Oh, We Do Like To Die Beside The Seaside

Riding in Berkshire, I passed an old people’s home today, near which a very old, frail-looking lady – under a blanket, head lolling, eyes closed – was being pushed in her wheelchair by someone I took to be her son. It wasn’t a happy sight; I don’t know if they were out and about for her benefit or his.

Passing the home itself – modern, purpose built – I could see a room full of elderly people, several of them looking out over not a lot. I don’t know if it’s fanciful and unfair to suspect they were bored and just killing time. That’s how it appeared.

On Thursday I was down near Christchurch, on the coast. It was a warm sunny day but summer holidays are over, schools are open again and most people are back at work too, so a large majority of the people around were obviously, visibly a long way on the other side of the retirement age (whatever that might be). There were people who were active – walking, looking after grandchildren, even swimming; there were a few to be seen slumped, asleep and looking – let’s say – less than elegant in their slumber. There were several just sitting and reading.

On balance, yes, obviously enough, the prospect of an old age by the sea looks far more desirable than one cooped-up in an inland home. I know that’s quite probably so much bull; Charli met someone who’d lived down that way and described the places along the coast as either God’s Waiting Rooms or God’s Departure Lounges. I’ve been there on that coast on a grey and cold day and it’s bleak in all regards; no place to be for anyone but the most sound of mind and stout of heart.

I’ve no useful conclusion. I am sure the notion of retiring to the seaside is often disappointing in practice. I’m sure the idea of ending up in a care home is no-one’s ideal way to spend the last few years of life.

The only definite is that something must be wrong with how we are organizing ourselves if getting old is so uncertain and essentially unattractive.

Lately, the more I ride and look around me, with cycling affording me just one small step aside from the mainstream rat-race, the more I find myself concluding that things are radically, fundamentally wrong. Perhaps more people ought to ride a bike.

Everything you need for a day at an English beach

Everything you need for a day at an English beach