Friday, March 09, 2007


The population lives to a ripe old age in better health these days. Older people have a wider range of interests and plenty of them have retired early to spend six months a year in the Costas.


When I was young I was aware that, once a woman had reached the age of fifty there was nothing to look forward to but DEATH.

I'm not imagining this. My mother in law told me that her mother used to say "life is hell on earth".

HARDCOOORE! Stick that in yer pipe and smoke it, Steven Patrick Morrissey!

My own grandmother used to dish out Christmas presents in September ... October ... November ... depending on how grim the outlook was because of her personal health.

"Yerm gettin' yer Christmas box now because I don't think I'll mekk it ter Christmas" we would be told.

This happened for as long as I can remember receiving presents from her.

She died at eighty nine.

As common courtesy, I'd ask my nan how she was, and brace myself for the never ending catalogue of ailments, which could include any (but not usually all) of the following statements:

* "I'm middling." (she was always middling, whatever that was.)
* "I've been up all night heaving."
* "The doctor's given me this tonic to drink because I've been so run down."
* "I've got diarrhoea like milk."
* "I'm stiff all down this side and it goes all round here."
* "I've had this Indian Brandy but it still hasn't settled me stomach."
* "I was in so much pain with this leg last night that I had to take off the bandages that the doctor had put on."

If Miserable Old Women weren't suffering themselves then there was nothing they liked better than to gather in town while shopping to discuss Other People Who Were At Death's Door.

This is the official Top Seven of the most popular illnesses according to Miserable Old Women:

1. Massive coronary (i.e., any heart problem).
2. Sugar (aka diabetes).
3. Suffering with nerves.
4. Being a bundle of nerves.
5. Prolapse or "dropped womb".
6. Someone who you don't know, but Eileen's husband used to work with him, "having his leg off because of circulation problems, but he still won't give up smoking".
7. The Major Operation. I think this must have been a hysterectomy, but it was always spoken of in very hushed tones, in case children were listening.

The only outposts for Miserable Old Women these days are behind the counters of second hand shops. The workers will be only too happy to have conversations about some poor old bugger who went to his GP to get his indigestion checked out, only to end up in hospital, being "opened up" where it was found that he had "a growth the size of a rugby ball". Of course, he ended up dead a week later.

Still, mustn't grumble, eh?

*rolls eyes and juts chin out*

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I forgot to ring my Mom on her birthday so the next day I get this call. How you doing? I cheerily ask. Well, I'm alright now, she says. Here we go I thought, as I settled in to listen to the list written above.
But yes I do know, it ain't funny getting old - well it is actually, till it's our turn.
Wonderful stuff Betty.
My mum was in hospital a few years ago at the age of 83.
I didn't dare tell her it was the geriatic ward.
The doc said 'Now Mrs G - I heard that you don't particularly like being in Hosptal. That suprises me because everyone else here loves it'.
I think that was your Nan in the next bed.
I'm sorry that "Diarrhoea like milk" isn't in the top ten. Perhaps it's bubbling under though.
Most of my relations die young so I've not really experienced this yet. I'm sure I will in due course though. *shudder*
Tom - thing is, my nan reckoned it was "her turn" to be a geriatric when she was about fifty! For all I know she could have beeen complaining about all her aches and pains when she was in her thirties.

Kaz - god, does ANYONE enjoy being on a geriatric ward? Mind you, perhaps the nurse had developed a kind of gallows humour to cope with everything. As for my gran, despite all her moaning, she was only in hospital for about the last couple of weeks of her life, when she was eighty nine.

Murph - that's formed a really horrible image in my mind. Thanks.

Billy - I think it's the way women used to behave until about, I dunno, the 1980's. There wasn't much to do in those days so they just used to be preoccupied with their own illnesses or those of other people. Hopefully it won't be making a comeback any time soon!
Oh groan. This is so funny and there's an excellent Murph one-liner (as per)- it's dead early here so I'll come back when I've finished laughing.
I had loads of elderly relatives and after going on about their health they'd always say, "You're only young once" and they'd encourage me to live it up while I could.

That was the best advice I ever followed. :)
Arabella - I'm glad someone's happy (or something). Yeah, Murph is the King Of The Pun, but we'd better not turn him into an egomaniac, eh?

MJ - thing is, are you still living it up, or have you reached the stage of complaining about your prolapse?
A few years ago, my mother was Given Her Death Sentence in mid-September. She was still in rude health at the beginning of December.

"Oh bugger," she said. "I thought I wouldn't have to bother with Christmas presents this year. I'd better start shopping."

Just as well she did, she lasted right through until March
I can vividly recall picking up Grandma at the Old Folks Home and during the elevator ride down (4 floors) between her and one neighbour I would have heard every medical term known to modern man and been informed about the sudden death of atleast one other resident..it's all that they talked about..but I figured out that the Grim Reaper abhors that sort of nattering and usually lets the 'complainers' kvetch for an extra decade or so...seems to work.
'A bundle of nerves' ha! - that phrase is a real blast from the past, I guess the modern, less graphically interesting equivalent would be 'neurotic'.

I never really wanted to be an ailing old biddy, but accept your point that people used to be considered 'old' a lot younger in the past. I'm quite knackered at trying to sustain a young and nubile image at my advanced decrepit age - bring on middle age & support hosiery, I say!
In answer to your question, yes I'm still living it up. In fact, I'm off work today and my planned activity for this afternoon promises to be good enough to bring on a prolapse.
My mum's been on about her 5 this week. Which was a surprise because I'd I thought she'd had her 7 25 years ago. Best not say anything.
Z - hello and welcome! Best not to trust a doctor's prognosis, eh? My mum was given six months to live and survived for another four years. (mind you, better not say anything untoward about people in the medical profession, or I'll get Realdoc on my case. God knows, I've upset enough bloggers recently.)

H E - exactly! My grandmother lived to a ripe old age despite the seemingly endless suffering. If people say "mustn't grumble" they're storing up trouble. Perhaps I'd better start complaining about my ailments as a sort of insurance.

Annie - thing is, at around thirty five I started to notice that I'd take longer to recover from stuff, and now I've got a bad back and it takes me a few minutes to warm up each morning, as if I'm a 1950's TV set. Time to cave in and accept that I'm decrepit really.

MJ - say no more!
Oh god yes! my nana was never ill, not till she died anyway - but my gran always was.
And while you're on with the 'nerves' what about the ones who were often found (but only whispered about) "wandering in her nightie" that seemed to be happening all the time then!
Beth - the woman who had been seen wandering about in her nightie had probably "not been right since her Malcolm died in a car crash" (that would always be talked about in very hushed tones as well). Anyway, my local GP was actually found wandering around in his pyjamas, which says a lot about the community I grew up in!
The doctors were right, actually. When she asked (as you do) "how long have I got, doctor?" he said, apologetically, that he couldn't tell. Anything from a couple of weeks to 6 months.

6 months to the day, she lasted. In good health until the last couple of days.
Z - I don't know how doctors assess how long someone has got left to live, and it's not exactly the most pleasant thing to have to do anyway. Once I read about a woman who'd been told she had about a year left to live who used up her life savings to have a holiday she'd always dreamed of. Then she was still alive a couple of years later, but was absolutely broke!
"This made me laugh so much I snorted coffee through my nose."

Boz - thing is, perhaps there should be degrees of how funny a post is, starting from "snorting coffee through my nose" through "snorting yoghurt through my nose" or the drop dead hilarious "snorted pieces of chicken through my nose" ... er, carry on eating your supper, folks.
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