Monday, 8 June 2009

Help! I'm turning into a pensioner!

Some years ago, that most ubiquitous of facial preparations, Oil of Ulay, unaccountably changed its name to Oil of Olay. What made this even stranger was the fact that, in Germany, its name remained Oil of Olaz. This change occupied my waking thoughts for at least an hour. Why did they do it? Did they realise how expensive the change would be, reprinting all the packaging and re-shooting the TV ads? I don't think they thought it through properly. What they needed was someone like me. Someone who could step back from the problem, mull it over, look at the pros and cons, and then announce: 'No. Leave it as it is'. Just think of the money I'd have saved them.

I naturally assumed that the change wasn't just some whim. It had to be because Olay turned out to be some filthy word in Farsi, or Esperanto, or somesuch. After all, that's why you'll never see a Foden lorry in Portugal, and why Ford went for 'Capri' rather than 'Caprino' when launching their sporty car in the 196os. Sadly, the best I could come up with was that Ulay was the stage name of a German performance artist of the 1960s and 70s. So, Ulay wasn't the Icelandic word for 'arse'. I was quite disappointed. I rather liked the idea of a beauty product being called 'Oil of Arse'. But a point occurs to me. If (as it appears) that Ulay was called Olaz in Germany due to the difficulties experienced by the Teutonic tongue in pronouncing the former, why on earth would a German artiste give himself a name that was unpronouncable in his own language?

If you look at the blurb produced by the Olay people, you'll see that they make a big thing about The Seven Signs of Ageing. So I looked them up on my ever-helpful computer, and this is what they are:

1. Lines and wrinkles

2. Uneven skin texture

3. Uneven skin tone

4. Appearance of pores

5. Blotches and age spots

6. Dry skin

7. Dullness

Having reached my grand old age, I think I can say without doubt that I have the lot. Especially the dullness. Because there's something about ageing, nay, about retiring, that changes you in subtle ways. You don't notice it at first. You think you're the same person you were when you were working, plying your useful trade and having (in my case) cups of tea made for you without even having to ask for them. So, yesterday, as I sat on my comfy sofa, listening to my hair (especially the hair in my ears) grow whilst I polished off yet another sudoku, it suddenly occured to me that the Olay people had got it all wrong. Yes, I do have their seven signs, but no, they're not really important. It's not just my skin that's changing; it's my personality as well. I'm not the same person I was a year ago. I am undergoing a Kafka-esque metamorphosis, a change which involves seven signs of ageing of a rather different flavour. Listen in...

1. Heightened Fiscal Awareness. As a shift worker of many years, shopping was something usually done at the gallop. This was generally because (i) we needed to do it before I went off to work; or (ii) we needed to do it after I returned from work when the last thing I wanted to do was go shopping. So (as Mrs. H would tell you) I tended to walk a few paces behind her, muttering and mumbling, willing her to fill the trolley and get to the checkout with all due speed. I didn't particularly care about the cost; notes were proffered and change accepted and I couldn't get out fast enough. Now, things are different. No work, so I have no excuse to rush Mrs. H round the shops. The effect of this is that I can now tell you the price of bottled water in all the local shops (36p), the date when Morrisons' discount on chilled Chicken Jalfrezi ends (14th June) and the fact that a very useful cleaning product called The Bar Keeper's Friend is marginally cheaper in Sainsbury's than elsewhere. I have a serious case of this, but it's probably reversible. I need to adopt a trance-like state when shopping and feign indifference to the special offers.

2. A Need for Semi-Recumbency. You know they say that, when cows lie down, it's going to rain? Round here you know that, when pensioners sit down, it isn't. Age seems to bring with it this overwhelming desire for 'a nice sit down'. If it's 'a nice sit down with a cup of tea', that's even better. The other day, in an uncharacteristic fit of fiscal abandon I paid a nice Kosovan gentleman to wash my car. Did I go for a walk whilst he was doing it? Did I survey the wondrous hills, the clouds heaped up on high like ragged battlements, or the nearby stream as it chuckled its course over glistening flints? No. I went for a cup of tea and a nice sit down.

3. Consummate Procrastination. Remember the old adage: 'Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today'? This phrase might have been the watchwords for my former trade or calling. Policing demands immediacy. We've all heard stories about the cops turning up two days after the burglar was disturbed, but generally speaking things that demanded my immediate action were acted upon immediately. But now it's more like 'Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow, or preferably next week'. I have (as you can imagine) a whole housful of jobs that need doing. None of them are urgent, so I think they can probably wait until I've finished this post. In fact, next week might be a better time to start. I need to stop procrastinating, but not yet.

4. Stranger Engagement. When I was a child, off to school or about to run some errand to the corner shop, my Mum would say, 'Don't talk to any strange men'. Of course, I always agreed not to, not really knowing what she meant. I do now. They are the strange men (and women, let's have a bit of equality here!) who insist upon engaging you in conversation, having not been properly introduced to you; in fact, having not been introduced to you at all. Their favourite haunts tend to be the checkout queue, the bus stop, the post office; in fact, in any place where it is impossible for you to escape without abandoning your trolley, missing your bus, or not posting your parcel. The conversation will generally tend to feature the weather, the length of time s/he has been waiting, and sundry other topics of a most diverting nature. I was recently stopped by an elderly gent outside the bank, who proceeded to try to recruit me into a retired business peoples' luncheon club. I am as yet undecided as to whether I should accept his no doubt well-meant invitation. I am in the early stages of this sign of ageing, indulging in light banter with shop assistants. No doubt the full horror of Total Stranger Engagement will follow soon.

