Nothing keeps you on your toes like grandchildren. They have a directness about them that one’s contemporaries don’t have. None of my friends have ever asked when I’m going to die of if they can have something of mine after I’m dead. They also have a fairly hazy concept of time – I was asked the other day if women had the vote when I was young and I didn’t think I was looking that old. Most children are fond of their grandparents and mine certainly have a much more relaxed relationship with me that I ever had with any of mine. They chat about anything and everything with me and as a result they, I hope, think of me as more of a human being than I ever did about my distant grandparents. I saw a photograph of my paternal grandmother the other day and judging by my age in the photograph she must have been about the age I am now. There she was, walking with a stick and leaning heavily on my father’s arm. She was dressed top to toe in black including a hideous black hat. We certainly had to mind our Ps and Qs in front of her.
Children want to know about everything but as we get older we seem to lose that curiosity. Perhaps it is time to start questioning things a bit more. How things change with every generation. I don’t think my grandfather would have contemplated life without a chauffeur, my father claimed never to have cleaned his own shoes, and my husband had never used a washing machine (and I very much doubt that he had ever washed his own clothes by hand!) My son came through school without there being any ‘trans’ children there – although it may be that some have transitioned by now. My grandchildren talk about people being ‘non-binary’ and ‘gender fluid’ and I only have the vaguest idea of what they are talking about. As for people using the pronoun ‘they’ – that seems to me to add even more confusion to the issue – although I do appreciate that ‘it’ wouldn’t be a good alternative.
Every day is a mystery to me nowadays – perhaps that is what is meant by second childhood. Today there was an article in the newspaper saying that we should no longer have wisteria in our gardens as it is a symbol of colonial oppression. FFS – Don’t even ask me what that is short for! Children look at life with awe and wonder and joy – who doesn’t smile when they see a small child splashing in a puddle. In my second childhood I look at the world in confusion, despair and anger most of the time. There are things that I love about the modern age – Google is splendid. I have an entire set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (not unfortunately the rare and valuable 11th edition) and it is rather wonderful. It takes up an entire shelf on the bookcase and was out of date the moment it was printed. Google is on my mobile and therefore the size of a cigarette packet (if anyone can remember what those were!) and has (mostly) up-to-date information on absolutely everything. And then there are the things that I hate – where to begin? Scammers – the feeling they give you that you simply can’t trust anyone on the telephone – time was when the telephone rang you could expect a friend on the other end. Bad news came in the form of brown envelopes and were usually bills – genuine bills and not from people purporting to be from the Inland Revenue or HMRS as they are now or demanding £1.65 to deliver a parcel – it doesn’t seem like much but they get such a lot of information from that tiny transaction. Sloppy language is an irritant as well – ‘Like’ ‘Whatever’ ‘Me and John’ ‘Very unique’ a particular bugbear of mine. Mumbling – this could of course be due to my hearing but the sooner someone invents and app to deaden background noise the happier I will be. Celebrities – time was when a designer showed his clothes people looked at them and took notice now it is the ‘super model’ they are looking at as the parade on the catwalk wearing an eye-wateringly expensive and often hideous outfit that only someone size zero and under twenty five could get away with wearing but of course someone like that is very unlikely to either be able to afford it or even want to wear it. I was looking at the photos from Paris Fashion Week recently and one can only assume that the designers are either on hallucinogenic drugs or desperate for a laugh. Speaking of which I took my fifteen year old granddaughter shopping in Zara and other shops of that ilk and we searched amongst approximately 200 identical tops to find the exact one in a size six – the assistants were incredibly helpful and ran round finding these tiny scraps of material – I was awfully tempted to ask if they had one in a size twenty – but I thought that it might induce mass panic in the store.
Another of my pet peeves about modern life is the unwillingness of people to accept responsibility for things – of course everyone should be able to go freely wherever they want and at whatever time of the day or night, but is it wise? Very few men are rapists and monsters but some of them exist and they do live amongst us where their relationships probably comprise of looking at porn and exposing themselves and worse! Until they invent an app so that we can recognise them we have to be careful without being too fearful. And it’s not just men, there was a woman in the paper today who turned up at court with a ‘support dog’ and she was convicted of hacking into Alexa so that when her ex brought a girl back to his flat a disembodied voice shouted ‘Get the whore out’. Sometimes it does feel as though the lunatics have taken over the asylum!