Enjoy your retirement, Meryvn King – just don’t call it a ‘grey gap year’

The Bank of England boss is about to step down, and has said he’s going to give himself a gap year. He probably deserves a break – but lose the backpacker lingo, eh Merv?

Mervyn King is retiring as governor of the Bank of England. I’m sure we’ll all get over it. It’s not like Mark E Smith‘s packing it in, or Hilary Mantel, or Eddie Izzard. I can’t say I have strong feelings one way or the other about King, although I do marvel at the way he seems to have grown into his Steve Bell caricature.

King has been telling Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs about his plans for the immediate future, and who am I to begrudge him his hospitality box at Lord’s or the inevitable appearance on Strictly Come Dancing? As a fellow member of his 60-65 cohort, I say take some time off, mate, by all means. Wear elasticated trousers to the garden centre. Have one too many real ales at lunchtime. Fall asleep in front of Bargain Hunt. Help yourself.

Just don’t call it a “grey gap year”, Merv. You make all of us look even more bloody ridiculous than we already are. Seriously, an old person’s “gap year”? It sounds suspiciously like one of those little luxuries ageing men award themselves to keep intimations of death at bay. A grey gap year is tonally at one with the leather blouson. The sports car. The younger second wife. The sinister lurking about in the dressing-up tent at Bestival.

We narcissistic old people, with our “grey” this and our “silver” that. It all sounds very distinguished when you put your notional hair colour in front of something, but it’s fooling nobody. What about a “bald gap year”? Yeah, thought not, you daft old people. Or a “fat, blotchy, creaking, liverspotted, testicle-faced gap year”. Put that in your social media bios, old people. Then recalibrate your chances of fumbled sex with an 18-year-old backpacker in a Vietnamese hostel, old people. Dozy muppets.

So yeah, Merv. Take it easy, man. Chill. Kick back. Take some time off, or “out” as we under-70s say. I don’t blame you for wanting a break from all that banking, from all that invaluable support for a disastrous and punitive austerity programme, from having to fistbump George Osborne after every Treasury meeting, from having to endure endless alcohol-free lunches with despots and bastards. I don’t blame you for that.

I blame you for wasting one of your Desert Island Discs on Lou Bega’s Mambo Number 5, you doughnut.


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