Thursday 9 July 2009

Varying encounters with the over-80s

14st 12lb, 6.0 units. It comes to something when you find yourself really enjoying sitting in a car showroom, drinking instant coffee while waiting for a new air intake to be fitted to your vehicle following a “safety recall”. But the resulting hour of peace and quiet reading the newspapers this morning struck me as positively blissful.

Today’s Northumberland Gazette induced a strong sense of déjà-vu, since for the second time in less than a month its front page was devoted to the death of a local 17-year-old in a horrific car crash. As always, the victim was the very best of his generation. Encouraging on one level, since the impossibility of writing anything comparably nice about me should guarantee that I die peacefully in my bed when I am about 110. On the other hand, while there could be no doubting the sincerity of his friends’ many tributes, I was distinctly discouraged by their illiteracy. Even making allowance for the fact that many of them were written in “textspeak”, I do think they should have grasped by their age that the first person singular is “I” not “a”. Memo to self: ensure that The Baby never has to rely on an Alnwick state school for his education. That distant rumble was probably not the ugly wind turbines on the nearby DEFRA building, as I had assumed, but my mother (a proud product of the now abolished Duchess’s Grammar School for Girls) revolving in her grave.

After doing some shopping, I was able to make only a flying visit home for lunch, for which Mrs H kindly made me a quick sandwich. Here I made the curious discovery, after knowing her for more than a year, that my wife only butters one of the two slices of bread involved in making a sandwich. How very odd.

This afternoon I drove to Gosforth for a haircut. I knew that my 84-year-old aunt had an appointment in the same salon before mine, as I had been volunteered to give her a lift home afterwards, she being temporarily unable to drive her own car. I arrived, most uncharacteristically, a few minutes early, and was surprised to find her sitting in the reception area, resting her injured ankle on a chair. I then put my foot in it quite spectacularly by asking whether she was on her way in or out; apparently I was supposed to be able to tell that she had just had her hair beautifully styled. Memo to self (albeit a bit late in the day): must learn tact.

When I finally returned home we took The Baby to introduce him to my octogenarian neighbours, who duly pronounced him a “smasher” and crossed his little palm with silver (even though they are most definitely not gypsies). This is just the sort of reaction calculated to gladden the heart of parents everywhere, and an altogether more successful experience than my encounter with my similarly aged aunt.

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