There’s a theory that’s been doing the rounds for a long time that the way to keep happy and healthy in retirement is to keep active. We’ve been taking this well-known cliché on board quite a bit lately. Keeping busy, as well as being hopefully enjoyable in its own right, has the added advantage of making it more difficult to do all that agonising about whether what you’re doing is the right thing/s. It’s probably a version of that old saying never mind the quality, feel the width, or at least as I understood those (is it Jewish?) wise words. Not sure about the healthy side of things but that’s tied up with the diabetes and so the topic of another blog. So, yes, we’ve been doing a bit recently. Attending a Guardian course, more of which later, going out for breakfast every couple of weeks, trying to attend the odd gig and then, on Tuesday night, going to the theatre. See end of blog for my own photo of the theatre, it tells you a lot.
I don’t very much like the theatre, it makes me nervous. I worry you see that something will go wrong and that, unlike with film or TV, there’s no editing it out. The actors forgetting or fluffing their lines, tripping over an errant prop, a bit of scenery refusing to move in the right direction and so on and so forth. It makes me very tense and this is before I worry about our seats or more to the point, the people sitting in them, you know, will they be rowdy? I will come back to them in a moment. You might have thought that the prime requisite for a seat in the theatre would be that it is quiet. Last night’s seats were not quiet, not at all, in the quiet parts of the play they squeaked and squawked like demented banshees. OK, I exaggerate slightly but then I am very sensitive to noises in public places. Normally it’s the humans that bother me – people talking too loud in pubs and restaurants, tinny earphones on buses, pulsating bass in passing cars, people on motorbikes, well, you get the idea, but last night it was the squeaking of the seats that distracted me.
They say young people have attention problems these days. They couldn’t be worse than me, I have an attention span of three or four seconds before my mind has wandered on ahead or to the side or backwards and the thing is I cannot then remember what I was supposed to be / had been thinking about. Alzheimer’s here we come? Often it’s like a dream you remember when you first wake up and gradually it slips away and the harder you try the more it slips into obscurity. So last night’s play at The Grand in Leeds was not an entirely happy experience for me. Hats off to Mrs Summerhouse for setting up our visit. She had seen the play advertised and, in line with our new policy of doing stuff, had ordered our tickets and there we were. Without any people in it it’s a beautiful building.
She knows I don’t like to sit in the middle of a row, a combination of not being able to get to the toilet and mild claustrophobia (yes, I’m a mess aren’t I?), so she booked aisle seats. The only problem being that these particular aisle seats were under the balcony and you couldn’t see the left-hand side of the stage where at least one murder took place. But not a problem because, as the theatre was not full, it was easy to move from one set of squeaky seats to another where the view was better. I say better but not perfect but that was because we were so far back that the actors were a bit blurry even wearing my glasses. Hearing the spoken words was also difficult so I really needn’t have worried about the actors fluffing their lines. Not for the first time, in the boring bits, I mused that this ‘doing stuff’ policy was not without its challenges.
The real bonus of being as far back, as we were, apart from presumably the cheapness of the seats (I did not ask how much Mrs SH paid for the tickets in case she thought I was being critical, an impression she had already got from my mildly complaining about the seats) and easy access to the toilet, was that you had a marvellous view of the audience. To be brutally honest you didn’t need lighting in there because the amount of grey hair or bald heads lit the place up a treat. At a conservative estimate I would say 90% of the audience was over 70. Maybe it wasn’t the seats creaking, it could have been the audience’s aching bones. Watching them afterwards cross the road to their hired coach I feared that many would not make it to the other side. Why did the elderly person cross the road? Well, that’s where the bus was. Once again, in the boring bits, I gazed on these people and asked myself – is this my tribe?
You may be wondering what the play was that took us out on this wet night in Leeds. Let me explain. The clue is in the photo above. There is a page in the Saturday Guardian colour supplement, Starters Q & A, and one question is what is your guiltiest pleasure? Mine, or one of mine at least, is the mindless reading of detective / crime fiction generally and Agatha Christie specifically when the mood takes me. To be honest the mood never did really take me to go to the theatre, but, given Mrs SH had gone to the trouble of having the idea and seeing it through, it would have been churlish of me to have been ungrateful.
The play was called And then there were none, a much retitled book and ultimately play which began as ‘10 Little ‘Ns’ word’, to ‘10 Little ‘Is’ word and now the above. Why there are only 7 of the actors in the photo I really couldn’t say perhaps 3 of them had already been murdered when the photo was taken. It’s a clever book, great plot, but frankly it does not make a great play. It’s all too wordy and well, theatrical. It’s a quiet play apart from when ten, or was it eleven people, were murdered, bound to be a bit of noise there apart of course from the ones that died in their sleep. It did not hold my attention even though, knowing the plot, I had forgotten who it was that wasn’t dead really. It certainly would not have held the attention of any young person, that is younger than 70 in this case. If Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet was described by one critic as Hamlet for Kids, this was definitely not Agatha Christie for kids. There was no filming of the performance in their iPhones here. This was not the iPhone generation.
So altogether a bit of a disappointment. It sometimes seems that the harder we try to lead an active retirement, the more it feels like running to stand still and that’s not easy at my age. But we keep going with our busy days and, in this case, admittedly rare, nights.
And so on the theme of keeping active in retirement, a blatant plug for any of you who happen to be in Yorkshire this Saturday, a reminder that Mrs SH is opening up her working space – the barn and the vineyard – to discerning customers or better still those with money to spend on art. So yes, we do keep busy, we are active in retirement, whether we’re doing the ‘right’ things I really couldn’t say.