Pat is one of those people who can’t sit still. She is always doing something or planning something. She is a great list writer. She’s just been picking the last few apples off her Bramley tree before the much heralded storm hits and leaves them bruised on the ground. Earlier she was out in the village knocking on doors as part of her monthly routine to collect the regular contributions from her army of Oxfam supporters she has built up over the years. Later in the week she will welcome a group of friends into her home for their regular yoga session. Before she sits down with a cup of tea this evening she’ll phone up the members of her book club to remind them the meeting on Tuesday is starting early this week.
Fred takes things at his own pace. He always has to be fair, but even with his oesophagus cancer in remission he seems to have dropped down a gear or two lately. That hasn’t stopped him spending the afternoon going door to door for the Poppy Appeal. He’d done most houses the day before but made a note of those where no one was in and returned today in the hope of selling a few more. He’s now doing a final bit of work on the accounts for the very successful Autumn Fair – one of the biggest fund raisers for the Church where he is church warden – ahead of the PCC meeting a week on Monday.
Lou has had to rearrange a few things this summer. He had to go into hospital in May for a liver transplant. It knocked him back for a while. He had got some concerts lined up but had to postpone these while he got his strength back. Now he’s starting to write some new songs. He has eight in the bag already and is getting musicians together to join him in the studio soon to start recording. If all goes well then he’d like to get an album released early next year and get out on tour to promote it in the Spring. He’s done a number of interviews with radio and newspapers to start sharing his plans.
Pat and Fred met at school back in the late 1940s and have been married since 1960. They were both 75 this year. They’re my mum and dad.
Lou was born slightly later, in 1942. Sadly his plans will not come to fruition because he died on the 27th October. Lou of course is legendary musician Lou Reed.
Pat and Fred never met Lou. (Thanks to @ThomBartley for the photo….it’s like you were there.) In fact they’d probably never heard of him until they turned on their beloved Radio 4 on the morning of Monday 28th to listen to the Today Programme. My dad would have approved of Lou breaking up the Velvet Underground in 1970 to move back into his parents’ home and getting a ‘proper job’ in his dad’s tax accounting business. Very sensible. But otherwise they would have listened to the Lou Reed obituaries and thought they had little in common besides being of similar age.
But it turns out that Pat, Fred and Lou and millions of their generation have lots in common. For one thing they don’t think of themselves as old. They lead full and active lives – sometimes in spite of surviving serious illness – and are always planning the next ‘project’. They don’t see later life as something to be passively endured. They are active citizens who make a positive contribution to the lives of their love ones and those around them.
The recent report ‘Sex, skydiving and tattoos’ by Dr Emma Lindley and Steve Broome contains some fantastic insights into attitudes to ageing and how older people see themselves. Despite some mild criticism for implying that all older people should be doing extreme things like skydiving the report provides a thoughtful and thought provoking study that anyone involved in designing or providing services for older people should read.
Like many people my age my musical education involved a healthy dose of Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. I finally got to see him live only last year in Leamington Spa. He was great. As cantankerous and contrary as ever. We didn’t get an anodyne ‘greatest hits’ show performed by bored session musicians. In a two hour set he included a number of songs from the ‘difficult’ album Lulu he recorded with Metallica as well as reworkings of songs from across his career. Backing vocals were from the sublime Allison Weiss and the whole gig was as fresh as a daisy.
Too old to rock’n’roll? No chance.
I hope you enjoy this video of Lou Reed at The Assembly, Leamington Spa, on August 9th 2012 performing Senselessly Cruel (sic).