5. Monomaniac Tendencies. If you get a chance, visit a steam railway. There the retired will be. They'll be wearing little engine drivers' caps, waving flags, selling fudge in the station shop... Why? because of Late Onset Monomania. When you're a child, you develop all-consuming obsessions. It might be about cranes, lorries, particular types of mobile phone; but whatever it is you manage to jabber on about it unceasingly, until your friends' eyes glaze over and your parents threaten to thump or disown you. Then you grow up and put aside your obsessions in favour of leading a balanced life. But what happens when you retire? The obsessive gene switches on again and you devote a sizeable portion of your time (and sometimes money) to train spotting, stamp collecting or genealogy. My current obsession is writing, where I have managed to combine the maximum of effort with the minimum of financial recompense. Would that my obsession were decorating. I have so much of that to do.

6. Professional Purposelessness. Have you ever gone to the corner shop to buy a newspaper, and then, on a whim, just decided to wander about for no particular reason? In fact, for no reason other than that you can? Have you ever gone into a charity shop just to browse the books, or sat down in a library to skim through Practical Woodworker magazine? You have? Then, oh dear, you, like me, have become Professionally Purposeless. When I worked in London there were whole tribes of these PPs. They would meet in Macdonalds for an early morning coffee, and then betake themselves to Uxbridge Magistrates Court, where they would listen to the litany of drunkenness, shoplifting and casual violence that went before The Bench. Their afternoons were generally spent snoozing in the library, and then they would toddle off to their respective homes when it closed, only to repeat the whole dire routine the following day. I have this sign of ageing in a mild form. I sometimes take the long route home from the paper shop via the seafront, but only on a Sunday. I think I need to work at avoiding becoming fully PP.

7. Forgetfulness. I can't remember what I was going to say about forgetfulness.

So there you have it, dear bloggy friends. The Real Seven Signs of Ageing. The Seven New Geriatric Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Now that you know your enemy, you can work at avoiding them, just as I am attempting to do. If you should happen to see me in the street, reading the 'for sale' ads in the newsagents' window (you know - the ones that look like they've been written by kidnappers - upper and lower case letters in the wrong places), or attempting to strike up a conversation with some unsuspecting soul in a bus queue, do me a favour; strike me about the head until I stop.

Mrs. H has just brought me in a cup of tea, so, now that I've finished, I'm off for a nice sit down on the sofa.

21 comments:

SandyCalico said...

Brilliant! So many of these apply to the stay at home mum that I am wondering whether I too may be a pensioner in training :-)

chris hale said...

Sandy - Thanks. Take heed of the warning signs!

You might also want to look at the latest post on http://comedygoddess.blogspot.com/

Great minds, and all that...

Comedy Goddess said...

Surely there is a support group for us? On the other hand there probably isn't since it takes too much time, effort, responsibility etc. to organize one. Better just have a nap.

Thanks for the link love! I love your observations!

chris hale said...

CG - Yes, way too much effort! A snooze in front of the TV sounds far easier...

Raph G. Neckmann said...

No Chris - that's not ageing - you're just turning into a giraffe!

Madame DeFarge said...

I feel that I may be becoming old before my time. I indulge in heightened fiscal awareness every day and find it all very dull. I feel like giving in to very early retirement just to have a little rest.

chris hale said...

Raph - So that's how I'm able to see over the fence into next door's garden!

MDF - If you do decide on an early bath, so to speak, you could do worse than coming here to Zimmer am Zee!

Stevyn Colgan said...

Roll on February is all I can say. Now, where did I put those slippers ...

chris hale said...

Stevyn - So, is it nine more pay days, then?

Val said...

OMG so many of those apply to me - and I do Stranger Engagement all the time - hehe! really enjoyed your blog again. Thanks.

chris hale said...

Val - Hi! It wasn't you who tried talking to me about the state of the economy at the bus stop the other day, was it

Val said...

awards for you at mine!

lakeviewer said...

I was intrigued by the title, and you didn't disappoint! You don't mind if I return for a visit now and then? I could fill in the blanks on your old age dissertation.

Val said...

hmmm..........maybe.........

chris hale said...

Val - Yay! Thanks!

Lakeviewer - Welcome to my humble blog. You are welcome to pop in any time!

Madame DeFarge said...

(does this mean you're back?)

chris hale said...

MDF - Oh, I'm still here, bursting (!) with bloggy ideas. Just need to get a few spare minutes before I embark upon the next set of damn fool ramblings!

Derrick said...

Hi Chris,

Can't imagine why I wasn't here earlier - unless I was and have forgotten. What did you say the seven signs are?

But it seems you've been otherwise occupied, no doubt accosting defenceless strangers, lately. So I haven't missed anything!

chris hale said...

Derrick - Sorry, what was the question?

No, you haven't missed anything. Stand by for my next weighty subject; piggy banks.

JamaGenie said...

I should look at the Blog Roll on PinkPackrat@Play more often! Your blog is wonderful! Now I'm going to have a cup of tea and a nice sit down. Have a great day!

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