Day 8 – Your Place or Mine

Today was a trial. Someone backed into our car: it poured with rain and we were soaked; the dog seems to think it was a bird and “flew” out of the car window (fortunately unhurt); we got lost and wandered for what seemed like hours getting increasingly frustrated. But we are postive! We have arrived unhurt, battered but unbowed and it’s amazing what a gin and tonic can do. .

We walked from Strand to Swinton and then to Eccles and on to Trafford. We started down a wooded valley. The noise from the M62 is simply terrible and we had to shout to make ourselves heard. I suppose residents get used to it but we both found the relentless noise stressful.

When we emerged we were walking through some of the bleakest urban areas in the U.K. When the mills died many of the aspirant youth left leaving the helpless and aged behind. Many of the streets resonate with little hope and loneliness.

A shop as we passsed was advertising “clean manure.” I have now seen everything.

We passed a plump girl of about ten (I reckon) gnawing a Mars Bar and drinking a bright yellow sugary drink.

As readers of past blogs will have read I have commented on “flab” Britain before, but I have to say that they look at least 20 per cent worse today than they did four years ago when we started walking. The men are as plumped up as the women with their vast paunches creating small bow waves as they plod along.

We stayed with a retired doctor who told us that no one feels able to say anything to the obese for fear of giving offence.

So we have check mate. We have a conspiracy of silence in which heart conditions and diabetes are allowed to flourish. This creates misery for the sufferers… and vast bills for the taxpayers via our overburdened NHS.
The other acute concern is that fat children mix with other fat children, so playgrounds are today thronged with overweight children. So, I suppose, being the fat kid on the block is today the norm. The thin kid is the freak.

We walk through a thick scattering of litter clogging the paths, the drains and the gardens. Many of the windows are plastered with the cross of St George and posters parading “England”. Who will break the ghastly news to them that we lost weeks ago?

Its easy to sneer and laugh at obesity and squalor. As someone who has enjoyed privelege in my life I should be careful. I was taken to task in the last walk by a man who had just read one of my harsher descriptions of urban deprivation. “I wonder,” he said gently,” what silent and courageous work goes on in these unhappy circumstances.”

Of course he was right.

Your Place or Mine?

Today, one of our young walkers regaled me with details of the opportunities afforded nowadays by two “apps” that facilitate immediate bonking. One is “Blendr” for heterosexuals, while “Grindr” caters for the homosexual community.

He told me that he had used one of the apps. I commented that the whole thing seemed an empty experience to me. He replied: “Yes I suppose it is but, as empty experiences go, it was one of the best!”

Bim Bam…
Apparently when you walk into a pub in any major urban centre, there will be plenty of people in the immediate vicinity who are “up for it”, that is, to avail themselves of immediate sex with someone they have never met before. It’s the ultimate immediate gratification. The apps use the user’s mobile’s location device to show them who – within the surrounding area – may be feeling similarly inclined. The two lucky people then swap text messages and can meet to swiftly look each other up and down. If they fancy what they see, then it’s “your place or mine”? Then off the pair trot to commit the capital deed, and it’s another notch on the bedstead and “Bim-Bam, thank you Mam”.

Well I suppose it’s a tad better than hooking… no actual money changes hands. But this way of gaining satisfaction offers no commitment, no romance and no respect. People are treated as objects of convenience. Would I own shares in either of the two sites? Are they any worse than “Wonga?” I wonder, does the Anglican Church own shares inadvertently in either Blendr or Grindr? Perhaps it’s better not to ask!

I scowl with disapproval. I wonder what women, in their heart of hearts, truly feel about this sort of thing. In my day, women were said to be the gentler sex and humankind doesn’t change much, if at all. I know some women claim this sexual upheaval or revolution is liberating and wonderful, but perhaps it’s just that they’re keen to be seen as “laddish” and popular, the sort of girls who are “up for anything”. And the majority usually follows the example set by their peer group.

Nineteen Sixty-three
If I was still young, then who knows how I would react? Or you, dear reader? I missed it all by a whisker. It was Philip Larkin who summed things up succinctly:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.

So that’s that! I discuss my thoughts with Jane, and we both agree that the great Maurice Chevalier had a point when he sang in Gigi, “I’m glad I’m not young anymore.”

Recently, I went to watch our three-year old granddaughter, Amelie, dancing in a school show. Her parents warned us she might not actually muster the courage to appear on stage, but she did – and of course, she was a triumph! She whirled and rolled and pranced, and we were thrilled that she was brave enough to perform. It was a great breakthrough for her.

However, the other performers were not exactly Darcy Bussell. In fact, to be cruel, there were some adult dancers who were downright ungainly. I sniggered at them. What a farce! How could they make such a public spectacle of themselves?

Then I saw that there some of the children on stage had Down’s syndrome. I suddenly realised that this was a hugely important occasion for them and that the older dancers I had been sneering at were their teachers. I then wondered to myself how much time, toil and tears – and sheer love – had been invested in this performance. I was watching a triumph of love and devoted care over acute disability. It was awesome and as I have never spent even a single minute helping Down’s children, I realised that my cynical, hard-nosed, snotty attitude was a downright disgrace. I felt deeply ashamed of myself and the memory lingers still.

The Show Must Go On
Some time ago, I employed a salesman whose Irish granny was taken gravely ill. He was away for 10 days, and each time I asked him when he was planning to return to his job, I was made to feel profoundly unsympathetic to his family’s plight. The good lady was 94, and as the salesman was neither her doctor nor the undertaker, I couldn’t stop wondering what he thought he was doing with his time?

My friend, Cassandra Jardine, one of the Telegraph Group’s leading writers, died two years ago aged 57. She left a husband and five children, some of whom were still young. Her actor husband had a part in a play at the time and never missed a performance.

Go figure as they say.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published.