I'm not a grumpy old man, just an out of synch hippy

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Boom Boooom out go the lights.

I can’t stand the bores who destroy perfectly good conversations with comedy quotes, particularly comedy from the 60s and 70s. They should be shoved into the stocks and have tomatoes thrown at them, particularly ones in tins. And, of all the culprits, the one I hate the most is myself.

I was in the pub last night with my brother in law John who’d come down from Edinburgh. He’s a musician and was talking about a tough gig he’d done.

“Luxury!” I barked in my worst cod Monty Python Yorkshire. “When I were a young lad….” I was cut dead by John’s pitying stare. “If you’re going to try and be funny,” he said, “try and do something new.”
He’s right, but sometimes I just can’t help it. At inexplicable and unpredictable moments I’m taken over by an urge to yell out catchphrases that lost their comic lustre round about the time of the three day week. I don’t know whether I’m suffering from an undiagnosed Tourette’s variant or have been possessed by a particularly malignant demon.

Just when the conversation’s going well and I’m beginning to congratulate myself on my limited but hard-won social skill I’ll find myself bleating “Oooh you are awful – but I like you!” or “You’ve deaded me again, you naughty person”. We were just forgetting the “Luxury” incident with John when he got on to his weekly routine. I had to dash out to the toilet so no one could hear me chanting “On Wednesdays I go shopping - and have buttered scones for tea.”

Why is it OK with Bob Dylan? I can drop in a quick “There must be some way out of here, said the Joker to the Thief” to the general chatter and anyone over 40 will nod appreciatively and anyone under will give an admiring look thinking I’ve quoted Shakespeare. But riff through John Cleese’s or Peter Cook’s back catalogue and you’re elbowed to the side of the counter.

I should stop doing it. It’s ex-comedy. It has passed on. It’s ceased to be.. It’s ..

There I go again.

Just don't quote John Cleese on this...

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

If you think I’m old, you should see my granddad.

 I went to another audition for a commercial yesterday. My agent told me, “You’re up for ‘Old Man in Pub’, sweetie.”  “Fine” I said, “I’ll spend the evening researching.”

I’ve been going up for “Old Man” parts for three or four years now. I still can’t get used to it. Mentally I’m 25. The rare occasions I hear “Satisfaction”, I still do a Pavlovian Mick Jagger wrist flick. I just do it sitting down, that’s all. I still hum the words of “Sister Ray” to myself. I’m young inside. So why can’t they just film my mind?

I don’t dress old. I wear Paul Smith jackets and Ted Baker shirts. OK, underneath there’ll be a T shirt from Next. It’s like hiding a copy of  “Bouncing Jugs” under the covers of the Times Literary Supplement. I stop well short of metrosexuality - if you gave me an exfoliant I’d probably spray it on the windowbox thinking it was a weedkiller.

If I’m up to play an old buffer, a properly old buffer, not an elegantly ageing lounge lizard such as myself, I sometimes wear an Oxfam tweed jacket and grow a day or two’s stubble. I might have to change tactic because it’s the trendy thing for young men these days. That Steve guy on “The Apprentice” looks as if he’s got an army of ants crawling across his chin. Must be very scratchy. So, before going to the casting, I gave myself a serious reality-check age scan in the mirror.

It was like seeing myself for the first time in twenty years. I looked old. It wasn’t the whisker shadow or the elbow-patched jacket. It was gravity. It was wear. It was the collagen-suck of time. I looked like the kind of barmy old codger who sits on a barstool in the pub and moans all night long about the dustbin service. Hang on, that’s exactly what I do do.

I entered the waiting room and eyed the competition. I nearly shrieked with joy. Opposite me was as grey-haired a bunch of affable elderly luvvies as you’d find in – well, in a casting studio up for the part of Old Man in Pub. None of them with stubble. None of them with Oxfam jackets. All of them 75 years old, if a day. As we nattered, I sang in my thoughts, “I’m the younger generation, and I’ve got something to say!”

The casting went fine. I haven’t a chance of getting the part, though.

