Friday, 28 November 2014

Santa is arrested and I have a nice cup of tea.

I was filming in an old folks home last week. The location wasn't far from where we live so I decided to take the car. Unfortunately the minute I got in it and set off I was stuck on our road between a cement lorry at one end and a Tesco delivery van at the other. I had to wait ten minutes with the engine ticking over and my heart-rate thumping at more or less the same speed. 

As I sat there I watched a very tall, fat Santa, in a vest, walk up the path to the house opposite us and knock on the door. Either it's Christmas come early or that's for the video shoot Eldest is working on this week, I said to myself. 

Eldest and I had just had a row in my office about who had priority over the printer."I'm a runner on a shoot out there and I need to print this off NOW!" He shouted at me. 

"Well I'm the director on a shoot happening very shortly and I need to print this map NOW!" I shouted back. 

I could see the funny side. I'm not sure that Eldest could.

I had a lovely time at the old folks home. I joked to friends on Facebook that it was nice and comfortable and I wouldn't mind moving in myself. I said I was going to put my name down.   

A day or so later I was due to film in the home of an elderly couple in Kent as they were visited by a nurse. As I set off I saw a midget, sorry, a Small Person (Eldest tells me it is not acceptable to use the term midget anymore, this makes me feel like my father) jumping out of a very large be-ribboned parcel on the doorstep of the house opposite.

The house in Kent had that distinctive old folks feel. In the living room there were two companionable chairs facing the telly with a little side table in between for things they needed kept close by: two sets of reading glasses, two coasters, a TV guide, a pack of playing cards. My grandparents had exactly the same. Chances are your grandparents did too. 

There's something about old people that draws me in and makes me wonder. What's the story? What happened? What WERE they? They are walking repositories, full to the brim with past, with history, with anecdotes, with challenges met and unmet, with dreams lived and dreams that will forever remain unfulfilled. 

It's this last bit that gives them a terrible pathos, I think. I suppose they fascinate and horrify equally. Fascinate because of what they once were: fit, able, participating, and horrify because of what they now are and what we will all one day become: decrepit, broken, immobile. If we are lucky enough get that far.

Did you know that nearly half a million old people will spend Christmas day alone this year? That's shocking and very sad. Loneliness has become the blight of our age. I read that in the paper last week and then a day or so later I read about an organisation called Silver Line that offers advice and companionship over the phone to people in their 80s and 90s. A younger Silver Line friend volunteers to spend an hour a week chatting to an older lonely person. I resolved to join. What's an hour a week? What's one extra bit of chatting when I have a degree in the subject ? (Well, in English, but it's more or less the same thing.)

When I got home from Kent there was a flashing cop car in the parking space outside our house and two policemen were arresting Santa. He was still in his vest. As he was bundled into the back of the car he turned and stuck two fingers up at me, and then the director called, "Cut!". I parked down the end.

Once inside the house I made straight for the kettle, and as I sat in front of the telly nursing my cup of tea I thought it would be jolly handy to have a little side table where I could rest my cup. I could even keep a pair of reading glasses on it as well.

Love E x


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