I was channel hopping, and stopped at a programme showing Dickie Bird, expecting some cricket memoirs. It turned out not to be about cricket, but something equally interesting – a programme called The Young Ones, where six celebrities take part in an experiment that explores the prevention of ageing. It doesn’t sound promising, does it, but it was absolutely fascinating on several levels. It certainly wasn’t just another ‘celeb’ show.
Lionel Blair, Sylvia Syms, Liz Smith, Dickie Bird, Kenneth Kendall, and Derek Jameson – went ‘back to 1975′ for one week to see if it could make them young again. It still doesn’t sound very promising, does it? But read this crit and you’ll understand more.
It showed the six personalities living in a house decked out in Seventies style, to recreate their heyday. Everything was exactly as you would have found it in 1975, including the decor, the food, the television shows, etc. After some initial reminiscing, they settled into their surroundings, but time was taking it’s toll, and soon when any effort was needed there was a lot of “Too far…too early…too much…etc” from the celebs.
Syvlia Syms had a back problem, felt tired all the time, and had lost a lot of her energy. Kenneth Kendall walked with a stick, and didn’t think he could look after pet dogs anymore, even though he’d enjoyed them in the past. Derek Jameson had put on some weight and his body had become so stiff that he couldn’t put his own socks on anymore. Liz Smith had had a stroke, was gradually doing less and less, and was mostly confined to a wheelchair. Lionel Blair hadn’t done any choreography for many years. Dickie Bird had had some health problems, and his memory wasn’t good anymore. And so on. They’d all lost a lot of confidence as a result of ageing, hence the “Too far…too early…too much…etc” examples when they were faced with things. Their lives were largely at a standstill, their focus was increasingly inwards and they did little except sit quietly, drink tea, and take their medication.
Then, in turn, there were some ‘challenges’. A bunch of kids arrived. The next thing you know, Syvlia Syms is running around after them, entertaining them. Then two lovely daschunds were brought in. The next thing you know, Kenneth Kendall is taking them for walks, and he’s not using his stick anymore. With some help from the others, Derek Jameson does some exercises, and with a struggle manages to put his socks on by himself. They put an easel, canvas and paints on the patio, and Liz Smith looks at it for a while. Eventually, she gets up, walks to it by herself, sits down, but doesn’t do anything else for twenty minutes. Finally, she takes up the crayon and starts drawing and then painting. And so on…
Then, the next morning, a new experiment is undertaken. Three carers appear at the door. The hope is that the ‘celebs’, having already managed to take care of themselves for three days, will say they don’t need any help. But, for some of them, the opposite happens. Derek Jameson gets the carers to put his socks on for him. Liz Smith gets the carers to dress her. Dickie Bird thinks it’s marvelous that a cuppa tea arrives every half hour. On the other hand, Lionel Blair says he needs no help at all, and gets rather annoyed.
After lunch, the carers leave, and the six celebs are left sitting in the living room, doing very little and feeling deflated. They all look very old indeed.
There’s a lot more to this short series, which is currently available on the iPlayer.
It all goes to show that a lot to do with ageing is actually in the mind, and that the mind has a distinct effect on the body.
I was thinking about all of this when I took Caro to a literary event, The Shortest Story Day, in The Canon’s Gate. Fat Mac had also been invited. At first, he was keen to attend, then he ummed and aahed and wasn’t sure. Then he said he would come. Then, finally, he said he wouldn’t, because it was “Too cold…too far…too early…”
It was a short but entertaining event. A very pleasant lady greeted Caro and myself at the door.
“Are you authors?” she politely enquired.
“No, we’re not”
“Are you, perhaps, publishers?”
“Are you literary agents?”
I realised she had quite a long list to go through, and not expecting to qualify under anything else, and as a queue was forming behind us, I asked what the final category was.
“Ah – the final category.” she responded, “Are you members of the public?”
“Wonderful! You’re very welcome to this event and here’s a glass of wine for you.”
It was a busy event.
Alan Spence gave a fifteen minute reading of a short story, and was followed by James Robertson who read out four 300 word stories. The third chap on the bill hadn’t pitched up. Both Spence and Robertson were very good storytellers, and everyone seemed to enjoy their performance.
Spence’s story was about arriving home to find a letter saying that a friend had died, and continued with some reminiscences about past times with that friend in 1970s Glasgow. One of Robertson’s stories was about toilets. Deid people, 70s Glasgow, toilets – they were good stories, but I couldn’t help thinking that I get quite a lot of that sort of thing by reading the blogs of the two people who Comment most frequently on my own blog.
Afterwards, during the crowd mingling, I spoke briefly to Alan Spence and James Robertson and said I’d enjoyed their stories. I told them that Fat Mac had been supposed to attend, and they immediately remembered both of Fat Mac’s published books. They asked how he was, and were disappointed to hear that he was too old and frail to get to the pub because it was “Too cold…too far…too early…” and that, instead, he was sitting quietly at home, drinking tea, and taking his medication.
When we got home, Santa had cooked everyone a meal of spicey Moroccan stewed fish with couscous.
Shaun is doing an Open Mike gig in The Three Monkeys, Portobello, on Thursday evening. Everyone is invited.