I’ve spoken to you all on the topic of ageing before, and the habits of old people in particular. God knows I’m taking part in a live experiment myself, thus ensuring accurate ring side observation and reportage.
In fact I took part in my latest piece of research this very Saturday. The test involved getting lots of old people into a small contained space; a theatre foyer, and have them traverse the floor, from one side to the other and into the auditorium, using only their own inertia and the gravitational benefit of a slight forward tilt. They had to aim for a medium sized set of double doors, easily identifiable though, by the posting of two usherettes either side - Like the Pillars of Hercules. There was an added buzz to the exercise, as it was against the clock; the curtain rose in 10 minutes. All the world is a stage, the show must go on; pass the duchi panni left hand side - that sort of thing.
So did they crack on? Well to be brutally frank - no, the only gear any of them were able to utilise for the journey was slow or stop.
Half a step forward, then stop, rest, turn, rest, ask ageing companion something tedious about doilies, half step sideways, and then onwards once more, and repeat. Not good. I can’t walk that slowly and it physically pains me to restrain my speed to dead slow.
So you can imagine the relief I felt when one woman realised that she was wrong to do the stop, rest, turn, doily routine, and even though I was trying to walk in a straight line at a low to moderate perambulation rate, it didn’t make me a bad person. She said ‘I am most awfully sorry’. I liked that, and was grateful she has seen the errors of her way. I had hoped that her entering a guilty plea might have encouraged her to amend her behaviour. But it didn’t. So much for setting a trend.
In the time it would have taken me to bake two trays of homemade macaroons and queue for a fortnight’s pension, we were all finally seated and the play began.
‘If music be the food of love, play on……’ for it was Twelfth Night.
Then just as I was settling down and getting up to temperature with the proceedings and my environs in general – ‘rustle rustle, rustle, ziiiiipppppppp, zzzziiiiiiiiippppppp, ziiiiipppppppp’.
The woman behind had decided she needed her specs out of her bag, funny that she hadn’t realised prior to curtain up that she required corrective eyeglasses for distance work. She was being so loud with all the zips and velcro on her bag, and it didn't seem like it was ever going to stop. She was trying to do it quietly which only served to slow the noise down.
At one point I thought someone was just about to say something from the stage. So as quick as a flash and in an endeavour to end the noise without delay, I turned and glared at her directly, I willed her to shut up. The Paddington hard stare has never failed me before but my direct action affected no hush. I then steadied myself and was just building up the courage to turn round again and enquire ‘DO YOU MIND’ when thankfully she stopped.
The play was marvellous and even at two hours 40, excluding interval, a lot shorter than the time it took us to eventually leave the theatre once the safety curtain was down.