The Game Old Things

I’ve been interviewing a lot of celebrities recently about growing old, for a new TV series I’m writing. It’s under wraps and all that, but what immediately strikes me is how much I am loving their company.

There’s an authenticity about older people which is immediately both unusual and attractive. What’s more, they’re entirely without inhibitions and nothing is off limits. Which is another way of saying they are hilarious.

They simply don’t care what people think of them anymore. They’re utterly up for pretty much anything you throw at them, and therefore qualify for the collective noun ‘Game Old Things’ big time.

Suddenly their guards are down, pretensions are abandoned and they are simply themselves. Which is ironic since, if someone under 30 were to be placed next them at, say, a wedding, their little hearts would sink in anticipation of being bored to actual death. That’s how bad the image of old age is. It’s full of negativity, need, and loneliness infused with a distinct whiff of cabbage.

We’ve covered a lot of ground in the interviews and, among other things, talked about sex and relationships. The over-60s are the first generation to have had free access to both free love and the pill and so it won’t surprise you to know the divorce rate is growing faster in this age range than in any other, and also that they are catching more STIs than anyone else now.

Perhaps a combination of dating for the first time in 40 years and not really taking ‘safe’ sex too seriously means that the oldies are finding themselves in the STI clinic for the first time in their lives. I would love to be a fly on the waiting room wall when young people walk in and presumably find the place stacked out with people old enough to be their grandparents.

I’d love to think that the series might be a tiny showcase of older people at their most entertaining, and that this might shift young people’s attitudes to us a teeny bit. When they see us holding up the queue in the supermarket counting out our change, or trying to find our reading glasses when they are on our head, perhaps they will remember what good company we often are.

I hope too that the young might remember we still have sex drives like they do – albeit littered with practical problems, not least with the docking procedure which, as George Burns said, is like “trying to shoot pool with a rope”.

Perhaps they will stop writing us off as useless and without relevance. We are, after all, the same as them but with hips that set off the security alarm at airports, and hair that has migrated from all the original places and started sprouting out of our chins, ears and nostrils.

“We’re all enjoying the Indian summer of late middle age or early old age while we can, rather than planning for when it comes to an end and we’re in the Tena Lady and living aids section of Boots.”


The other thing that has struck me during these interviews is that all the celebrities I have been filming are by definition still working in some shape or form, and I do wonder whether retaining a role at work does contribute enormously to us all feeling young. It helps us still to be needed, still valued, and ideally still paid which obviously is the best way to feel valued of all.

Yet another reason for the old to be in work rather than retiring, albeit part time and doing something they really enjoy. I’m noticing more and more that supermarkets and DIY stores are employing older people and the truth is that they know stuff. Ask them a question about rawl plugs and guess what, they know the answer… marvellous.

Of course, the big problem with old age is that not only does it lead with utter certainty to the great big Departure Lounge in the sky, but for most of us the last frail years will be very challenging.

None of us, including the celebrities I’ve been interviewing, seem to have much of a plan on this front. We’re all enjoying the Indian summer of late middle age or early old age while we can, rather than planning for when it comes to an end and we’re in the Tena Lady and living aids section of Boots.

They don’t want to think about it. Neither do I really. I mean, what can I do to prepare for it apart from try to weigh up whether I will have enough money (who knows?), or think about how I am going to manage when I can no longer drive and I live in rural Oxfordshire without a bus that passes through the village any more.

The answers are a bit vague. I am sure that my two lovely daughters won’t have time to look after me; why would they? Or should they? And the old man will do his best but housework is not his strong suit and there’s only so many things you can do with sausages.

Perhaps there is an argument for retirement classes to make a comeback. In the old days when it was the norm for everyone to retire at 65, people were routinely offered classes in gardening, woodwork and the kind of leisure activities deemed suitable for people with dodgy knees.

These days it would be much more useful for us to be retrained in a new career – whether that’s manning the DIY shop, making some money by doing things we enjoy and are good at, or teaching younger people to do some of the things which are dying out.

Judging by the hilarious conversations I’ve had making this new series, the entertainment business seems like it might be an excellent platform for us oldies to relaunch ourselves on. I have a feeling that there will be a spate of new standup comedians who start in their 60s and beyond. Perhaps they will be called sitting down comedians.

Party frock hell

We are officially entering the party frock season. Now I no longer have a proper job and have started to call myself semi-retired which is code for I am no longer in full time employment but I’m still fucking amazing (clearly a strategy that is fooling no-one) there are admittedly fewer Christmas party frock do’s in the diary. Which is just fine and dandy by me. I ventured into the modest black, sequinned, sparkly, silver section of my wardrobe fearing that most of them would no longer fit. Yep, fears confirmed with only one of them fitting but with a speed bump type arrangement all down my back fat. Nice.

The scale and speed of the physical fall out is taking me by surprise. Now that I have turned 60 it all seems to be sagging, cracking, puckering or frizzing at a rate of knots. Even my toenails have gone weird on me and are starting to look like pork scratchings.  Older and wider is a good way to describe the state of play, kind of me but on a bad day.  I’ve cottoned on to the large jewellery trick. Wear things chunky enough and you trick the eye into thinking that the rest of you is quite svelte. However even necklaces the size of house bricks aren’t fooling anyone any more. The only way to fit into the largest of my party frocks would be to have nothing to eat until two weeks on Thursday. Which I am now old enough to know is not going to happen. My need for regular food is now absolute. If I am forced to skip lunch, or supper is substantially later than scheduled, I get physically edgy. I’m like a rhino who will attack anyone who stands between it and water, but in my case it’s between me and my food. It could get ugly. I carry little snacks in my handbag. Packets of oatcakes, or a stolen packet of hotel biscuits just in case.  Last time I tried the fasting diet it was more like the 363/2 diet than the 5/2 one. I simply find it very hard not to eat. A lot.

The combination of physical changes and my newly accelerated need for food, and plenty of it, means that my sexual currency is lower than it has been since I wore a confirmation outfit at 13 with a lot of frills when I was old enough to tell my mother to bog off. And here’s the really depressing bit. The Christmas parties (such as they are) are going to have to be undergone with no sexual chemistry at all. It struck me that just about all the good parties I have ever been to (we’re talking small numbers here) have involved a lot of sexual chemistry. Flirting is actually rather a life saver at parties. Even feeling someone’s eyes on you at 60 can liven things up.

How on earth will I get on at parties with just small talk and some party size mince pies when really I would rather be catching up with The Missing in front of the fire with a plate of normal size mince pies?

The search for a new party dress has taken place and I found a gold stretchy one covered in sparkly stuff. I mean covered, as in glitterball. Subconsciously another attention seeking ploy (or cry for help perhaps).

I went to my first party last Friday and danced all night. Now, this is the way to go with parties. I danced and danced. I decided to ask everyone and anyone to dance. No-one was churlish enough to say no. Trouble is the dress was pretty cheap and the house has a trail of gold sparkle everywhere and will have for the foreseeable future. Every man I danced with also had gold glitter on his sleeve. Just as well I am not in the market for bed-hopping as the evidence would be clear to see. One can dream.