Great sitting nosy chins

GREY PRIDE – manifesto number one

Don’t underestimate me

I’m now so old that I know stuff. If I lived in a tribal village I’d have the best seat by the fire in the wig wam and be called something like Great Sitting Nosy Chins and wear a big showy offy headdress with feathers on. People would come and ask me when I predict the rains will come or when to plant the rice harvest or whether they should marry the weedy boy from the next village. I’d have a bong pipe and get my own way a lot. Sadly I live in the M4 corridor which means that despite my advanced years and thickening waist no-one is going to ask me much – because they can just google it.

What people fail to recognise is that I have qualities which are infinitely more useful than google. I have good judgement. I know when people are lying and when they are talking bullshit, often before they have even opened their mouths. Maddeningly few people seem to realise this or give me the respect I deserve, so I too need a big headdress and a bong pipe and a nice elder name. I could set up in the local garden centre – take over where Father Christmas left off and colonise the Grotto – I could ask other like minded elders to ritual ceremonies which involve cake and dry white wine. We would invite younger people to come in and share their problems and dilemnas and stop them getting great big tattoos all over their arms before it‘s too late, or suggest that they wait a while before marrying someone who looks like they might be a liability or have the mother in the law from hell. Think how useful we’d be. We could have a figure head of our tribe who would sit at Cabinet meetings and be Minister for the Pull Yourself Together Party. Piping up to tell politicians who look too old to be out on their own when what they are proposing has either been tried before and died on its arse or just will never work. Or is plain silly. Like HS2 or the Bedroom Tax.

Someone needs to use our skills and our wisdom, and tap into our ability to read a knitting pattern or know what to do with some zinc and castor oil. As it is no one seems to care much about what we think or know, or be keen to use the knowledge and judgment we have. We’re not even complacent. We’re great learners. Send us to university, keep us learning, top up our knowledge and then make use of us is surely the way to go.

People seem to get more and more of an appetite for learning as they get older. Almost a third of undergraduates today are mature students, and 15% of all 45-54 year olds in Britain are in education or training. More to the point we are probably the most conscientioius students in town. Surely the way to go is to give us some incentives, help us reboot ourselves to retrain or just plain carry on learning and we will not only be useful sources of wisdom, but we’ll probably still be earning money.

There are however a couple of snags which we need to be honest about. Despite my thirst for knowledge, and new interests that I wouldn’t have thought possible, a lot of mental tasks take me longer. I find it harder to concentrate, and to remember anything short term. I assume this is because my memory banks are full and clogged up like a computer that needs to be taken to the tip or have its hard drive replaced. It’s not like I forget everything short term, but I need to write things down more. My mental clipboard is not as efficient as it was, and if I was going to buy a stair-lift I would need a high speed one, so that I can remember what it is I am trying to go upstairs for.

Complicated plots sometimes get the better of me – if I had to paraphrase the plot of the Bourne Identity or any of the last three Bond films on to a post it note I would struggle to fill even one of the little ones, even the ones you use for book marks. But there might be more to this than meets the eye, since I suspect a spot of selective memory is at play here. Just as older people can be selectively deaf I think I can be selectively forgetful, or selectively able. Perhaps older people are better at filtering out the things they no longer want to do in this way than their younger counterparts. I find that as I get older my back is “too bad” to sit through a Shakespeare history play, or go camping. We get good at playing the older card. Well why not?

It’s the same with celebrities, particularly young ones. Interestingly young people are starting to all look similar to me, all those young blonde actresses and singers like Lily Allen or Miley Cyrus or Matt Damon and Leonardo di Caprio begin to look almost interchangeable to me.

I huff and puff about young people finding me invisible but I am starting to find them rather invisible too. So it’s no good pretending (as some of the guides to middle and old age do) that intellectually things get better with age. They sort of do and they don’t. On the other hand I feel more creative, more accomplished, and that I have more to offer than ever before.

Our value to society is hugely underestimated. We need to be passing on our skills and wisdom to society in a way that is much more joined up than it currently is. Retrain us as mediators, magistrates, arbitrators, pay us a modest fee to pass on our life skills encourage us and make it easy for us to learn better and better I/T skills…and surely we need a Minister for the Old.

Senior school without a timetable

Once I turned 60 I suddenly felt like I had gone up to senior school, like a new girl in a new playground but with no timetable.I couldn’t even find anyone who knew the timetable or the headmistress to ask. The only thing that was well signposted were the loos.

