Old & Grumpy
This article first appeared in Birdwatching Magazine October 2019
Despite my previous 120+ columns it is only weeks ago that I made it to the allotted biblical span. If one were to be guided by what is on offer to us septuagenarians I should now like wartime songs, waltzing and switching my electoral preference to the politics of selfishness. Oddly I’ve found that the while young are often accused of being selfish, it’s their elders who tend to practice it!
However, despite my deafness I prefer Katy Perry to Perry Como and despite my great age I’d give my vote to Greta Thunberg not those fiddling while the country burns.
People of my age will be very lucky to be around still when the water wars and mass migrations that striking schoolchildren fear, begin, but we are the ones responsible for stealing their future. Young people today are not a million miles away from feeling how I felt in the early 1960s. We were terrified of nuclear war, now youngsters are just as fearful of a man-made Armageddon and, just like us, they are marching to try and save the world. I don’t know if we made any difference as we tried to ban the bomb, bring about a summer of love or rail against apartheid. What I do remember from marching, sitting-in and otherwise protesting in ’68 is that there were old people out there on the streets too. We don’t all have to be selfish and self-serving as we age. Take a look at the ages of your local tree-planting group, I’d lay money that there will be a good few grey-haired grannies and grey-bearded grumpies doing their bit despite the fact that they have no hope of basking in the precious shade of a sapling oak or seeing the crab apples in bloom.
If you’ve served your time helping the economy and your family grow now you have the freedom to say it like it is and put the brakes on the handcart we are all going to hell in.
There is a University of the Third Age that presumes that even us crumblies can still learn… and, rich or poor I can see no good reason why we shouldn’t make use of our unique freedoms with wisdom. We could join the bowls club, go to a tea dance or become one of the ladies who lunch. On the other hand, there is nothing, apart from our infirmities, to stop us marching for the planet and protesting at the council’s continued use of harmful pesticides or the local developers netting hedges.
Once you retire and your pension is secure you are no longer a wage slave, and, at our age why would we give a fig about what the neighbours think. Let them grow old gracefully, we birders should reclaim our place in the family as champions of the young. We don’t just have to look out for our grandchildren, we can look out for all grandchildren, everywhere!
Young people, with everything to lose are showing us the way and I am in awe of their courage and compassion. We can cower in corners and excuse our unreadiness, or join them in proclaiming that there is no planet B. Most of us are not movers and shakers and yet we watch those of us who are squander their experience and power re-arranging the proverbial Titanic deckchairs. They applaud appreciatively at the nonagenarian Sir David Attenborough with his stark warning on a world sinking under the weight of our selfish excesses while still subsidising oil exploration.
Come on you oldies, wake up and smell the Horlicks that we are making of the world!