Random Play by Graham Reid


Age shall not weary me

I believe I accept my aging with alacrity. After all, whatcha gonna do about it? And as far as I can tell it seems better than that which awaits me when it’s over. In that regard I have even written my own obituary: “Having achieved the inevitable, he went Elsewhere”.

What I didn’t expected however was the sudden onset of aging. This came to me not from my doctor whom I rarely trouble, but from Television One News last night.

In their teaser for the upcoming items the voice-over from Bernadine Oliver-Kerby spoke of an “elderly” woman who died after being mauled by dogs. Tragic, so I tuned in.

In the subsequent item however we were told the woman was aged 56. So, 56 equals "elderly" these days, does it?

This was alarming news to me who expects to celebrate that happy day in a couple of months. And doubtless it will be a shock to Bruce Springsteen (a positively decrepit 57) and our own mountain-climbing -- but elderly -- Prime Minister (also 57) who, when I said hello to her on Saturday morning as she strode purposefully and in obvious good health into her electorate office, seemed positively chipper despite her advanced years.

Aren’t these elderly people quite remarkable?

Golly, Sir Edmund Hillary lead a jetboat expedition up the Ganges when he was 57 -- and dude, that is, like, “elderly, plus one”.

A week ago I was a guest commentator on Newstalk ZB with Michelle Boag and the topic of cuts to the news and current affairs staff at One came up. Amidst the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the media at that time -- and blatant hypocrisy spouted by some who were once gainfully employed there, and someone who also fired staff thus allowing the barbarians to walk through the gate -- it seemed to me a great question remained unasked.

The argument about how news and current affairs would now be kneecapped seemed, as I said on radio, predicated on the assumption that One’s crews were doing a sterling job in these areas anyway.

I beg to differ. Television news on both channels is the bit that comes before sport, and no matter how weighty the day’s events we will always turn to lengthy sports coverage then inane and equally lengthy blather about the weather.

And often the news is taken up with the two easiest things to cover: crime (and I include accidents) and . . . you guess it, the weather.

Crime is almost invariably (like accidents) after-the-event stuff: shoot the scene, get the comment from witness and police, back to the studio. Weather is much the same: stand the presenter in the parched or flooded field, tell the drama, interview the farmer or affected household, back to the studio.

What we are also seeing a lot of on our ”news” is the teaser for the item on Close Up or 20/20 or whatever later: that’s called an ad in my book.

And are those current affairs programmes much better? Ask yourself.

So I have a pretty low expectation of what is on television news and current affairs these days. A point I made on radio however is that these cuts will affect what we might call corporate memory at One, the wisdom within an organisation accrued over the years and invariably stored in the heads of its employees. Older employees.

It is unreasonable and unfair to expect young journalists to have a knowledge of arcane social or political matters, of historic precedents, relevant gossip or even a good list of contacts -- that stuff belongs to those who have been around a bit. To lose that from within a company -- and perhaps particularly within one which deals with news and current affairs -- is a considerable cost.

I doubt any of those cuts have taken place at One yet, so where does this idea that 56 is elderly come from?

If it is from the script by the presenter or news reader then those people might just have to consider the uncomfortable corollary: if 56 is elderly then by definition they, a significant number of All Blacks, Warriors, Black Ferns and so on -- all their fashionable friends even -- must now be described as middle-aged.

Okay, I have some sympathy with those who are sick of people like myself, baby boomers as it were. We are hanging around far too long and being in Peter Pan-like denial about getting old. It is to the great chagrin of some I suppose that people like me are still active and working, and our presence is just plain irksome. They may even dislike the fact we use words like chagrin, irksome, corollary and alacrity -- and know what they mean.

But at almost 56 I am still here, and given the life expectancy of people today I am not, as the dictionary definition of elderly says, “past middle age”. That will come later. I hope.

Maybe I was just being overly sensitive: I am aging and don’t go to see quite as many rock bands as I used to (maybe two or three a month) and I don’t jog the length of Stanmore Bay as my father did at the same age. (I do still swim in the sea, did so today in fact).

But even as an elderly person I can get around pretty well unaided. I travel as often as I can and stay in uncomfortable lodgings or get into dangerously small aircraft.

My house has three flights of stairs and I don’t feel twinges going up, I don’t suffer from health issues of any kind, and my eyes are as good as they ever were.

My hearing is pretty acute for an elderly person too: I can still pick up bullshit.

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