COUPLE SEPARATION

Old Age and Feature Films

June. Already ten weeks in lockdown and the stress of the pandemic is starting to bite. Forced to change my activities and interests. My social life, film blog and film research neglected are replaced by housekeeping chores and occasional Zoom meetings. But I keep thinking that my situation as a woman aged 85 is not too bad compared to old women who are on their own with no companion and no beautiful garden to breathe in. The force separation of couples has become common place in these last months, as partners are not allowed to be together in illness and death.

I am unable to engage in extensive research. I will give myself the luxury of blogging about the treatment of old couples in the films I have studied since 2009.

There are two aspects of ageing that I would like to investigate in Leo MacCarey’s film Make Way for…

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Aches and Pains in Old Age

I quote from Time Goes By Ronni Bennett’s blog.  A blog I follow religiously because it makes me feel understood in my ageing journey.

“Earlier this week, long-time TGB reader Elizabeth left, in part, this comment:”The culture we live in insists that ‘living to the fullest’ means an incessant pursuit of experiences. One MUST travel in retirement. One MUST attend cultural events. In some circles, one MUST volunteer or be politically active.“The idea of a bucket list is another piece of that pressure to do, do, do. After a lifetime of working and raising a family, I am able to live fully the way I want to…“My paternal grandmother once commented on how annoying she found the recreational staff at her senior residence. They were so worried that she didn’t participate in the (to Grandma) condescending song fests and games. She kept saying that she was finally able to do exactly what she wanted.”Elizabeth is correct. The only old people to whom American culture pays even a small amount of respect are the ones who act like younger adults, 40-year- for example.  …………………………………………………………

Until you’re old, you probably have no idea how chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and dozens of others hamper one’s ability to do the things that were easy at age 40. 

And that doesn’t include plain old tiredness, the fatigue that comes along just because you are old now and your body slows down. People sometimes say it’s too bad there isn’t an instruction book for getting old. 

I think it’s a good thing NOT to have that book, not to have an arbitrary “expert” telling us what we should be doing. Remember, there is no right way to grow old. Do it your way and do it proudly.”

My problem is whether I mention to my family and friends how I feel in my body. It can become boringly repetitive and very unlikely to stimulate sympathy. I find that only a very good friend of the same age is likely to empathise or my wonderful yoga teacher who always enquires before a session : how do you feel in your body?

On my 59th wedding anniversary

MY HOUSE

It was a lovely little bungalow in the middle of a very quiet street. Oh yes I could live here away from London’s busy life. The  big trees – elm and oak – at the bottom of the garden, the two plum trees and a sea of white  London Pride next to the patio.

But one day a fire destroyed the kitchen and nothing was the same anymore. The elm was attacked by  Dutch elm disease, the plum trees were culled.  The Owl did not woo anymore and there was no more noisy coupling of the hedgehogs at night. The door to the garden would not open.  

The Wembley Arch, high-rise luxury flats, fast food shops and supermarkets outlets have replaced the Twin Towers, the quiet streets, the tea rooms, the fragrant bakery. 

Indoors the knives were becoming blunt, the window panes always cloudy, the sun obscured by next door’s extension and to top it all there is some subsidence in the building. An unending destroying cycle of repairs and attempts at renewals. 

But this summer has been sunny, the newly planted raised bed has been prolific. The self rooted magnolia flowered early, mediterranean jasmin and herbs delight my senses. A black cat stands watch against the visiting rat.

I do not anymore count the losses but contemplate the oak tree . 

LIFE REVIEWS

By a strange coincidence two events conspired to make me think of my past in a bizarre type of Life Review. 

I had been studying Kore-eda’s (1998) film for a couple of weeks when my daughter told me that her last assignment of her course was to write about My Mother   and  My Father. 

 I knew  she enjoyed this writing course. She wanted to tell me that her teacher thought that her two pieces were very good writing.  

I ask her tentatively if I could read them and she agreed with some trepidation. 

Our relationship in her teens and into her middle age had been difficult,  extremely difficult but  we both matured into a comfortable loving in spite of our differences. 

It was wonderful to read her pieces. She did not talk about us now but how she saw us during her 57 years of life. Her father found what she called the decades of war very painful.  I found it less so and certainly less than living it. 

