MARK PALMER MUSES:
HELP THE AGED
Pete Townshend once sang that he hoped he would die before he got old. Well unfortunately he didn't get his wish; but perhaps the old spoon-headed curmudgeon did have a point. There seems precious little to live for once you get past 'it'.
What exactly the 'it' is that defines the transition from young to old is not definite; though an inability to grasp the simplest of gadgets and a genetic defect which causes all hindsight to develop a specific crimson tint to it would seem to be definite warning signs.
It is worth noting at this point that Robbie Williams did give the opposite point of view with his ballad Hope I'm Old Before I Die. But we disregard such nonsense for the trite, pre-pubescent, girl-orientated, manufactured pop bollocks that it is.
One reason that I do not want to grow old is to avoid the inevitable conversations that the elderly are forced to carry out on an almost daily basis. Here is a brief example:
"So, how's Frank Reed? I haven't seen him for a while."
"Oh, Frank? He's dead."
"Yeah, he died last year. How's Sarah getting on?"
"Sarah? Haven't you heard? She died last month."
"Bloody hell! I saw her in March, she was the picture of health."
"Well, she passed away in her sleep."
"How's her husband taking it?"
"He's dead. Died last week. Nothing the doctors could do about it."
"Wait till I tell Henry, he's going to be heartbroken."
"Oh didn't you hear? Henry died half an hour ago."
"Hell's bloody bells, they're all dying. Noddy's gone now too you know."
"Has he? When?"
"Five minutes ago."
"What about Gareth Thomkinson?"
"Oh he's still around... oh, hold on a minute... four... three... two... one......... dead! So sudden it was as well. Nothing anyone could have done."
"Well, it looks like we're the only two still ticking away then!"
"No, didn't anybody tell you? I'm dead. Yeah, came on rather suddenly. I died next Thursday. Came as a blow to my family."
Actually, one of my hobbies is listening in on old people's conversations. They are often fascinating. A brilliant and informative insight into the early stages of senile dementia.
This story is perfectly true, I once overheard an elderly bloke telling his daughter how lucky she was to have a hot water bottle at night.
"We never had hot water bottles. There were fifteen of us, in our family, during the war; we had to make do with a hot brick, wrapped in a cloth; and we all had to share that. You have it easy with your water bottles. You don't know you're born."
So? I assume we're meant to feel some kind of privilege or, sort of guilty? We use a rubber container filled with hot water, whilst you used a hot brick wrapped in cloth. Well, excuse us for being a lot cleverer than you. You had rubber, you had hot water, use your FUCKING IMAGINATION! It's not our fault you were as thick as shit!
"Hey, don't be so ungrateful, there were fifteen of us trying to stay warm huddling around that brick!"
Yes, I know, because bricks were rare weren't they? Especially during the war with all those houses which had been reduced to rubble, lining every single street. Jesus Christ, if you used stone instead of rubber for heating, then I dread to think what you used for contraception....
"It's all right Mary! We can do it now! I've pebble-dashed it, we're safe!"
No wonder you had such huge fucking families. Condoms made out of brick? I hope to god that fifteen of you didn't share them.
What was the inventor of the old person's hot brick thinking?
"Right, I need something which will keep people warm in bed during winter, something that doesn't interfere with the natural comfort of sleep. Hot water in a rubber casing? Nah. Jean, go down to the garden and find me a brick, I've got an idea and a half I have!"
What was he on? What else did this psychopath invent? I mean, thank god they never let him have a crack at designing tampons, eh? Then it would have been a case of, "Sorry, I can't come sky-diving today, I've got a tampon-cut."
I can only thank god that he never became a chef. He'd be putting all sorts into the food, wouldn't he? Blades of glass, nails, staples, ammonia ... which reminds me, I think letting him bring out his own brand of baby food a few years ago was bang out of order!
But, getting back to old people's arguments, another famous one that you get from elderly people is the blaming of computer games for today's moral decline.
"When we were younger, we didn't sit inside every day, playing Sega and Nintendo. We found healthier ways to keep ourselves entertained. Standards were better in them days."
Okay, maybe the reason you didn't sit in all day playing Sega and Nintendo was because you had healthier ways to stay entertained and because standards were better then.
Or maybe, just maybe, play with this idea, the reason you didn't sit in all day and play Sega and Nintendo was because Sega and Nintendo hadn't been FUCKING INVENTED YET!
And if you had invented Sega or Nintendo, they would have probably been built out of something absolutely ridiculous like wood, or cheese or something.
And a catchphrase that they're fond of using is: "And liked it."
"We didn't have Coca Cola or Lemonade. We used to make do with water and liked it."
"I went to Church every single Sunday, and liked it."
"I used to have my dad put me over his knee every single Sunday, beat me unconscious with a rusty blade and liked it."
Well, if you liked it so much, STOP FUCKING COMPLAINING, THEN!
You can only imagine that in the Stone Ages there was a group of miserable bastards sitting in a corner saying, "The bloody wheel. It's gonna be nothing but trouble. They say it's gonna be a revolution in transport. In my day, you made do with a dinosaur and liked it. Even though, it's true what they say. You wait ages for a dinosaur to come along and then three turn up at once."
And before any smart-arse points it out, yes I do know that there were millions of years between dinosaur and man. I just overlooked that fact, for the sake of ... this piece working properly for a start.
Yes, just to prove to you that I'm not a total ignoramus, I know that dinosaurs belonged in the pre-historic age, whilst man started out in the Stone Age - so called because no fucker in that era thought of using rubber.
But if old people aren't rallying against technology, they're pretending not to understand it.
"So Mark, how do you work this here thing then, it's ... it's beyond me. I just can't fathom it out."
"It's a fucking pencil, gran! No, you don't need to install new batteries, you just write with it, for christ's sake! On paper! Oh please, don't make me explain how paper works again- I've been through it, god knows how many times, with you. Look, you press the pencil on the paper like this, and if you want to get rid of a mistake you've made, you just turn it on its end and there should be an eraser in the other ... oh now why the fuck have you done that? Gran, you can not rub out mistakes with a piece of brick."
Whether I am old or not when I die, I have decided that the best thing for me would be to have my body cremated. I am, however, a believer in technology's ability to make possible what, yesterday, seemed impossible. In years to be, science may have reached the point where dead flesh can be rejuvenated. The deceased may rise and carry on living a long and fruitful post-existence existence. For this reason, I have decided to have my ashes cryogenically frozen so that, in decades or centuries to come, doctors can reverse whatever killed me and bring me back. Well it makes sense to me.
MARK PALMER is a stand-up comedian and freelance writer from Stockport, England. You can see more of his observations and Rants on THE SITE FOR SORE EYES soon. You can also catch some of his work, many of his stand-up routines, and recordings of some of his live comedy circuit gigs, at The Cyber Sanatorium.
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