Tuesday 16 February 2010


"Boredom" is hardly the most alluring of titles for a post. Anyone who has experienced it may run a mile from a dissertation on it and anyone who hasn't will find the prospect, well, boring. I feel moved to write about it, however, for a few reasons. First, there can be only about half a dozen variations on the theme of what it is like actually to be 75 when your inner world reacts as if it were 40. The'run after a 'bus, climb up a ladder, sweep the snow off the steps' theme; the' I can no longer go to the ball' theme, the ' turn over passed the fashion pages' theme, the experience of going alone to a restaurant theme, the what the H... has the Wizard of Cyberspace done now' theme, and so on and so on. The blogposts were in danger of becoming a bit of a moan along limited lines. You may all lose interest. What to do? Give up writing them slid across my creation screen. Find some new themes - obvious, but not followed by inspiration. Face up to it. That's what I was left with and that's what I shall try to do.

Further, consultation and observation convinced me that most people my age are troubled by boredom, particularly after retirement. Retirement is more demanding than work and the expert is the one who has been planning for it ever since he - or she - left school. Someone I know well has a specification for retirement that can actually bear the description " idyllic" not to say, ideal. A home that couldn't be more central to where it's at if it were poised on top of the Eros statue in Picadilly, constant companionsip of like-minded people, a lively mind unaffected by anno domini, a younger woman friend who adores him and enough money to support all that. Whew, I wish. There are, of course, levels between that and the low -grade depression which elderly boredom may well masquerade as. (That ending with a preposition still leaves me with a feeling of guilt and a red mark in the margin. Nor do I feel any happier with the 'up with that I will not put' alternative which those others of you educated in the 30s and 40s may well remember). That's another strand of depression masquerading as boredom: guilt. The acts one neglected, the kindnesses one eschewed, the relationships one lost. The weight of this may well turn in to a can't- be- bothered way of living. The get- up and- go needed for a fuller life has a real struggle with the can't- be -bothered, my research tells me. Sometimes it is clear from a gathering that the participants are there for want of better. It takes some courage, though, to turn up at a literary reading, a lecture, a reminiscence of diplomatic life in Outer Mongolia simply because the alternative is a book that cant hold your attention or an extension of your relationship with the characters on the telly you have come to know only too well. At least you will have overcome the can't be bothered factor. Given the present cold, damp dark winter nights, it does, indeed, take courage. But it is hard to stop the impulse of my young inner self, when she sees someone under 5o at such gatherings, to look him/her straight in the eye and say "get a life, for Heaven's sake". The remark being intended, of course, primarily, for that very inner self fighting the good fight to reconcile herself to the boundaries of 75 year old possibility.

However, I have learnt much in all that time. I might try little homilies on you, based on wisdom gained. I shall continue to find the humour in the predicament of the elderly with a stick, an umbrella, cat food, human food and a raincoat she hadn't bothered to do up to contend with when the skies have opened. Humour there is, too, in remarks overheard along the lines of "where's her zimmer frame; don't get behind her, she'll be ten minutes fumbling in her purse; shouldn't be let out without a keeper". I have devised a sign to wear hanging down my back as well as my front: I am old, not deaf. There you are, useful occupation for the under-occupied elderly: sandwich man/woman. But should I advertise an elderly/single woman friendly restaurant or an erudite lecture on troglydites? And what about my aching back? Keep reading: it's not all a bore.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Dear Liz,
I have read much of your blog this evening with many a smile crossing my face, along with outright laughter. I will smile tomorrow morning when I remember why I am tired.

I think you are fantastic, an inspiration, and I am glad you are blogging.

Thank you for sharing your experiences, your knowledge, your sharp mind and wit.