Grumpy Old Man Part One

Yesterday I got on a very crowded 26 bus home; I made my way upstairs. At the top of the stairs I realised there were no seats to be had. I was standing there perplexed when a cheerful lady, in a North of England accent loudly said ‘Would you like this seat?’ I was stunned: here it was – a person was offering me a seat on the bus because I was OLD. Aaaaaargh. 

‘Thank you,’ I said, ‘but I’m fine.’

Rather disconcertingly, she responded, ‘I’m 45.’

I’m still wondering what she wanted me to say. I said ‘Impossible’ which pleased her but I wish I had said ‘I’m a well preserved 92’.

Anyway, it does make you think. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that getting older, like retirement, is a state of mind, one to be firmly resisted. Some people do this through exercise regimes, determined, often a bit grim, cyclists of 72 setting out on three day runs; tenacious centenarians finishing marathons; Doris (86) at the top of Everest etc etc. Well, folks, that was never going to be me. I think my continuing association with younger people serves to keep me young: today I will go from tea with a lady of 82 to a drink with a man of 25. I also benefit from a great deal of assistance from Kiehls; my goodness how their faces light up when I enter that shop.

Still, it doesn’t stop me from being grumpy, grumpy about many, many things. People on buses and on trains talking inanely into their phones, and sometimes even having the person on the other end audible too. I like to talk, as you may know, but I don’t on public transport. Other people’s music makes me rage. People eating in cinemas. Spitting in the street. Roadworks, roadworks everywhere, so they can put in wires the purpose of which I do not even really understand.

When I was a teenager, pop music was my raison d’etre. I was devoted to the charts and to ‘Top of the Pops’. But reaching this point in my life means of course I am beginning to fail to understand modern culture: the badly written modern novel; reality TV (I mean, really clever people [to use an outdated and prejudicial expression of which I, as a former teacher, should be ashamed] watch ‘Love Island’ – what is that? Just sexual sublimation?) but most of all today’s music. I more or less hate rap. And as someone who was devoted to the singer-songwriters of the 1970’s – Joni, Carole, James, Buffy, Melanie, John Stewart – everything I hear from today’s bunch sounds exactly the same. There are exceptions – Phoebe, Henry and a few others – but most of it, selling in zillions, is a relentless confection of the same sugar. How, I wonder as I rub more hydrator onto my liver-spotted skin, has this happened? 

I could – and will – go on about this. I will at some point devote a whole piece to the wholesale misuse of language that bedevils us. But of all these things that come with modern life (and of course there are oodles of good things too, especially Netflix, the year round availability of blueberries and actual decent restaurants in Edinburgh) nothing irritates me more than cold calling.

I imagine that everyone reading this will now have had a call informing them that they have been in a road accident. I am a terrible driver, and every time this happens – which is about once a week – I stop and think. Imagine how this must be for actual elderly people, who are, perhaps, close to the ends of their driving career, and may not be blessed with great memories. They may even think it’s true.

Recently, I was called just at the right moment. I was in a benevolent, cheery mood and did not have any pressing engagements. The nice gentleman told me I had been in an accident and, instead of hanging up, I immediately acquiesced. He seemed pleased. Rather oddly, given that he knew I had been in an accident, he was a little short on detail – the date and time of the accident, its location, even the registration number of my car. He had been supplied, he assured me, only with a phone number to call. He pressed me for details, so I made them up, expressing my pleasure that someone was, at last, helping me deal with this problem, because my insurance company was refusing to compensate me for the injury to my pet orangutan. The gentleman was not disconcerted by this, and wanted more so I continued: the problem was not so much the physical injuries (minor damage to the nose) but that I feared for Stanley’s psychological well-being – Stanley simply being a name that sprung to mind [I only know one Stanley, and he is a fine fellow]. My orangutan was of a nervous and sensitive disposition I continued, and was now off his food.

I was spinning some further lies about the diet of the orangutan, when the guy on the phone realised I was taking the piss, and, ironically, actually complained about his time being wasted, as if he was phoning on behalf of The Refugee Council. I began a short lecture on the availability of work with good causes, and he abruptly cut me off. Tellingly, I have received no more calls, so I recommend you construct a good story now. Maybe these calls will dry up, and grumpy old men (and women, who can, I understand, occasionally be grumpy) will have one less thing to complain about!



  1. Brilliant Cameron as ever and so much time gs true with me. Love your response to the accident phone call- reminds me of the lady who strung along a cold caller trying to sell her a conservatory extension. All went well until towards the end of the lengthy discussion in style, prices etc she gave her address to enable a representative to come to measure up and give a quote. When she said she was in flat 4 on the eleventh floor he unsurprisingly slammed the phone down.
    Must think up a good story for my next uninvited call. X


  2. We are 100 pc with you on this. Ironically, the other half got such a call today – a loft survey. We’re a ground-floor Edinburgh tenement… so no intricate take necessary; just the truth. Ian wished “Leo” luck in his quest and hung up. 😁


  3. I found this very refreshing to read! After a drizzly festival-busily day in Edinburgh!
    I also loved reading your book …and reading the first chapter to my husband…..who enjoyed it too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Its 10 to 2am…..Mr Wyllie’s book is very good company!……laughing so much I’ll have to read some more!


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