December 7th, 1998.

Me and Mr Collins.

It's nearly Christmas, and yes it's a terrible cliche, but it seems like Christmas and the New Year wasn't that long ago. It's worth noting that January being next month means that it isn't that long until my Birthday either! Worth noting for me that is because I'll be 28 years old on the 11th of next month. 28!

Thing is though, I always thought that 28 would seem older and that when I reached that age I'd be going bald and driving a ford escort with a baby seat and wife. Mind you I guess that's what I thought ten years ago. But now I am just days away from that age, the trappings that I expected to come 'in later life' are still expected... 'in later life'. Later meaning some time far away from now!

I think perhaps I am gearing up for a pre-emptive mid-life crisis. I am soon to be dangerously close to 30 and I still feel about 21, indeed I still act like I am some carefree 21 year old.

Ah, panic! I am in denial of my responsibilities, my age, my desire for a hot cup of cocoa, and a pair of slippers! However, try as I may to avoid them, the signs that 30 is creeping up on me are beginning to manifest themselves.

Only this week I had a terrible dream. I was in Chester doing some music-buying when I spied the latest CD from Phil Collins called 'Hits'. For those of you who have already succumbed to curse of age and the language difficulties that brings, means a collection of Phil Collins' 'greatest hits'.

Anyway, I saw this CD on the stand and though 'Cool, a Phil Collins compilation'. I picked it up and read the tracklisting. It had all the greats on it 'Sussudeo, Easy lover, Mama, Another day in Paradise', etc. And at just under 13 I thought it was a bargain. Pleased with my choice and feeling keen to get this CD in my player at home, I made my way to the counter.

As the clerk scanned the barcode for the price loads of alarms started sounding and lights in the shop started flashing. I was stunned, confused, and nearly deafened from the bedlam around me. The clerk was shouting at someone to kill the alarm and eventually it was silenced. The shop came to order and normality returned once more.

I asked the clerk what the alarm was for and he looked right back at me and said "Sorry sir, it's just that you bought a middle-aged CD." "A middle-aged CD?" I questioned. "Yes sir, Phil Collins is a middle-aged CD." "What does that mean?" I asked. The clerk looked a little confused then replied. "Well sir, Phil Collins?... I mean, c'mon, I don't want to be rude, but that is a very middle-aged CD." "Phil Collins isn't a middle-aged CD" I protested. "He did some great stuff" "Yeah, like in the mid-eighties!" Retorted the clerk harshly.

Feeling a little beaten back by this response from the clerk I quickly and animatedly responded by saying that everyone had heard of Phil Collins. He was a big star and has sold loads of records.

Enthroned on his elevated counter the clerk intimidatingly lent toward me as I tried not to cower, then said "Yeah... In the nineteen-eighties!"

Not to be outdone by this snotty-nosed punk I decided to enlist the help of a girl behind me in the line (who looked a lot like my friend Amy Davis from this summer in Boston).

I turned to her and asked her what she had bought. A little embarrassed she showed her choice of CD to me. A CD by a band called Harvey something or other. I'd never heard of them in my life. The clerk then interrupted and said "Have you ever heard of Phil Collins?" "Phil who?" She replied with a lost expression on her wrinkle-free face.

My heart sank. The clerk looked back at me raised an eyebrow and quoted the price. I was going to ask for a student discount using my fake student card, but with seemingly the eyes of the entire shop looking at me as if to say "Phil Collins?" I just took out my MasterCard, paid then beat a retreat as quickly as I could.

The music from my teenage years of rebellion and discovery was now the music of the middle-aged escort driver. My place in the easy listening section of the shop was secure. My fake student card had now well and truly out stayed its welcome. I was now officially... 'Middle-aged'!

Of course, though, this was just a dream and a bad one at that. I awoke quite disturbed by the thought of such an event. But to be honest I don't think I am in too much danger of feeling the need to go out and buy a TV guide and some slippers just yet. I may not be the 18-year-old fashion victim I once was, but I still have a grip on the culture of today. I still consider myself to be young, even though loads of my friends seem to be raising children!

I guess it's just that I feel like maybe at 28 I should have a ford escort, 1.2 kids a wife and a mortgage. You see in all seriousness the last ten years have whistled by in a flash and I am left wondering what will happen in the next ten. It's a scary thought!

For now though, I am happy enough with myself to be able to listen to whatever I like, be that the 'Goo Goo Dolls' or 'Bare Naked Ladies' or a Ministry mix CD or even... Phil Collins, yes that's right. Mr. Phil Collins, from the nineteen-eighties!