She is 57. My daughter is old. Difficult to comprehend. 

? LONDON SOUTH BANK GOES GERIATRIC?

 

8 years ago I was invited to take part in a consultation to prepare for the Women Of the World Festival to take place at the London South Bank.
The old woman was absent from this festival.
see  post
https://ageingageismdiary.wordpress.com/?s=WoW+cafe&submit=Search.

I did peruse the programme over the years but did not find anything for me)

3 years ago some feminist I know complained online that the WoW festival was rather ageist. ‘Apart from a few ‘old performers’ old women were not represented’.

This year by accident I came across Nawal El Sadawi in a conversation event and rushed to buy a ticket assuming that it was part of the WoW festival. I was so delighted to see that at long last old feminist women were present at WoW and ageing a subject worth including in the festival.
But then I investigated the details of the event and found the press release below.

Southbank Centre today announces (B)old, a brand new festival celebrating age and creativity, supported by The Baring Foundation. Championing new and established artists aged 65 years and over, (B)old features a week of vibrant programming from Monday 14 – Sunday 20 May 2018 taking place across Southbank Centre’s 17 acre site including the newly reopened Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room.
(B)old explores and challenges cultural perspectives of age and the role it plays in arts and society, as well as the impact of creating and experiencing art at a later age. The new festival offers something for all ages and showcases work from artists across dance, music, theatre, visual art and literature. The programme features free events and activities, and an array of engaging workshops, talks and debates bringing the idea of ‘age’ into discussion.

What do I think about this? I investigated further. On the one hand I was pleased to have the opportunity of hearing again El Saadawi on the other hand I was perturbed.

Why is it that the word ‘old’ has to be qualified: (B)old?  I do not think that bold applies to this festival. There is an enormous  literature and reports  about  Arts as an important part of the lives of older people.   Famous performers are in the limelight   but where is the support for all the dedicated artists who volunteer in care homes, in therapeutic environments?

Funders: The Baring Foundation whose aim is to give grants to tackle disadvantage and discrimination.

From my point of view so near to the WoW festival all I can do is quote norman lebrecht
April 5, 2018

http://slippedisc.com/2018/04/londons-south-bank-goes-geriatric/

“As someone who is over 65, I find this ghettoisation of old age both gruesome and patronising.”

As someone over 83 and so near the WoW festival I completely agree with him.
Should we forget intergenerational contacts in Art? Should we forget the gender gap in the arts as everywhere else ?

 

 

 

 

JACQUES BREL : LES VIEUX

For French speakers. Sorry that no translation can convey Brel poetic talent.

 

The other day my partner put on the breakfast table the lyrics of Brel’s Les Vieux (you might be interested he said)  and I was transported to Brel concert at  the Albert Hall  in 1966 when I heard this wonderful touching song on old people . I was only 31 at the time and the song made a huge impression on me, my grandmother having lived with us in her old age.

LES VIEUX

Les vieux ne parlent plus
Ou alors seulement parfois du bout des yeux
Même riches ils sont pauvres, ils n’ont plus d’illusions et n’ont qu’un coeur pour deux
Chez eux ça sent le thym, le propre, la lavande et le verbe d’antan
Que l’on vive à Paris on vit tous en province quand on vit trop longtemps
Est-ce d’avoir trop ri que leur voix se lézarde quand ils parlent d’hier
Et d’avoir trop pleuré que des larmes encore leur perlent aux paupières
Et s’ils tremblent un peu est-ce de voir vieillir la pendule d’argent
Qui ronronne au salon, qui dit oui qui dit non, qui dit: je vous attends

Les vieux ne rêvent plus, leurs livres s’ensommeillent, leurs pianos sont fermés
Le petit chat est mort, le muscat du dimanche ne les fait plus chanter
Les vieux ne bougent plus leurs gestes ont trop de rides
Leur monde est trop petit
Du lit à la fenêtre, puis du lit au fauteuil et puis du lit au lit
Et s’ils sortent encore bras dessus bras dessous tout habillés de raide
C’est pour suivre au soleil
L’enterrement d’un plus vieux, l’enterrement d’une plus laide
Et le temps d’un sanglot, oublier toute une heure la pendule d’argent
Qui ronronne au salon, qui dit oui qui dit non, et puis qui les attend

