Bupa has published research listing 40 things people over 55 do better than younger people. These include sewing buttons, removing stains from clothes, doing multiplication without a calculator, knowing how many feet there are in a yard and changing a tyre. The private healthcare company says its findings should come as a confidence boost to people like me who are over 55, providing proof that we aren’t all washed up and that we’ve got a lot of valuable experience to pass on to those younger than ourselves. Except I can’t help feeling this is going to have precisely the opposite effect, because the logical conclusion is that other than these 40 things that most people of all ages don’t value particularly highly, the under-55s do absolutely everything else better than us. So we are essentially genetically redundant and a bit of a waste of space. Me in particular, as I’m fairly sure the under-55s would be no worse than me at sewing buttons or removing stains. Which means that my list of 40 USPs has already been whittled down to 38. Way to go.
Much of the debate in Westminster rarely rises above the level of barely functional. Or sometimes barely literate. But just occasionally you hear contributions that stop you in your tracks and remind you of the power of parliament. This week we have been treated to several such speeches. First, we had David Lammy ripping into the government over its shameful treatment of the Windrush generation. Then we had John Mann, Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth and Margaret Hodge deliver personal testaments about the antisemitism they have experienced as Labour MPs. On each occasion a stillness fell on the chamber. But for each and every action there is an opposite reaction, and this week has also provided some of the most feeble and depressing interventions for some time. Most notably from the Tory backbenchers Andrew Percy and Steve Double who, in the Syria debate, declared they were too dim to have an opinion on military intervention and were glad the prime minister had not bothered to consult them in advance. Not what I call parliament taking back control. We also had Amber Rudd say she was concerned about the state of the Home Office. Just imagine how angry she’s going to be when she finds out who is in charge of it.
There’s no excuse for driving a car when drunk. But equally, there’s no excuse for the way the tabloids have had a field day over Ant McPartlin’s drink driving conviction. It is obvious that the TV presenter has serious mental health and alcohol problems, so plastering his face all over the front pages along with screeds of copy about what a complete bastard he is, just feels petty and sadistic. No paper would go for a celebrity in that way if they had dementia, but for some reason mental illness is still considered fair game. As someone who has suffered with addiction problems, I know my recovery would have been a great deal tougher than it already was if I had had to do it under the scrutiny of the media. What McPartlin needs is some time out of the limelight so that he can go to regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The one thing he doesn’t need is to be publicly shamed. Trust me, he already feels plenty ashamed enough. If addicts do one thing well, it’s shame.
Words I never thought I’d write: I’m beginning to feel a bit sorry for Prince Charles. The longer the Queen remains head of state the more obvious it becomes how truly hopeless she believes her eldest son to be. If I make it to 92, I hope to spend my time reading books, chatting to friends – if there are any left – hanging out with my family, snoozing in front of the TV and moaning that Spurs still haven’t won a league title since 1961. The Queen, though, ploughs on dutifully, even though she clearly wishes she was doing something else most of the time. At the opening of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting at Buckingham Palace she looked like thunder, as she was made to sit through several minutes of third-rate pop music from artists no one had heard of. And she’s got more pain to come at her official birthday party at the Royal Albert Hall when she’s going to have to endure a set from Shaggy and Sting. Most people would happily pay to miss that. As there can’t be anyone in the country who would complain if the Queen did decide to abdicate, the only explanation for her hanging on must be that she can’t bear the thought of Charles cocking everything up.
It’s Record Store Day this Saturday. A day when 240 independent record shops in the UK come together to celebrate all things vinyl. A day when people like me curse themselves for not having bothered to hold on to their old records as some of them are probably now worth good money. Back in the 70s I had a great record collection, beginning with very early Rolling Stones singles that had been passed on to me by my older sister through to punk. Music got me through my childhood years and the first records I bought are still etched in my memory. First single: All or Nothing by the Small Faces. First album: Led Zeppelin II. But then in the early 80s, I became passionate about opera and decided to offload my entire pop music collection as it was gathering dust in a pile on the floor. Some records went for a couple of quid; some for next to nothing, and the vast majority went to a jumble sale as no one I knew wanted them. Still, I did learn my lesson, after a sort. I’ve managed to hold on to all my opera box sets – even though I haven’t had a deck to play them on for the best part of 30 years. And knowing my luck, they probably aren’t worth anything anyway.
Digested: Not wanted on voyage.