Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Old Folks' Town

Well, my travels have certainly taken me travelling this week!

I spent the weekend in deepest, darkest Somerset chilling out with my family. This was excellent for many reasons –
1. I got to eat my mother’s roast dinner. My mother’s roast dinner is certainly not to be spat at – it’s not a spit roast.
2. My now 1 year old nephew was freely available for hugs and games and dribbling. Hmmm, saliva seems to be coming up a lot in this blog already. I’ll try and keep a lid on that. Otherwise it will leak onto the keyboard and I might get an electric shock.
3. There is nothing like watching Disney films curled up on the sofa with your Dad (and your little sister if she’s about). I don’t think it matters how old you get to be, a cuddle from your dad will instantly make you want to put your hair in pig tails and suck your thumb. And if you’re my little sister you’ll probably be doing that anyway. Bless her, she’s only 18. Possibly my favourite moment of the weekend was turning to look at her during Nany McPhee 2 to see that she was crying. Actually crying. Big fat tears running down her face at the plight of the poor swimming pigs. Well, ok, to be fair she was just misting up at the poor kid with no dad to put his hair into pig tails for but my version is much better.

So today I am no longer in Somerset but I have travelled to a different Shire, today I am in the Cambridge Shire. Or to be precise, Ely. Now, you know you’ve come to a hip hop and happening place when the first thing the person you are meeting there says ‘I don’t live here, I just work here’. A good sign. And at first I couldn’t see what she meant – it’s a very lovely city with a cathedral and pretty stuff and cobbles...and HUNDREDS OF OLD PEOPLE!

Old people. Everywhere. Collectives of them. A gaggle of old people, herds, troupes, armies, flocks, shoals, shawls...
The thing is...it’s got me wondering – why do old people all congregate in the same places? You very rarely get an even spread of olds. I’m not talking old people spread eagled evenly, or nicely pasted in I can’t Believe It’s Butter...I mean, you always get Old People living in specially designated habitats. It’s like one pioneering hobbler finds a city with an Edinburgh Woollen Mill and a Clarks shoes and then sends a smoke signal to every other cardigan sporter in a 5 mile radius and they all go there for a cream tea.
Within this old people metropolis you then get different sub types of old people cropping up. There’s the olds that have faded a bit – their hair skin and clothes have all blended into one toneless entity. There’s the olds that haven’t died inside and are wearing brightly coloured summer dresses with leathery crinkle skin on show – advertising to the world that there’s life after 40, and 50, and potentially 90 too. Brilliant sub species. But then there are the smaller sub sects – like the old men that stare at you like they can’t think of a conceivable reason why you should be on the planet, or what you might be to begin with. The middle aged women that got bored of waiting for retirement and pensions and weeing in ASDA and just gave up the ghost early to blend in...they are the weirdest!

Why do you not get this kind of generation concentration with any other ages? I very rarely visit a town purely populated with babies. No baby has ever travelled to somewhere suitable like Liverpool and thought, “This is a great place to grow up – I’ll call all the other babies and we’ll do it together” so that you have a town populated by scouse babies serving you coffee and selling you ironing boards.
It seems obvious therefore, that the older generation have in built homing devices which tell them where their true calling, and a bingo hall, lies and they just get the wind in their hair one day and set off out the front gate. Well, Ely, I salute you. 70 years on the planet obviously gives you very good taste in cities – I don’t think it’s too far fetched to believe in 40 years time I’ll be trotting up and down these streets with my pink and white hair (I would like my Grandchildren to call me Grandma Flump) buying toffee and feeding it to my beagle.

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