For those of you that haven’t seen the 1984 film Gremlins, shame on you – it’s brilliant. But I’ll quickly explain the plot – a teenage boy is given a small furry animal (a mogwai which they name Gizmo) and told to stick to 3 important rules:
1 – Don’t expose it to bright lights, especially sunlight which will kill it
2 – Don’t get it wet. Water causes it to reproduce painfully
3 – Don’t feed it after midnight. This is the most important rule as it causes it to change from being cute to being evil
So to cut a long story short, they get it wet causing a load of new ones to appear, then the new ones get fed after midnight which then means there are a load of evil ones (Gremlins) running all over the place causing havoc before eventually all being killed by exposure to sunlight. I’ve probably ruined the film for you although if you haven’t seen it in the last 30 years you’re probably unlikely to come across it now.
So anyway – back to reality. I’ve recently acquired a mogwai, well when I say mogwai I’m talking figuratively rather than literally in that spending a large amount of time over the summer with my elderly mother and her friends is just like having a mogwai. There are a number of golden rules to follow when being around large numbers of senior citizens at once:
1 – Don’t mention the war or any element of the distant past. My mother is constantly going on about her generation “living through the war”. Technically she’s right in that they lived through it but she was barely 3 when it ended so it’s not like she had any conscious awareness of it or any influence over its outcome. She also likes to think that everything was far better in the past – it wasn’t. Food and fuel rationing continued well into the 1950s, trade union disputes caused havoc in the 70s and 80s. Cars were slow and dangerous – drink driving was legal before 1965, seatbelts were only compulsory for drivers in 1983 and that’s before trying to calculate the damage caused by leaded fuel which was only banned in 2000. People of a certain age seem to look back with rose tinted glasses, completely ignoring reality.
2 – Don’t give them options. Even the most basic choices can spark a meaningless conversation that lasts longer than the known age of the universe. Example – would you like a custard cream or chocolate digestive? Sounds easy enough – think again. The answer to that question will usually be “what were those biscuits I used to like – you know the ones we got during the war?” Firstly – I have no idea, secondly – you’ve already told us that you didn’t get biscuits during the war because the Germans had taken them (or other such nonsense) which then gets them reminiscing about everything being better in the past and therefore you’ve also broken rule 1. Easily solved by the only choice being available is having a biscuit, or not having a biscuit. Or not even offering a biscuit which their doctor says they can’t have anyway due to medical issues (see rule 3).
3 – Don’t ask them about their health. Ever. I’ve had relationships last for less time than the answer to the question “How are you?” They’ll tell you about every trip to the doctor, what every medicine is for and recount every minor niggle, ache or pain from the last month. That’s before they start telling you about their dietary restrictions because they’ve heard that bacon gives you cancer and they can’t have a biscuit because of their diabetes – but this is ok because it reminds them of rationing during the war so you’ve broken rule 1 again and you’re now stuck in some form of rule breaking spiralling vortex that will never end. Just don’t do it.
By now you’re probably asking yourself why I’m still droning on – and to be honest I’m not totally sure myself but I think it’s because as we all get older we start to look at our lives differently, but I don’t think I do. I have responsibilities like any normal adult but I don’t consider myself to be one. I’ve been tried as one but...https://twitter.com/deadhomers/status/871472502350000129?lang=en-gb. A friend of mine recently tried to insult me by calling me immature, I told him that’s a compliment rather than an insult.
I think the point is that we all usually turn into our parents and we’re frightened of doing so. I was once at a friend’s wedding and the god botherer doing the service started off about how you can tell what a woman will be like after 20 years of marriage by looking at her mother. Now the bride was a petite beauty, but her mother less so, when I say less I mean more… about 200 pounds more and not very pleasant either. Cue much amusement from the groom’s friends.
I’m obviously not going to turn into my mother but most of the men in my family have retained their marbles well into old age but those that die early have usually died from some form of alcohol related disease and I really can’t see that happening to – oh….hang on!