Martin Newell’s Joy of Essex: Baby boomers collect their bus passes

Time for Another

Time for Another - Credit: Getty Images

I collected my old geezer bus pass last week. Highly chuffed with it I was too, writes Martin Newell.

Yet now I’m informed that we baby-boomers are all living too long, nowadays. Well, it’s not our fault, is it?

Weird thing, a demographic bulge. The theory is that after you’ve had a war, there’s a corresponding baby boom. It’s almost as if we as a species are driven by our collective subconscious to increase production in order to compensate for wartime losses.

The scientists among you can debate that one if you wish, but I believe it. Perhaps during wartime the constant danger heightens the human libido in some way. Or maybe it was just because the blackout afforded people more opportunities for regrettable instances of fearful beastliness.

What I do know is that there were an awful lot of us born between 1943 and 1963. It was constantly drummed into us by the older generation how lucky we were that they’d fought for our freedom. As many of us reached adolescence and ran with this very freedom, they seemed less comfortable with the concept, often emphasising their disapproval by shouting at us or, sometimes, having us arrested.

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The generation which followed us also seem to resent us, though. Indeed, now that they are in government and control the media, they never stop battering on about it. Not only have our generation “had it all”, leaving none for them, now we’re all living too long as well. Well, quel dommage, Baby. Get over yourselves, why don’t you? I fought in the generation wars for you. I grew long hair for your sort and selflessly risked my delicate psyche at pop festivals while doing so.

Have you noticed lately how often you see a headline proclaiming smugly that youngsters are turning away from booze and it’s the 60- and 70-somethings who are now, wait for it, Drinking at Home? Meanwhile, BBC Radio Concerned is asking, as usual, “How worried should we be about the old age time-bomb?” Thanks for that, oh finger-wagging, news-obsessed ones. But it’s just SO unfair, isn’t it?

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So it’s all our fault that the country’s short of pension money, because we’re all living too long? Well listen: has it ever occurred to any government health watchdog that if you stop people smoking and drinking, a number of things will happen as a result? The chief one is that they’ll live longer and be a burden to you. Almost as important, however, is the fact that you’ll lose all that lovely revenue you once collected from them by taxing their fags and booze.

There’s no easy way of saying this, either, but venues for such debauchery, this past few years, have gone severely downhill. Pubs, you see, once used to be full of old working chaps, contentedly smoking and drinking away their retirement. Many of the pubs which managed to survive the Blair-Brown Protectorate have become restaurants in all but name. Laughably, they sometimes feature, by way of a retro-concession, a small, over-priced, beer-drinking area.

At weekends many country pubs become crêches, with tetchy, bored little souls running around squalling, while their parents choff down the Sunday roast. The hapless regulars who still venture into such places must now contend with flustered waitresses barging past them at speed, yelling “Sorry!” every 30 seconds. This is because we old gaffers haven’t quite grasped that you can no longer stand near the bar, as it’s now the fast lane of a food service area. Is it any wonder that many of us prefer instead to stay at home for a gargle?

That’s still not good enough for the health wonks, however. Nothing will now do but that they whip up a media-shower asking how we should convey the dangers of the “time-bomb ticking away in our midst”. Perhaps the concerned classes could glance at themselves as they ping-pong hysterically between digging their own graves with their knives and forks and their guilt-driven gym sessions afterwards?

Why not just leave us all to get on with our own quiet degeneracy? Then we’ll shuffle off the coil at a reasonable time, and you can collect the taxes, while saving the pension pot, the care-home fees and the NHS. Job jobbed. When I was growing up people used to live until about 75 or so. Back then, 75 would have been considered quite a good innings. Many had worked physically hard, been through a war or two, and only wanted a bit of peace and quiet. They weren’t expecting in their 80s to be chivvied into learning holiday Serbo-Croat or attending salsa dancing workshops. They used to walk their old dogs, have a warm tin of beer from the sideboard, or else muck about in the garden shed, with a pencil-stub behind one ear and a doofah* behind the other.

Any medication which they might have used for their ailments usually consisted of heart pills, stomach pills, or a drop of horse liniment for aches and pains. They didn’t have a special cupboard with half of the British National Formulary jammed into it. Nor did they wear a special timer on their wrist which went “beep” every 15 minutes to remind them of what to ingest, inhale or insert in order to keep them chugging along.

Let the Three Score Year+Ten campaign for a Reasonable Old Age commence here, therefore. And let our poster boy be the late great Lemmy Kilmister.

* Doofah ? half of a smoke kept for a later occasion

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