Junior Senior

by Rick Johansen

It had to happen one day. In the Melchester food bank, Friday mornings are shared with a kind of drop-in centre, where people come for coffee and smoked (unfortunately) bacon baps. And in between helping to feed the world, I found myself chatting amiably with a group of fellow retirees who told me all about their packed diaries. One goes to the gym six days a week, another has 15 holidays scheduled for 2024 and they are all active members of countless seniors clubs. Would I like to come along to the seniors’ club?

I was taken unawares and spluttered a non answer. “Oh, that’s so kind. Thank you very much. I’ll … er … think about it.” Something like that. They were such nice, jolly people who despite this being a church-run event, said they weren’t religious at all. Some folk in the seniors group did do God, but no one cared if you didn’t. What was not to love about it?

Make new friends, visit new places, listen to interesting speakers on a wide variety of subjects, quizzes. It was a whole new world, a completely different life just waiting for me. All that was left for me to say was this: “See you next week.” But I didn’t. Of course I didn’t.

I couldn’t bring myself to be honest and if I could have safely kicked myself while driving home, without crashing the car, I’d have happily done so. I wouldn’t be thinking about it, other than to say that I would not be interesting in joining a seniors’ group anymore than I’d join a line-dancing club or taking up jewelry making. I know this sounds a tad ungrateful, but it’s just not me. I know I am careering into old age at a rapid rate of knots, but I do not feel I am ready for the world of old age. At least not yet.

It was quite a shock to actually be asked to be part of the world of old folk.  I still dress the same way I did when I was a teenager, which is to say jeans, trainers and T shirts. I am sure the world of slacks, polo shirts and hush puppies isn’t far away but I’m not ready yet, a point reinforced when we engaged on the topic of music.

My new friends had recently been to Amsterdam to see André Rieu who I wrongly assumed had to be some kind of opera singer, like Pavarotti, but luckily before I made a fool of myself they showed me a video of this bloke playing a violin. Ah yes, THAT André Rieu. Of course. I thought it sounded terrible but kept my counsel. “So, who do you like? Are you going to any shows soon?” Shit.

I explained that, yes, I was going to see some gigs soon. “Oh, who?” Shit again. “Well, there’s Beach Fossils next week at the Fleece, the Bees at the Trinity, Say She She at SWX; then later in the year two shows at the Beacon, Jordan Rakei and Jason Isbell.” A real conversation killer, that. The words “Never heard of them” hung heavy in the air.

But they were lovely, friendly, kind, generous people. Maybe I should go along, at least once, just to show willing? I thought for maybe as long as a nanosecond before concluding that, well I don’t think I will be. As I left my latest shift, I handed out some verbal fudge. “See you soon, see you next week, lovely to meet you” and so on.

It was nice to feel wanted and not nice to not be wanting to be wanted. It confirmed my long held view that most people are good people, but we only get to hear about the bad ones. And I’ll certainly be happy to chat with my new friends when they meet in the community café.

The seniors’ club, however, can wait.

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