Resisting September

What Frank Sinatra and Italian cafes can teach us about growing up...

Ervin Drake’s ‘It Was a Very Good Year’ - the song that earned Frank Sinatra a Grammy and his first number one in 1966 - has to be one of my favourite lyrics of all time.

When I was 17, it was a very good year

It was a very good year for small town girls

And soft summer nights

We'd hide from the lights

On the village green

When I was 17

When I was 21, it was a very good year

It was a very good year for city girls

Who lived up the stairs

With all that perfumed hair

And it came undone

When I was 21

When I was 35, it was a very good year

It was a very good year for blue-blooded girls

Of independent means

We'd ride in limousines

Their chauffeurs would drive

When I was 35

But now the days are short, I'm in the autumn of my years

And now I think of my life as vintage wine

From fine old kegs

From the brim to the dregs

It poured sweet and clear

It was a very good year


You can feel the bittersweet melancholy without even having to hear it sung.

Like all the best lyrics, it has an internal music all of its own, created by rhyme, alliteration, repetition and the way images are woven together.

Each verse is its own black and white film - years played out in moments; each one longer, but simultaneously shorter, than the last.

Now, according to Ervin and Frank, I’m hovering somewhere between verses two and three (though, unfortunately, the situation is far from equidistant).

I should, in theory, be on the lookout for blue-blooded girls of independent means.

However, this isn’t Manhattan Island at the height of the post-war boom.

Maybe the best I can hope for in 21st Century Stockport is a girl with a 6% mortgage and a job in HR who won’t immediately make me co-parent a dog.

Despite that, it’s always the last verse that gets me.

But now the days are short, I'm in the autumn of my years…

I think my neurotic obsession with getting older has been exacerbated by my first steps into the music industry.

There’s a meme I saw on Facebook where an attractive young woman repeats the question ‘you’re in a band?’ as if she is talking to a 21 year old, then a 25 year old, and then a 30 year old.

Each time there is a little less attraction and a little more pity in her voice.

I think this insecurity is brought on hard when summer becomes autumn.

It's a stark reminder that another year is passing me by.

I suppose I worry that in the autumn of my life I won’t end up looking back on it like a ‘vintage wine’.

It’ll strike me more like spilled milk.

As August inevitably becomes September I can’t help noticing the way the fallen leaves begin to gather at the side of the road.

This Indian summer doesn’t fool me for a second.

I suppose we have the northern hemisphere’s academic system to thank for the feeling that September brings.

That it's the end of something glorious that was never meant to last.

The beginning of a slow descent into longer, darker nights and shorter, colder days.

In an act of defiance I’ve discovered a small Italian cafe in the village near where I live.

It has no door, but an open shutter, meaning you can sit in the open air and watch the world go by.

It serves Sicilian pastries, great coffee and plays jazz music that is just about commercial enough for me to convince myself I like.

I’ve been here every morning for a week now, refusing to believe that I’m not a character in a John Le Carre novel, eking out a laconic deep cover somewhere in rural Tuscany.

I think it’s my way of holding on to August a little longer.

It’s also a reminder of the way that, sometimes, fear can be a great motivator.

The one advantage of suddenly deciding to be a singer-songwriter in your thirties is that the decision is so potentially embarrassing that you’d really better make a decent fist of it.

And you’d better start making one sooner rather than later.

This year will soon be next year, and so on and so on.

Autumn is always just around the corner.

And those blue-blooded girls in their limousines won’t wait around forever.

Keep dreaming,


Rob Jones & The Restless Dream

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