Les vieux ne meurent pas, ils s’endorment un jour et dorment trop longtemps
Ils se tiennent la main, ils ont peur de se perdre et se perdent pourtant
Et l’autre reste là, le meilleur ou le pire, le doux ou le sévère
Cela n’importe pas, celui des deux qui reste se retrouve en enfer
Vous le verrez peut-être, vous la verrez parfois en pluie et en chagrin
Traverser le présent en s’excusant déjà de n’être pas plus loin
Et fuir devant vous une dernière fois la pendule d’argent
Qui ronronne au salon, qui dit oui qui dit non, qui leur dit: je t’attends
Qui ronronne au salon, qui dit oui qui dit non et puis qui nous attend

 

 

How Old is Old asks Ronni

Ronni in her post How Old is Old on her excellent blog Time Goes By asks:

When did you (or will you) accept that you are old?

It is in my late 40s that I became aware of how pervasive ageist attitudes are. My hair was turning grey and a very good friend of mine, a contemporary, enquired rather worried : Aren’t you going to dye your hair ? I was shocked as she knew very well my attitude to judging women by their appearances. I was shocked to hear that grey hair means old age and old age is a bad thing to be.

But it is two factors in my working conditions that pushed me to retirement at the age of 60. I was senior technician in an NHS hospital and preparations had started for a huge reorganisation which meant merging two hospitals. I had worked very hard over the years, with the consultant of the department to achieve in our lab an efficient, patient-centred environment. I knew the other lab practices and head. I could not face the upheaval and retired. Our lab was very democratic with a consultant who respected the patients and the technicians – not always the case at the time.

In the last years of work I had become very aware of my age. When a young doctor came to plead for an urgent test that he forgot or neglected to request in good time, he (I do mean male doctors, I cannot say I noticed female Drs. behaving in the same way) scanned the office and made a bee line towards the young female technicians, ignoring me, though knowing full well that the final decision would be mine.

My first experience of being an old woman to keep away from.
http://archive.feedblitz.com/19938/~5949789/52631512/a9a6428b2915931db4262c0321a5bd15

EXILE

On my 83rd. Birthday

I read about the practice of helping Alzheimer patients by recreating the environment of their youth.
I think nostalgically of the inner courtyard of our house in Aleppo. There around a primus stove, mygrandmother taught the next generation of the women of the family     how to cook the preferred dishes.
I remember the well in the dark passage where in the basket at the end of the rope we placed the water melon and bottles of water to cool.
And the dark toilet at the end of the passage, where a sadistic uncle liked to tease us and threaten us with incarceration. And the kitchen off this passage where the dishes had to be cleaned perfectly for fear of the ire of the man of the house.

Also I remember the Lebanese mountains and the smell of pines in the forest. The unbearably blue sea, the walk to the beach with the rolled towel and swimsuit behind my older brother who never talked to me .

My exile to London was voluntary. I explored the country of my French culture. I did not fit in. Tried Manchester where some of our family had settled. The city impressed me for the kindness of the people but the skies were too dull. I tried Israel for its geography so similar to Syria and Lebanon but felt like an inferior being amongst the Europeans.

I  finished in London having chosen a kind, reliable and funny partner to live with.

But I think of all the old women whose exile has been involuntary and Le Mal du Pays a constant wound. How to restore to them when needed the atmosphere and environment of their youth???

CATARACT AND CHANGES AT 80+

My friend, long deceased, had told me about the experience of seeing the amazing brightening of colours after her cataract operation and even wrote a poem about it. Now some younger acquaintances mention this effect. But nobody told me that while the silver of my husband’s curls look shiny his face is old with lines and folds and wrinkles. Nobody told me that suddenly all white surfaces in the house look dirty, the curtains need washing, the bathroom tiles show black joins and I did not know that the carpets were so threadbare.
My face in the mirror tells me why people automatically assume that I need help, or ignore me something that surprised me often in the tube or the bus, in public.

I wish I had cataract of the mind. I wish I could not notice the effects of ageing: the struggle to find some words, the losing and finding, the repetition to the same person of some information, the too often referring to the past, the hurt of being dismissed, ignored, or plain disliked.

I will have to look for S.’s poem that I have filed away somewhere as irrelevant to me…