Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Soup and Senectitude

People have been making me feel old lately.

The British have long claimed that you may take it as a sign of your advancing years when policemen start to look young. I can’t say I have noticed this particularly, especially as policemen are a relatively rare sight on our streets nowadays, and in any case they are called ‘community support officers’ or something equally polysyllabic and daft. I don’t take much notice of them.

There are other criteria for assessing degree of senility, I have observed. Do you amass supermarket carrier bags, storing them neatly folded or tied into bows in a bag that hangs behind a cupboard door? Do you save plastic yogurt pots, convinced they’ll come in one day, until you have no more room for them, and then throw them out before starting again? Before retiring for the night, do you set the table for breakfast, with the cups upside down on the saucers? If you are male and gay, do you touch up your grey chest hair with ‘Just for Men’ Moustache, Beard and Sideburns colour? I’m not really all that old, and I only engage in one of the activities on this list for the time being, and do you know, it works a treat.

Extreme irascibility around the young is a definite sign that one is well into middle age. This evening on the train, three sixth-form college students were sprawled on the floor of the carriage vestibule. They were bright kids, but Jesus Christ, the grating bloody fucking awfulness of their manner of speech. ‘Say, y’neigh, I’m sort of like this, and say, obviously of course, Megan’s like thaaat, and say like Jack’s like whaaat?’ all delivered in a high-pitched, nasalized yap so infuriating that I was forced to rise and put an end to their pointless young lives. No, I didn’t. That was just a brief wish-fulfillment fantasy. I moved down the train until I could no longer hear them, meaning that I had to walk to the far end of the next carriage and sit next to the bog.

A young colleague, Emma, came out with a surprising criterion for senescence yesterday. She has acquired a blender, and the other day she made some soup.

‘I felt reeeelly old!’ she said.

Baffled, I asked why.

‘You don’t make fucking soup at twenty three!’ she said, as if it were as sure an indicator of decline as a hip replacement op.

‘So when should the urge to make soup come upon one, in the natural course of events?'

‘Well, I’d reckon forty-ish.’

At this point another colleague entered the room.

‘Dave, how old were you when you first made soup in a blender?’ Emma asked him.

‘Forty,’ he said, without a second’s hesitation.

‘There you go!’ Emma said.

Right. Come to think of it, I bought my blender in 2003, at the age of forty-four. It was my second, its predecessor having gone missing in a move some twenty years previously. So although I was obviously a young fogey who made soup back in the eighties, after a soupless interregnum I returned to the activity in the fifth decade, just as Emma’s theory predicts, and thus I am inescapably middle aged.



Bo said...

Right. I have made soup since the age of 20; I do save bags and yoghurt pots, and certainly leave a clean mug ready by the full kettle before retiring; I also love gardening even more than I love sex, which is saying something. I pull out the white hairs on my chest, which are still fairly few, unlike those at my temples.

I'm more middle aged that you are, by a long way, I reckon!

vilges suola said...

Well, the bags and yogurt pots were an obsession of my grandma's, as was setting the breakfast table at night. I always thought of it as the sort of thing people with an awful lot of time on their hands would do, obviously not true in your case.

The soup one was a new one on me. It seems to strike my young colleagues in much the same way as my grandma's wearing of knitted knee-caps in winter struck my sister and me as kids. Fuck knows why.

vilges suola said...

Does teen-speak bug you as much as it does me?

Bo said...

YEEEEEEEESSSS! I want to rip their, like, throats out.

vilges suola said...

Yes, especially when they say 'threight' for 'throat'. I wear ear-plugs on the train, the height of peculiarness, I have to admit, just to drown out inane conversations and iPods.

Scarlet's mum said...

And why do they have to speak at top volume, all of the time? In my university campus coffee shop last week I overheard a (male) English lit student relating to a silent female cohort his experience of a recent live poetry performance. 'Carol Ann Duffy is reeelly, like, unpleasant? I mean, just, y'know, intolerant? She was all, like, everyone *had* to be quiet and listen to her when she was reading her stuff, or else she got, like, totally annoyed!' This last in tones of amazed contempt.
Sometimes I put on my portable radio earphones and just listen to static (no radio reception in that cafe) to drown out the moronic exchanges.

Michael said...

I despise the talk of British teens. American teens are alright and bearable, but the strong British accents are intolerable. I cannot even think about how low their intellect is without becoming a tad bit worried.

Do you hate it too?
"If you're going through Hell, keep going."

vilges suola said...

@Scarlet's Mum - what an unpleasant little twerp he sounds. I have had many students who treat the lesson or lecture rather as if it were the TV in the corner of the room, to watch or not watch, according to whim. I mean,why,like sort of gay to a paytry reading, if you aren't sort of like gaying to sort of listen? It's rarely rarely dumb, yeah?

@Michael - I'm used to the accents, obviously. What sets my teeth on edge is the voice production in the young. It's nasal, it uses 'creaky voice' i.e., contraction of the larynx, it centralises most vowels. Then there's the rising intonation on declarative sentences and the drawling of stressed items. And they do it PURELY TO PISS ME OFF.

Anonymous said...

Try listening to Greek teenage girls !!!!!!

I have visions of slapping them, grabbing them by their hair, or making their father appear in front of them........

Oh the arrogance of middle age.....



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