Before I had reached spotty-faced teendom I, like every other boy of my generation, owned a Scalextric track. We weren’t well off so my track was of the classic no frills, figure of eight variety where a racing green and a red car raced each other around the circuit with endless monotony. I can’t imagine there was much of a thrill for the little plastic drivers; they knew that around the bend was another bend and so on and so on. The scenery never changed and they couldn’t veer from the groove that kept them a safe distance from each other except from when they negotiated the dangerous crossover bit. In truth, the only excitement was when our collie dog plodded across the track like a chaos causing furry mutant monster.
Some people’s lives seem to be no different from those little plastic racing drivers. They’re born and someone sticks them in a little groove that leads all the way through school, work, meeting someone, getting married, having 2.4 children, buying a house in suburbia and so on and so on. But in their case the circuit doesn’t go on for evermore, it ends when the groove in the track runs out at a polished wooden box beside an ominous hole in the ground.
I’m not knocking it, mostly we all live a variation of being socially conditioned otherwise life would be very anarchic. But it can be depressing when people take it too far and forget that they’re individuals by living their lives like a human version of painting by numbers. I saw it this week on the way to watching Manchester United give a master-class in football. A woman in her thirties pushed a pram in front of her which presumably had the latest addition to her family. At her side was a girl of about three or four, who was pushing a pram with a baby doll in it. She was being placed firmly in that groove from a very early age.
But what really started me off on this was a thread on Tripadvisor which said something like ‘What is there for grandparents to see and do on Tenerife’.
What the hell does that mean? Is there some sort of rulebook handed out to people when they become grandparents that says ‘that’s it guys, no more late nights gallivanting at pubs and clubs. No more Kings of Leon, from now on it’s Tony Bennett or nought…and as for sex you can forget all that business from here on in.’
I was tempted to clarify by replying ‘I’m not sure what you’re asking. Are you asking where are the nice benches so you can sit looking vacantly out to sea, the shops where you can rent a Zimmer frame and the best places to buy bovril?’
I just don’t know what it means.
Are there similar rule books handed out when someone reaches fifty? I’ve seen that one on more than one occasion – ‘what is there to do for a couple in their fifties?’ Sometimes it’s even ‘what is there to do for a lively couple in their fifties?’ By asking that question it reveals that they really aren’t ‘lively’ in the slightest.
Surely what you like is determined by who you are not by an undiscerning label?
I’m really tempted to start a thread on one of these forums that asks ‘what is there for a blue-eyed redhead with flat feet to do in…?’ and see what happens.
I’m afraid I must have been bunking off somewhere when these rulebooks were handed out as it’s never crossed my mind that when I reach certain milestones in age that I have to start behaving in a preordained way. Stuff that for a game of soldiers. Others can live their lives on a Scalextric track. I much prefer the idea of being like one of those chunky all-terrain toy vehicles that when you set it running it bounces of walls and rocks and changes direction never sure of exactly where it’s going to end up when the Duracells run out.