First I have a few don’ts and they are emphatic!Do not succumb to the cauliflower perm syndrome ever. This is the one that very many ladies aspire to and has become a dreadful stereotypical look.It diminishes your look.

Likewise the beige anorak unless you intend to liven it with orange and purple flowing scarves. These scarves are ideal and can serve as a useful encumbrance to finding your purse, ticket, bus pass etc. do not be put off by  the increasing irritation of those behind you in the queue. Stand your ground and relish all the aggro you are causing but never giggle,that is going too far. This tactic depends on the expectations of the public – that the aged are rather dim and dopey, you can of course vary the colours of the scarves but really I suggest beige is always a bad choice. It speaks of taking a back seat – disappearing – a mistake this.

Men should also avoid beige at all costs and try not to shuffle. Walk tall if at all possible otherwise develop a distinguished stoop – practise in front of a mirror and think “urbane fellow of the world”. Never wear sandals and socks. My advice for men is necessarily sketchy but attitude is universal and all important.

Never apologise for being old, rather use it as a weapon. When on public transport look for the disabled seats and their occupants then glare, make your glare as furious as possible but with a tiny bit of pathos. If this doesn’t work and they continue to be absorbed in their electrical devices you will have to go on to stage two: seek the softest target and demand their seat. You will rarely be refused but if you are, then play the disabled card – remember this is war. Usually at least two can be guilt tripped in this way so any companion  can join you.

Purse fiddling is another tactic that works rather well and seems to come naturally to we oldies. When paying at the till insist on finding the exact money  among your copiously change filled purse – it is advisable to keep a special purse for this one – you can mumble about the price of everything if you like and enjoy the angry murmurings in the queue. Try not to look too triumphant as you leave but it is permissible  to have a quiet chuckle. They expect the old to be a bore, don’t disabuse them.

There are variations on this of course eg.  every time I fill my car I tell the cashier that if I had envisioned putting in over forty pounds worth of petrol in the tank I should have thought I had a Jaguar. Remember, being a bit of a bore is part of our vital equipment. Never give up your place in a queue to somebody younger and fitter than you. I have witnessed old people stating that they have more time than the recipient of this favour. Not so. We have far less time to waste in queues and don’t you forget it. Even if your next engagement is a date on a seat in the sun with other ancients remember that you are as important – at least – as anybody.

I have found that certain stereotypes do come into play as I have aged –(like wine I hope…a coming to fruition rather than a decaying) I have become rather keen on babies. I still prefer dogs of course but there is a scarcity of them while babies are legion. I talk to them and admire them on public transport and my old heart warms at the sight of a young baby and I do not restrain myself I gurgle in an unseemly way – using exactly the same voice that I use for dogs. The cut off point comes once they reach out with sticky hands and are capable of independent motion. I indulge myself in this weakness because I enjoy it and conclude that it is a natural self preservation tactic.

Indulge in the things that give you pleasure – within limits of course. So remember that now is the time to please yourself at last, forget all the rules that your mother told you, you do not have to put other people first you don’t have time. And if none of my suggestions appeal to you I am sure that you can contrive some for yourself – we are a brilliant lot of people we ancients and very inventive.

WE ARE WORTH IT! you better believe it…



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I have been host to a fair few creatures in my small neglected garden over the years. The first was Henry a rather glamorous cockerel who lived with me for more than a year. He never let me get close to him but deigned to eat my food and in return he sent out noisy messages of joyful greeting every day. Nobody complained, my area is pretty tolerant – but mainly because most of the neighbours didn’t know just where the crowing came from. He left suddenly driven by sexual desire I think and the police came round to inform me that he was perched  on a wall in the next street and asking me to go and collect him. He flew off as soon as I got close to him and in spite of several young men trying to catch him – he disappeared never to be seen again. I suspect to a cooking pot for a nice curry. I was sorry to see him go, he gave me focus. He also gave me lots of tweet material and he was definitely pleasing to the eye. I missed him.

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It has been just over a year since the oncologist told me that I had seven months to live if I had no treatment. She was an angry little woman – outraged at my flat refusal to consider chemotherapy. I expect her career is based on the limited offerings of the medical profession so it is threatening when somebody rejects these offerings. She had previously told me that my stage four cancer is inoperable and that it had spread to my hip. I have concentrated on the tumour on my lung when I talk to my cancer.

I have had treatments of course. Cranio Sacral therapy, Shiatsu and some homeopathy. I practise Tai Chi and Yoga in a slightly desultory manner & have recently begun Physiotherapy – poor old tumour scarcely has time to grow – and it hasn’t! I have changed my diet a lot, very little meat and booze and practically no bread or spuds masses of veggies and fruit and have been rewarded with the loss of a couple of stone. Well lost and I can wear clothes that I had despaired of getting into and buttons tend not to burst any more.

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I don’t do stairs if I can help it so I take the lift from the ground floor at the South Bank to the vestibule. We, my love & I were in the lift when we were joined by a woman of mature years. She asked me what I was going to see & I said Polari, she looked nonplussed. ‘I’m going to see Daniel Barenboim. I don’t know why they didn’t give him a bigger area, there are not enough tickets, but I have one!’ we spoke about Barenboim, me about his support for the Palestinian cause, she about his musical genius then she asked me again what we were going to see. I repeated ‘Polari. It is a literary event mainly by gay people FOR gay people.’  ‘Are you gay then?’ I told her I was and she gave a great hoot of laughter followed by: ‘I’ve never met any gay people before.’ she trumpeted! I bet you have I thought. But I smiled a benign smile. ‘Bit late for me to change eh? Anyway I never saw the need for it.’ I didn’t say: ‘It’s never too late’ I am not fond of clichés. She gave another hoot of mirth, wished me good luck and like a galleon in full sail with her large raincoat and bag she strode to the ticket office. I must say that she looked like my idea of what a dyke should look like…

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A Funny thing happened to me on my way home one Sunday night:

It is between 2.30 & 3am we watch our bus trundle past as we reach the end of the road. We swear and go to the bus stop, consult the timetable and realise we have a half hour to wait. A young man approaches; he curses softly to himself and ignores us. He is restive and moves from foot to foot demonstrating his impatience and the importance of his mission, (unlike us who languish in resigned torpor – it has been a very good party and all we want is to get home.) he asks us about buses and we inform him that the 188 has just left. He mutters a little then stands still. Two young women in their late twenties approach; they are clearly totally engrossed in each other and their nice long hair entwines one with the other as they hold each other tight, stroke each other’s backs and kiss gently. I look at my love and say that’s good to see eh? The young man is not deterred, he advances on them. ‘Where you been then?’ one of the young women tell him they have been to a party in north London and now they have to get back to Woolwich. ‘Why didn’t you get a taxi?’ he asks and the women respond very politely though they are still in their private huddle. He continues to ‘converse’ with them. A couple of other people arrive, they are having an altercation in Italian according to my love, about Vincente who has given them the wrong information. The young man is still plighting his troth and now he talks of Ghana where he is from and then on to Kenya where one of the women has been. He compares their noses, the climate; they laugh at him but are very patient. ‘Where you going now?’ he says. ‘I just want to get home to my wife!’ she says. He holds out his phone and asks for their number The bus finally arrives and the young women get on and sit close their heads together.

The man asks for their number again. They don’t hear him. What is it that this man can’t or won’t understand?

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