Quite along time ago we pointed out (here and here) just how much power us grumpy old bastards have if we only chose to use it. One of readers, CW, evidently took this to heart. He writes ...
Hi Captain Grumpy,
Just thought I'd let you know about a large sign posted around by Bradford Council, no doubt paid for by us, which annoyed me recently.
It was posted around pedestrian precincts and on roadsides. It said something like 'Are you wearing your seatbelt?' Then a footnote saying something like 'You are 50% more likely to die in an accident if you are not wearing one' etc.
Well these signs irritated me especially as I'm not wearing one whilst walking around town. I made up the following notice, and stuck it with Sellotape to all the signs I could find, replacing each as they were torn off.
ALL the seatbelt signs were removed after a few days. I class that as a kind of victory.
The man's a hero, in our book. Why the hell aren't more of us out there being a bloody nuisance to the petty little Hitlers who want to rule our lives and tell us what to do?
Journalist Allison Pearson evidently agrees. As she wrote this week in the Daily Mail ...
As crimes go, this one certainly wasn't up there with the Great Train Robbery. But it does perhaps signify a changing mood in society. Senior citizens have been accused of pilfering Rich Teas from the Odeon cinema in Leicester, which runs special discount screenings every Wednesday for OAPs.
Tickets are a very affordable £3.45, and include complimentary refreshments. The trouble started when some of the 'mature guests' indulged in queue-jumping, were rude to the ushers and shamelessly stuffed their pockets with free bikkies, when they were supposed to take only one each.
We expect pensioners to be, well, old enough to know better. They are the polite ones who wouldn't dream of putting their feet up on train seats. Now, it's the old in increasing numbers who are encouraging each other to stick two fingers up at officialdom.
When pensioners Brian and Wendy Rudin were found guilty this week of claiming benefits they were no longer entitled to after winning £72,000 on the Lottery, readers on the Mail website, perhaps surprisingly, rallied to their defence. Instead of being aghast at the deceit, the general view was that here was a pair of poor pensioners trying to hang on to some security for their old age, at a time when the elderly are underfunded and overlooked. 'You can't feed a dog on what you get in pensions,' fumed one reader.
Pensioners aren't fools. They can see that, despite making decades of National Insurance contributions, they are treated as third class citizens by the NHS. Half of doctors admit hospitals are ' institutionally ageist'. The elderly are far less likely to get a proper diagnosis and essential treatment. And when scandals are exposed, who really gives a damn if the victims are OAPs?
The Government has rejected repeated calls for a public inquiry into the unexpected deaths of 92 elderly patients at a hospital in Gosport, Hampshire. They claim it's 'not of national importance'. Imagine the furore if 92 thirty-somethings had died at a single hospital.
In the week we learned that older stroke patients miss out on vital brain scans, it emerged that one Amanda Ryan, aged 16, was given a £4,000 boob job on the NHS. A counsellor put her forward for the operation because 'the stress of being flat- chested was making Amanda grumpy'. Ye gods! Victor Meldrew would explode.
It was the older generation that behaved prudently during the crazy, stick-it-on-the-plastic boom years. Cruelly, they are now the worst casualties of the bust. Half a million pensioners have been plunged into poverty by the savage interest rate cuts. Many rely on income from savings for survival. Others have lost treats such as mini-breaks and trips with the grandchildren that are the sunshine in life as the shadows close in.
Even more wounding than loss of income is the loss of dignity and respect. I cried during Monday's Panorama, which had an interview with Margaret Haywood, the nurse who blew the whistle on the grotesque neglect of geriatric patients and has been sacked for her compassion. Margaret read out a letter she carries in her handbag. Addressed to her children and grandchildren, it lists all the things Margaret would like to be done if she ever finds herself as fragile and afraid as the men and women whose suffering she witnessed. The requests on the list were pathetically modest - adequate pain relief, not being left to lie in your own faeces, someone to hold your hand. Yet even these simple marks of humanity can no longer be taken for granted by the elderly and infirm.
'I hope I die before I'm old.' That's what Frank Sinatra once said to an interviewer. How many of us in Britain in 2009 would echo Old Blue Eyes's fearful sentiment? Our old people are angry, and they have a right to be. Denied a proper slice of the cake, they are fed up with getting the crumbs. And that betrayal really does take the biscuit.
Quite agree, Allison. It's almost enough to make us forgive you for writing that article "Jade Goody and Princess Diana had so much in common". Unfortunately some things are unforgivable, and that was one. Keep trying, though.
But there is a serious point here. The girl's right, pensioners aren't stupid. In fact, many of them are far more intelligent than even she is giving them credit for. Some of us have far more intellectually demanding things in our lives than cheap cinema tickets and free biscuits, thank you very much. We sing in choirs, we write books, we study at the Open University, we restore old cars and aeroplanes, we run websites, we build boats and sail them - we could be a force to be reckoned with, and there are more and more of us every day.
The one thing we have in common is time - we don't have to go to work so we could, if we could only summon up the moral fibre, take a stand on all sorts of issues that are an affront to rational members of society - the culture of bullying in local government, the callous disregard for common decency and the will of the electorate we observe among MPs, the rotten service we get from public utilities, the intolerable behaviour of louts on our housing estates - and simply make a tedious nuisance of ourselves until we wear the bastards down and force them to give in and behave properly.
It's sad that after a lifetime in gainful employment and uncomplaining contribution to the public coffers, we have to get off our backsides and start yet another fight, but it needs doing and we're the right people for the job - a few of us are old enough to be proud that we met Hitler with bloody-minded obstinacy, others successfully fought Thatcher's iniquitous poll tax. When the chips have been down we didn't step back from a fight. If enough of us could only recognise the threats we face now, we could do it all again.
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