                                          65 yrs 9 months 11 days of living. 25 hours of beard

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Country Blues

The countryside is where you shed the stress of the city. That’s what it’s for. You exchange car fumes for the scent of wild garlic and discarded syringes for bluebells. So Mervion and I headed for the Surrey Hills with map and guidebook.

Wonderfully, nobody yelled “I’m on the train!” down their mobiles, not in the middle of a field, anyway. There was no graffiti, unless it had been scrawled on the back of the trees. Everyone said “Good afternoon” and there were no teenagers (probably still in bed).

To avoid stress, though, don’t get stuck in a narrow lane behind a horse the size of a lorry. Not when it’s moving at the speed of a slug. The rider’s jacket displayed “SLOW - POLICE” on her back. I suddenly felt paranoid about the joint I smoked in 1976 and the library book I nicked in 1982 until I saw that her dangling pigtail had obscured the word “POLITE”. So we  genteelly cleared our throats for a mile but they didn’t shift until we reached a field when the traffic cleared.

Shere’s an old village with lovely whitewashed Tudor houses. And the M4 roaring between them. Actually, the M4 would have been safer, with more space for the trucks. We tried to cross the road to check out a plaque and nearly got turned into roadkill by a convoy of motorbikes. The plaque probably said “Accident Black Spot”.

Time for lunch. For a Londoner, a country pub is as alien as the bar in “Star Wars”. The men  wear flak jackets and red neckties, the women brandish huge dogs. A woman with vowels fruity enough to whisk a smoothie was asking a man to mend her broken fence. I caught her accusing glance. It said “obviously knocked down by bloody ramblers”.

Some more walkers ambled in and I could feel the tension as the dog-leash and welly brigade eyed the walking pole and boots lot.

We now found The Villagers, recommended by our “Time Out” book. It was boarded up. Being kept awake by mating cats, reading about an earthquake, blundering into a snake pit – all of these depress the spirits. But not quite as badly as the sight of an abandoned pub.

It took a mile and a half of  pleasant canalside walking and the discovery of a coffee shop in Guildford which wasn’t either a Starbucks or a Caffe Nero to make me realise that civilisation’s collapse may just have been postponed.

I’m buying a red necktie for our next walk. I’m determined to fit in.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Tell me to grow up one more time and I’ll throw my walking stick at you

Just after the previous blog, about the B&B, I was accosted by My Teenage Self. “I’m disgusted with you.” he growled. “Are you listening?” he squeaked.
“Haven’t I warned you about staying in B&Bs? For a start, they’re unhealthy. They infect you with middle-class values. I bet you were in bed by 11.30. Keeping the neighbouring rooms up with never-ending trips to the toilet.”
“You’re always going on at me,” I said. “It’s not fair. Look – I’m quiet!”
“Oh yeah?” sneered My Teenage Self. “I’ve heard you on that hoover. And there’s the constant clink of washing up. You’ve really really let me down” 
I could see his pain was real – he was engaged in pulling a nit from his forelock. “Clean plates….what’s happened to your values? Like supporting all living things and being decent    to wild life. A sterile kitchen. That’s pure athemena”
“I think you mean anathema” I muttered.
“Show me some respect!” he yelled. “And there’s more. I’ve heard you’ve started being polite to policemen. Next thing I know, you’ll actually be voting….”  
“As a matter of fact….”
“I don’t want to know! And when are you going to dress properly?” He dangled out a pair of diamond patterned socks in front of my nose.
“You’ve been snooping in my drawers again!” I yelled. But I knew that he’d got me.
“Just look at you. Always wearing a shirt. And I caught you last night, creeping downstairs to iron your jeans. And what’s with all this short hair? Kuh! Next thing you’ll be chatting to the neighbours as you mow the lawn.”
“No lawn. This is a flat.” 

He gave me a look of pure, pained betrayal.
“Oh, that’s great, that is. So where the hell am I supposed to roll around and drink cider?”
I felt better. I may have learnt absolutely nothing in life. But at least I no longer drink cider.