Maiden Aunt

Not alas, the sister of a parent who can keep a batsman firmly pinned to his (or her) crease – though surely such folk must exist – but instead a rumination on my role (or one of them) in life.

This blog has noted before that I would make someone (or ones) an excellent maiden aunt despite my total lack of ability at cricket and my possession of a volume of Y-chromosomes that would normally lead to instant disqualification.    For a start, I use far more allusions to the game of bridge in everyday conversation than is normal – especially as I haven’t played the game in more than a decade.  Of late, my inner aunt seems to have been moving ever closer to the surface and it can only be a short while before she is engaged in a knock-down, drag-out fight with my inner child for mastery of my declining years.

In my cultural outings, I often find myself able to observe young people “up close” and often for substantial periods of time.  This is not just my inate voyeuristic tendencies, but the fact that they are often performing on a stage (or where one should imagine a stage, though technically one does not exist) directly in front of me and it seems rude not to watch.

As a brief digression, this brings me to another one of my ragtag collection of unusual and not wholly utilitarian super-powers.  I seem unable to attend any theatrical production without at least one member of the cast getting their top (and often more) off.  To answer the naysayers who may think the old fool has wandered into a gentleman’s club (a place where I suspect one is very unlikely to encounter a gentleman, or at least one meeting my definition thereof) while not wearing his glasses, I can assure you that these are excursions to the proper theatre and not to venues where dancing takes place on the sort of surfaces normally used to rest a tray or mobile computer.  It may be that theatre is hoping that torso-based nudity will bring the punters in or that I am subconsciously choosing productions where stripping is required, however, I am assuming that something about my prescence must be causal.  Perhaps fortunately, this power only rarely shows itself outside the theatre, for now at least…

This leads us neatly to the first aspect of my maiden aunthood: the young and theatrically inclined really need to be eating more.  Every man-Jack (or woman-Jill) of them, almost without exception, seems worryingly close to emaciation.  They make me look overweight, something which would only be medically viable if I lost around a foot in height (I’ve tried just eating or drinking more, but it doesn’t seem to work).  We are told there is an obesity crisis afflicting the young (and the not so young), but most of my test subjects give the lie to this idea.  My other sample of young people, who could probably be described as music/jazz geeks, share this tendency to a willowy lack of physical substance.  I had even less flesh when younger than I do now – training as a middle-aged gymnast has helped place some minimal meat on my bones (though I fear I’d still make more of a low-fat starter than a main) – but I don’t remember being this skinny, even in my famine poster-child days.  I find myself worrying that these youths may inadvertently snap a limb live on stage should they be struck by a falling leaf or flying athropod.  I’ve started to wonder if I should be bringing a good square meal or two with me to each gig: or would this be viewed as odd?

The second indicator of my changing status relates to the idea of “feeling the benefit”.  I first noticed this at the Joiners – a rather famous local music venue which I’ve started visiting in 2017.  I have even used the gents, despite strong warnings not to (they really aren’t that bad, I’ve seen much worse).  During the cold January evenings, I noticed young people in the audience – and indeed on stage – continuing to wear their full outdoor clothing long after they had transitioned into the relative warmth of the venue.  My inner aunt was very concerned that when the music ends and they are cast back out into the frosty external air they wouldn’t feel the benefit of their warm(ish) clothing – an issue likely to be exacerbated by their general lack of adipose insulation.  I have, to-date, resisted tendering any advice in this direction (but it’s not been easy).

The third indicator came at an open-mike might at the Talking Heads.  By some distance the best performer on the night was a young lad sporting several haircuts, what I would consider an unwise volume and distribution of tattoos and lobe deforming ear ornamentation.  You might have thought that one of these aspects of his appearance might have brought auntie Stuart to the fore, but no, (s)he was far more worried that he didn’t seem to be getting enough sleep.  As an insomniac myself, I fear there was little advice I could offer the chap but still feel I should perhaps have given him a quick talk on sleep hygiene (not that this knowledge has ever done me much good).

So far, I have manage to resist spitting on my hankie and scrubbing a smut or simlar mark off the face of a stranger, but I feel it can only be a matter of time.  Is there some sort of Aunts Anonymous with a 12-step programme that I can join?  Or am I doomed?


Not laughing at the young

Well, mostly trying not to, I wouldn’t want to give them a complex but sometimes they do make it very hard to keep a straight face.

When I was younger myself, I could be pretty judgmental about the dress-sense and coiffure of young people – but now I am more relaxed and figure it is only themselves they are hurting.  As I was growing up in the 1970s – the decade good taste forgot – I was lucky enough to be dressed by my mother and so no blame can be attached to me for any fashion choices I may appear to have made (though I do recognise the “only following orders” defence has not always been 100% successful).  Today’s youth do not have this defence and are also subject to vastly more photographic and video recording of all their dodgy choices.  I sense significant growth in net embarrassment in the years to come – hence my plan to short embarrassment now.

Among the young and trendy (well, I may be guessing about the latter), the full beard seems to be terribly fashionable at the moment.  So clichéd has this become that entering a menswear department recently I was overtaken by a fit of the giggles and had to leave hurriedly.  Funny though I find it, in this cold weather it is a rather practical choice – but I’m not sure I’m willing to hazard one myself: the combination of itchiness and the large patches of white/grey that it now includes would be too distressing.  I shall continue to try and rock the scarf or buff.

However, it is in the trousers department that the young are most afflicted by the siren voices of the fashion industry.  Trousers have been growing ever skinnier for some time, to the extent that I presume some young folk are unable to bend their legs at all (and sitting down must be a distantt dream, unless one is looking for a career as a counter-tenor).  This trend is particularly distressing as for most of my time on earth, my legs would not have looked out of place in a nest and been ideal for skinny trews.  Sadly, the last few years of heavy cycling have caused them to beef-up somewhat (though not much) so that my thighs and calves are now too large for any slacks that would fit my relatively svelte waist.

We are now used to the “waist” of the trouser resting on the lower quarter of the buttocks with the crotch somewhere around the knees – I presume that like the nutrimatic cup, they are held aloft by Art (though unlike the people of Brontitor, our society will be destroyed by coffee shops).  As a result, despite my advanced age and singular lack of athletic prowess I am confident in my ability to out-run the young as my progress will be free of trouser-related hindrance.

However, recently I have noticed that the trousers worn by hipsters seem to end well above their shoes – even in the shortest folk of that ilk which can’t be easy to achieve.  Again, as I was growing up this was an issue that frequently afflicted me – but once again, I was before my time.

I sense a conspiracy: trousers are now starting several inches lower than normal, end above the ankle and are made of a much narrow cylinder of cloth, i.e. makers of trousers are managing to manufacture their wares with dramatically less fabric but at no reduction in selling price!  The only man getting value for money from his slacks is Simon Cowell – where they start at his armpits and go all the way to the ground – but he can well afford it; the rest of us need to start a campaign for fair prices for our leg-coverings (or move to Scotland where alternatives are available).