THIS week I did something which left me feeling more than a little depressed. Crestfallen, pathetic, dispirited, distressed, melancholy, despondent and suicidal are the best ways I can describe the sensation. In contemporary slang I was lacking in feelgood factor. Propitiously-challenged. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I bought a camcorder. Wrong. I did something worse. For the first time in my life, I bought a compact disc from the Easy Listening section of a record store. When I asked where I could find this particular recording, hoping against hope that it might be in the jazz section, the assistant regarded me with incredulity and said: 'Ah yes. That's right over there in the section marked 'Boring Rubbish For Sad People'. With Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber.' I gripped harder on my Zimmer frame, took a breath so deep that my dentures rattled like mahjong tiles, and shuffled off. What's wrong with Henry Mancini anyway? If he's good enough for Audrey Hepburn, he's good enough for me. At the time I was rather put out of countenance by the young man's comments. Six days later, with the benefit of hindsight, it occurs to me that I had nothing to be embarrassed about. One's first purchase of a Henry Mancini recording is a sign that one is on the verge of glorious middle age. It's a revelation, not quite of Saint John the Divine proportions, but a revelation nevertheless. Like the time as a teenager you discovered that the school bike sheds weren't just for parking your bike. But this isn't about Henry Mancini. It's about middle age, and the fact that, like David Tang's picture in the paper, there is simply no avoiding it. (I saw an ambulant David Tang on Sunday in a shopping arcade and he really does look like an extra from the Sai Kung Village Hall production of Miss Saigon. I have no objection to anyone walking around in crumpled old pyjamas, but Mr Tang might find the silk of better quality in Marks & Spencer than it is in Shanghai. Anyway, we didn't speak. He was obviously rushing off to have his photograph taken fawning over Viscount Linley or some other second-rate Royal). Middle age is insidious of onset. For David Tang its predominant symptom is a lack of self-esteem, which results in the sufferer yearning to see his picture in the paper every day. By the by, there are seven Tangs in the new edition of Who's Who and most of them are eminent Chinese scientists. There is no entry under Tang, David: owner of a clothes shop. For me middle age began when I was 12. That was the day my mother told me she wouldn't let me join the auditions for the Milky Bar Kid advertisements because I was too ugly, lacking in talent, and wouldn't get the part. This, essentially, is what middle age is - the realisation that life is about to take its toll on you, just as it takes a toll on everyone except Sir Cliff Richard and Michael J. Fox. So it was that at 13 I gave up my guitar lessons (Eric Clapton had never answered my letter about vacancies in his backing band) and at 14 found out that Lesley Judd, dancer in Pan's People and host of Blue Peter, was already engaged. (I recently started guitar lessons again. Every Tuesday evening, for one hour, a patient and talented Filipino struggles to help me understand that even though the Beatles got a long way with six chords, they did so because they played them in carefully pre-arranged order). And there is no point in seeking solace from middle age in television. In ER one of the student doctors recently revealed he was born in 1972. Gordon Bennett! That means he's not old enough to tie his shoelaces or cut up his own food. If surgeons get much younger the government will have to organise school buses to take them to and from work every day. If you are unsure whether or not you qualify for middle age, senility is the clincher. Has your co-ordination atrophied to the point at which you can no longer have a telephone conversation and look out of the window at the same time? How often have you put the coffee jar back in the fridge and the milk carton in the larder? Do you increasingly find yourself enjoying Ray Cordiero? And if you are thinking about buying a Henry Mancini record, but are too embarrassed to ask, here are a number of useful mitigations, any one of which should be enough to save your blushes. 1. I'm building a five-star hotel and need something to play in the lavatories. 2. I'm writing a book about popular film score composers of the 20th century whose second names begin with the letter M. 3. It's not for me, it's for my mother and she's deaf. The same excuses apply to all musical recordings by Michael Bolton, Barry Manilow and anyone who ever started a live concert by saying: 'Good evening London/New York/Sai Wan Ho. Are you ready to rock?' If you are thinking of buying anything by Kenny G, sorry but you are beyond help.