||A GOLDEN AGE?
North ponders on how the old are portrayed on TV
just dont recognize these people...'
people grow old gracefully, some grew old disgracefully and some
just grow old.
Id like to think Im an inbetweener. Ageing is unfortunate,
but natural and although we have every right to fight it, in the
end I believe that it is a case of mind over matter. Once in my
early forties I met up with an acquaintance three years my junior.
She sighed and declared, We have to face it Joanna, we are
old now, we have to take things slowly and accept our fate.
I fled.The loss of my husband in my mid-forties left me somewhat adrift and
once the grief had been faced and stowed away I squared up to life.
Years before I had made a list of places I would love to see, so I dusted
it off and went. If that previously mentioned acquaintance could have
seen me then, swinging from boat to boat, taking planes and trains across
Europe she would have fainted.
My children also loved change and travel, so our lives took on a whole
new meaning and although in the beginning we settled in Africa, by the
time I was sixty, I had children with their own families in Canada,
Africa and England and loved visiting them all.
Now, I have passed eighty and I am an OAP I know my life has been full
of experiences but its not true that one can sit back and just
enjoy the memories. Being old isnt necessarily a barrel of laughs.I
find myself living in England where the old are slowly but surely being
vilified. They are always depicted as senile on the TV and no one seems
to value what they have been or what they may have to say. We are all
good for a laugh and this spills over into the street where
the old have become targets for criminals, violent attacks and even
rape is shockingly common.
Well I would like to stress that I am alive and the brain is still functioning
, I still like to think I have taste and an appreciation of culture
and the simple things of life such as my flower garden. The soaps on
TV almost show people of my age as stupid, unreasonable, difficult and
oblivious to their surroundings. I hasten to say that I know a lot of
people my age and not one of them is like this and although many are
less agile than they would like to be, are most certainly mentally alert
and good fun to know.
But does English TV shows reality? Well if Eastenders is reality
I just dont recognize these people as natural or decent or real.
The hatred they all feel for each other may make for good ratings, but
if I had grown up in a society as fearful and desperate as these soaps,
I very much doubt I would have reached old age. Where is the laughter
or joy in their TV lives. Is this what dumbing down means, to produce
a life of unrelenting misery? Incredible very frank sex scenes and couplings
between people with no regard for their husbands or wives or significant
others will also signal to younger viewers that a loveless society is
OK. We have become a nation of voyeurs.
Add to this, the endless inane games shows and manufactured pop groups,
it almost seems that we are nurturing a world where talent and effort
are no longer required.
The trouble is, for most of us TV is our lifeline and a window on the
world but yes, I am one of those people that think that TV, British
TV was funnier 25 years ago. Certainly the repeats of the old
shows seems to prove that. I do love a good mystery but even here the
TV detectives seem so bogged down in their own misery, policework seems
I read the TV guide everyday and my spirits drop - but luckily, I have
good eyesight and comb the library for books every week and of course
I am addicted to crosswords. But I have to admit that I do envy other
cultures where the old still reside with the family and have a value
in their day to day lives. I love my nieces and nephews but I so rarely
see them as they grow up and make their own lives. I am here,they are
far away abroad, visiting me only once a year in a crowded hectic couple
of weeks. I can hardly complain, for my daughters and son all are like
me and traveling, seeking adventures, fending off any suggestions of
At 81 my heart is giving out, I admit it, but as like as my mind stays
sharp, life is tolerable. But what will old age be like for those who
are young now? They seem to age so fast, what to grow up so fast and
seem so jaded at thirty. Medical science will replace worn parts they
say, but as yet there is no substitute for a cynical heart and a wasted
life. The Church of England has recently admitted that they have no
relevance in modern English lives and role models on television are
deeply flawed. Perhaps it is true, despite living through a terrible
war my generation had the best of it.
Time will tell.
Joanna North 2001
* In Memory of Joanna 2015
Joanna lives in Lincolnshire, still does her crossword everyday
and can still beat most contestants on Countdown. She has been
an actress, housewife mother,and childrens author and you can
read one of her kids stories here HORATIO