Having granted myself some extra ‘spare time’* by posting less often on my blog, I am now faced with the quandary of how to profitably deal with all of those vacant hours. In the certain knowledge that I will return to the fruitless pounding of computer keyboard in the very near future, I am loathe to stumble down the primrose path to pastimes anew – I have thought about fishing, but the only thing that really appeals is the sitting on the riverbank doing nothing for hours on end. I would be most put out if anything decided to take my bait, particularly if it meant that I had to remove something slimy and sentient from a hook. I fantasise about picking up the paint brush, but each time I do, my wife say, ‘Brilliant, you can start with the kitchen.’ In my mind I am sure that my current mental inertia is even more time-limited than my ability to carry the grandkids around on my shoulders all day, so what I need is something to fill the empty hours that is not too onerous, not too taxing, not too expensive and doesn’t involve me in any kind of physical activity that just might mean that my enhanced access to free time actually merely adds up to an end to it. I am, in short, watching an awful lot of daytime TV.
Daytime TV, it appears to me, exists for only one reason: to prepare you for death. Nothing intensifies the experience of passing years and increased decrepitude like a couple of hours spent in front of some half-remembered detective yarn from the 1960’s, a 1970’s sitcom in which the ‘isms are so often displayed that it makes your brain hurt, or a coven of middle aged misandrists who believe that all manner of noisome wrongs can be righted by simply shouting louder. Nothing, that is, except the adverts that punctuate the effluvial flow at five-minute intervals, at a volume that all but ensures injury in the dash for the remote control.
If you have never craved a stairlift, you will almost certainly do so after you are shown how simple they are to fit to almost any staircase and how transformative they can be. How easy it is to glide sedately heavenward at a speed that will almost certainly ensure you have forgotten why you were going by the time you get there. Such is the allure of the slow-motion ascent that I envision millions of ageing bungalow-dwellers trading in their single-level abodes for an upper-story simply so that they can avail themselves of Messrs Stanna’s finest and cruise upwards with cup of tea, linen, or a bouquet of cut flowers at a pace befitting their age and the elasticity of time.
That is if they have not already released the equity in their home, of course. The knowledge that the equity release company’s representatives – whose sole task it is to sell you their product – will ‘even tell you if it is not right for you’, is comforting indeed. Everyone loves the warm embrace of a commissioned salesperson.
Of course, you might not be tempted to sell your home for half of its value if you have previously fitted a stair lift with, at the top of its stately rise, a doody little bath with a door in it. Strip off, step in, sit down and wait to be enveloped by the gently rising waters – as long as you don’t succumb to hypothermia in the meantime. In a world of fuel-poverty, there can be few better ideas than encouraging those of advancing years to sit naked in the bathroom, waiting for the water to rise to waist-level and, having bathed, wet and naked whilst it drains. Clean in both life and death, it is win/win, as long, of course, as the deceased has taken out a Funeral Insurance Plan.
And who could resist the lure of happy, smiling septuagenarian friends discussing how much better their lives have become since ensuring their relatives will have no expensive funeral bills to face? Filling in the form is clearly great fun – I suppose that compared to the alternative of Classic Emmerdale, it might well be – as they laugh a lot, especially when one of them admits to having a over-abundance of parsnips this year. The insurance company will even send you one of those new-fangled ballpoint pens just for enquiring. You can bin the quill. Send them your bank details and you will have a friend for life.
That is not, though, to say that the daytime advertisers expect all of their viewers to be housebound. Despite our reputation for impulse-buying everything we could ever need from QVC, they realise that we, the ancient ones, may still have to venture out from time to time: perhaps to have the Velcro renewed on our shoes or to loudly discuss with the doctor’s receptionist which slot we should put the sample in. Indeed, they are very keen that we should get out and about. So keen, in fact, that they have created a myriad ways in which we can do so: three-wheeled, four-wheeled, five-wheeled, collapsible and de-luxe versions that remotely load themselves into the boot of your car providing it is the size of a bus and has a similar amount of free space for the ramp (not included) behind it. As a species, it would seem, we are not designed to walk past retirement. We are designed to weave manically through a peripatetic maze of pedestrian and on-coming vehicle whilst grappling with the calculation of multi-driveway power loss viz the possibility of getting back home without having to be dragged there by the AA or the surly offspring of the next door neighbour who has nothing better to do since he lost his balaclava. The information that a battery is available that will get you to the shop and back, but is of such a size that you will need a second vehicle to carry it, is always in the smallprint, which, of course, you will not be able to read unless you have just ordered your new on-line varifocals with guaranteed comfort fit and a fully recyclable cleaning cloth at no extra charge.
Myself, I now get all my exercise via the little vibrating footpad advertised and, I am certain, regularly utilised by Sir Ian Botham. It does make the TV picture a little blurry, but when you’re watching episodes of Dr Finlay’s Casebook that are older than you are, it barely matters and, if you keep on watching, they are almost certain to come up with a product to rectify it sooner or later…
*There is, of course, no real way to increase the time available to you – other than a deal with the Devil – if it was possible to buy extra time by doing nothing, I would probably live forever.