Retirement is kicking in. All the previous templates and shapes and routines have gone astray and a new one has to be made up.

So far most of my time seems to have involved a lot of faffing on, or frittering. Tidying up loose ends which have been threatening to trip me up for decades – tax advice, SIPPS, PEPS, writing my will, sorting out my iPhotos, downloading CD’s onto my phone… in other words all the dull stuff I have been putting off for years.

If this is what retirement is like then I shall soon be looking for a part time job. Ideally one that means I can still get up when I feel like it and take a nice mug of tea out into the garden whenever the sun shines.

Ah yes, perhaps I will stay as I am..


The upside of getting older No 1- spotting the gormless

Upside No 1

I may not be a tribe elder with a place by the fire where people come to me for advice on how to get the best potato harvest or how many sheep to offer in a dowry, like in times gone by, but being older comes with a great deal of intuition and know how. One of the best things about being older is that I know stuff. Important stuff like being a good judge of character. Specifically I am able to spot gormlessness at 100 meters and before suspect in question has even opened their mouth. This is useful in many ways. For example, I can weigh up the best supermarket check out operative with 100% certainty and choose the fastest lane on offer. Often, interestingly my radar will point me to the oldest person on the check out as the one who will know the difference between a mango and a tangerine and who will also be able to trouble shoot problems rather than simply call for the supervisor. Sometimes of course my gormless radar is useful because I positively want to seek out gormlessness in a shop assistant. I’m thinking in particular of when I am “Taking back” as in I’ve gone off it, or if I’m honest I’ve already worn it but have gone off it. Then my friends the gormless person in the shop is what you want, not what you want to avoid.

How to feel instantly younger at 60

Don’t waste time and effort trying to push up, pull in or plump up remaining sex appeal. It will be a waste of time. Today I experienced the equivalent of having 10 years taken off my age. People wanted to talk to me, be my friend and sit next to me. They laughed at my jokes, hung on my every word and want to see me again. That’s because today for the first time I helped out at the local village hall serving lunch to the old people. When I say old actually they looked quite young to me, but apparently the average age is about 85. That’s what happens when you get a little bit old yourself, like policemen looking young old people start looking young.

I commend it to you as a way of making yourself feel younger, and more useful. They are as it happens also hugely good company.

Way to go.

Suddenly people seem to think I’m old

I know I’m getting old because I’ve just turned 60 which means I am now officially “old”. I don’t feel sixty, I don’t even feel particularly grown up, but my claims to the term ‘middle aged’ are now beginning to sound naïve, even laughable. Like all Baby Boomers who like to think we invented sex and drugs and rock and roll, getting old was never going to happen to me. We decided “we’d rather die than grow old” and some of us I notice are even proclaiming “we don’t do old” like we have a choice. But like it or not, time is catching up with us. Suddenly I can feel a slight change in people’s attitudes to me – if I tell someone I ‘m joining the community choir or the local ukulele group (both more or less compulsory for the over 50s) people say “Good for you!” in that way they do to old people, like I’m bucking a trend, or needed a great big pat on the back for still being in the land of the living. Younger people obviously think I’m getting old, but I’m finding hard to come to grips with.

This late middle age or early old age doesn’t even have a name, it’s a no man’s land. There’s no role model that works anymore because we’ve all decided that we’re not going to age like our parents did. Everywhere I look the over 50s are behaving more like teenagers than old farts. They’re busy divorcing, getting STD’s, trekking the Himalayas or dyeing their hair bright pink – like a pack of adolescents but with more liver spots and the occasional need for a nice sit down. Is there a grey revolution under way? Or is it just that old-ness is suddenly on my radar and, just as policeman start to look about 12 when you are in your 30s, old people start to look younger the older you get?

IMG_0688I’ve been mining a seam of comedy based on growing older for ten years with the Grumpy Old Women franchise for BBC Two, and writing the stage shows with Jenny Éclair.Now it is time to figure out where all this new found grey attitude might be heading, which is what this blog is all about.

How did this happen?

One day you’re snogging boys, the next you’re looking sixty in the eye. I don’t feel sixty, I don’t even feel like a grown up, and the word middle aged is starting to feel ridiculous, but all of a sudden I’m getting a little bit old. One thing’s for sure, I’m going to try to have a ball. While I still can. While I still have my own teeth and my own hips. Oh yes. Oh very yes. What will this mean, where will this lead? I am not sure, but it might lead me into some mischief. I hope so. tell me about your mischief.