was spending a hippy summer in Biarritz following the surfing crowd subsiding on beignets abricots. left-over chips stolen from other people’s plates in the campsite cafe and red wine sold in plastic plastic bottles. My form of transport was hitching.

    When I was 50 I bought a VW beetle convertible and drove those same coastal roads round Biarritz with the top-down, stereo blaring, the Bedsock beside me and the sea breeze in my hair. I know which one of those scenarios was the most fun and it ain’t the left-over chips!

    The Bedsock and I will say goodbye to your column with great sorrow – it has made the Guardian weekend magazine seem like a familiar friend. Saturday’s won’t be the same.

    • Thanks Arabella, you have always been very lovely and supportive of the Q&A and I have really appreciated it. I will still be there though!
      Biarritz aged 50 sounds magic. You know how to live x

  19. Esther – indeed, lots of time. Bet I dont get round to it though!

    KB – Well a kick up the bum is a good thing, and I reckon I probably do need one every now and then, so none taken.

    Tor – Thanks lovely x

    Dawn – one more bloody bank holiday weekend and I would join you with the shady street naked screaming.

    Patientgarden – I know what you mean about older decades being better. Pressure’s off! Can’t wait for 40…

    Roni – Sorry to hear about your promotion! Hope you enjoy the challenges though.

    Peter – Hello. You paint a lovely picture. I’m with you!

    Jacqueline – it is a funny time alright, moving out of the all-consumingness of young babies, trying to find one’s place. I’m glad it all worked out so beautifully for you.

    Susannah – thank you!

    Mark – Sports bar/warm gin, not quite the glamour I was after, but it’s looking like my best offer. Cheers.

    Michelle – Yes, it is important to remember what a privilege it is to get older. Happy birthday to you too miss x

    Gilly – neat innit? Thanks lovely gilly x

    Ena – It’s my blog and I’ll moan if I want to! It wasnt really meant to be depressing, just thoughts that are going through my head right now. It’s not really about getting old, more about this funny stage of life, kids becoming less dependent… finding a new way etc… I know lots of people having a bit of a crisis at the moment and perhaps it was a fib to say I have no recognition of that state of mind, but being forced to do new stuff has rather shaken me out of it. Thanks for birthday wishes x

    SS – You are very, very old indeed…

    Robert – I’ve done warm wind in hair on the back of a bad boy’s moped in Greece. That definitely counts.

    James – I wrote the ‘verjus in Doncaster’ especially to try to coax a comment out of YOU, and you go and comment on the toilet staining. What do I know, eh?

    • can I make a small observation – I only got to read your response to my reply by chance as I think you had added it as a new comment rather than a reply. Hope all well? Ena

  20. Obviously nothing.
    Verjus is available at every corner store in Doncaster because – and you should know this already – the outflow from the biggest natural Verjus lake in Europe emerges just next door to the Premier Inn Car Park, High Fishergate.

    Something for the next Q&A.

  21. Hope that you enjoyed your birthday Lia and wish you all the best with the next chapter. I am sure that you will enjoy the challenge. You are still a young slip of a girl ~ the best is yet to come!

  22. Lia, whoa you are young! I assume everyone is 41 unless told otherwise. I complain but secretly like it when, as today, I have to carry my youngest in from the car; it’s a taste of times that are largely gone. But go they should. I’m not the mum of babies but the next me will still be fabulous (or so I’ve decided).

  23. At 37 we had just run back to the UK from what we thought was our one bit of excitement in America, thinking that our one year old now required us to be responsible, British and no more galavanting for us. Ten years on and, as you know, we are just back from another five years of even more extreme galavanting, and Bethan seems to have thrived in it. My only advice based on the last decade is just grab those opportunities quickly when they wander past and the kids will thrive on it so long as they get enough of your time. Isn’t it weird – we always seem to be ten years apart! Happy belated birthday. xxx

  24. Oh, but I like guessed that because you like wrote about gardening, you were like eightey or sumfin’ anyway.


    (waddles off with stupid knitted hat and jeans halfway down thighs pretending to be Jamaican)

    PS – I got a bag full of Northern Lights seeds that won’t grow, can I write in to the Guardian about dat? An I need some advice on the best hydropinic rig-up.

  25. JAS – Such useful information, and just a few weeks too late. I’m sure it will come up again.

    Anna – Thank you x

    Sheila – Thank you. Lovely comment. I love those little bitter-sweet glimpses too. Im glad they arent babies anymore, but I fully indulge them when they want to pretend to be…

    John – We do! But NOW you have to be responsible and British. We’ll see… Thanks for birthday wishes xx

    The Garden Monkey – Thanks for commenting. It’s only been A YEAR AND A HALF!
    I am shocked. I so had you down as Jamaican. They really need warmth to get them going. Try starting them off in a heated propagator.

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