My Naughty Forties

Musings for Getting Through My Forties (Relatively) Unscathed

No matter what side of 40 you find yourself on, I don’t think it’s ever too late or too early to embrace the spirit of the naughty forties. In many ways, life gets easier, the things you obsessed over in decades past matter just that little bit less, and you become more in touch with yourself. I’m not one for manifestos, but one day I might look back on these musings and find them enlightening… or just mildly amusing.



Part of the reason I can go through life less embarrassed about everything is because, to a large extent, I’ve let go of some control. I think it’s got a lot to do with confidence. I wouldn’t say I’m less meticulous about every dish, recipe, newsletter and Journal that goes out, but I find myself making decisions a lot quicker. My priorities have shifted: I get more sleep, my close friends are fewer but my bond with them is stronger, I might not have children, but my niece and nephew keep me pretty busy (and Lizzie, my King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, is the apple of my eye), and over all I value a great experience a lot more than material things that don’t have a personal connection for me. I’ve found that when I make a real connection with someone or something, every experience becomes just that much more meaningful.


As a chef who’s constantly nibbling his way through life, you become intensely aware of the M word: your metabolism. Where at one time it was your constant friend and ally, suddenly it turns on you, and you find yourself taking an actual interest in the nutritional information on the back of your packet of chips. But thankfully (or not, depending on how you look at things), you also become more forgetful. In all seriousness, though, my health and mental wellbeing have become more important to me than ever. The colour of my hair might be changing, I might get more nervous when I go for a check-up, and I find my bathroom cabinet containing a greater variety of lotions and potions as the years go on, but apart from embracing a more plant-based diet and spending as much time outdoors as I can, I also make sure that I take a small break when I need to. Time, I have come to realise, is the most valuable thing we have.


The first time I was called “oom” happened a lot sooner than I thought it would. I wasn’t ready for it, I’ll be honest. I had to drown my sorrows in a Klippies and Coke that evening… until I realised I was totally living up to the cliché. But somehow, after living in France for almost a decade, where you’re called “monsieur” purely on the basis of your sex (I still wonder how the fairer sex deals with the transition from “mademoiselle” to “madame”), passing as Oom Jan doesn’t get me down as much as it used to. There’s a grace to growing older, but where I lose a bit of grace is when it’s assumed that I wouldn’t know about something based on my age. Sure, I still don’t know what an OG is (that’s me, apparently), but I’m not entirely out of touch with pop culture. I follow Kim Kardashian, for heaven’s sake.


I’ve known myself for four decades through every up, down, sideways and which ways. You’d think that means I’m completely Zen about everything and that life’s curveballs are a thing of the past. Not so! Life hasn’t suddenly become less of a mystery – quite the opposite – but somehow, it doesn’t seem to matter as much. The fact is, I don’t really care what other people think of me, not as much as I used to. And with that, I’ve found that I’m a lot less inhibited. I don’t get embarrassed as easily, especially when I get called to the stage at a karaoke bar, and there’s something just so liberating about that.