Musings from a Third Ager: London

Samuel Johnson said: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

I’m not exactly “tired of London”, and definitely “not tired of life”; however, I do find London tiring these days. But then Johnson wasn’t beset by the same kind of noise and traffic.  There would have been both, of course, but it wasn’t coming from diesel fumes that get on your chest and the air wasn’t rent by screaming sirens.  I still like to visit – both of my children live here, after all — but am always glad to come back to the cleaner, fresher and gentler atmosphere of North Wales. I’m not sure I can actually manage “all that life has to afford” either, on my pension. Certainly not a house or a flat.

The first time I realised I was looking older was when a young man gave up his seat on the tube for me.  He was an Eastern European so probably considered me a “babushka”, as I definitely wasn’t pregnant.  I was grateful for the seat. Then another young man (Asian this time — is there a theme here?) insisted on carrying my suitcase up the steps from the platform.  I was grateful for that too, especially as he didn’t run off with it as I secretly feared.  There is a deceptive amount of walking involved in going to London, and struggling up steps with a case crops up only too often.  However do the disabled manage?

Back home, I am decidedly less grateful for being called “dear” or “sweetheart” by all the shop assistants.  I may have grown a moustache, sprout a wiry (grey) hair or two out of my chin, and my neck has sadly “gone”; but why on earth does this mysteriously  make me everybody’s lover? And why do they imagine I won’t mind?  In my former profession, I always asked someone what they wanted to be called — or began formally with a “Mr” or “Mrs”, sometimes interrupted by a “Call me Brian”, or whatever.  Today, even the youngest of employees assume we are on first name terms from the off.  I fear it would be churlish and seem unfriendly to object.

Whilst delivering election leaflets recently (I won’t tell you for which party, but it’s not a nasty one), I was met by a neighbour who said I needn’t bother, as she had already decided to vote for that candidate.  Gratifying news.  But then I asked if her father, who lives with them, would like one to read?  The response was: “Oh, he’ll vote how we tell him to vote!”  Excuse me!  Doesn’t the poor man have a brain?  No, I didn’t say that, but I think I should have!

Many younger people are kind and considerate, like my young men on the Underground.    But whatever happened to respect?  Please don’t assume we all in the early stages of dementia, once we retire!


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