One foot down

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 6 January 2017

“An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing

For every tatter in its mortal dress.” (William Butler Yeats. “Sailing to Byzantium”, The Tower)

Above: William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)

Yesterday, working at Starbucks Bahnhof St Gallen, there was blood on my hands.

Out in the new Kiosk, or as I call it “the coffee coffin”, an elderly man asked me where the nearest public WC was.

No automatic alt text available.

In responding to his query I noticed a small bleeding cut on his forehead.

I told him…”continue along the platform…turn left around the corner…the loo on the other side of the railway station.”

Bahnhof St. Gallen bei Nacht, Juli 2014 (2).JPG
But he seemed confused…
I locked the Kiosk and followed him…to see him heading down the stairs the wrong direction from the toilets…
I shouted at him that he was going the wrong way.
He turned.
He fell down the stairs.
What started as a minor cut became a flood of blood pouring from his head.
Someone called an ambulance.
I returned to the Kiosk…feeling horrible.
Less significant but a part of the day was a repairman there to fix our climate control.
His walking on the roof sounded like the advancing footsteps of a principal on his way to punish someone…decisive, resounding, imminent…

Inside the Kiosk I washed my hands to remove the blood from the old man…but nothing could wash away the image of his fall down the cold stone steps…

It is with some appropriate irony that this accident has happened at a time when I am engrossed in reading The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old.

Amsterdam, Netherlands, Sunday 6 January 2013


“My dribbling keeps getting worse.

White underpants are excellent for highlighting yellow stains.

Yellow underpants would be a lot better.

I´m mortified at the thought of the laundry ladies handling my soiled garments.

I have therefore taken to scrubbing my soiled garments.

Call it a pre-prewash.

If I didn´t send out anything to be laundered it would arouse suspicion.

“You have been changing your underwear, haven´t you, Mr. Groen?”, the fat lady from housekeeping would probably ask.

What I´d like to reply is: “No, fat lady from housekeeping, this pair is caked so firmly onto the old buttocks that I think I´ll just keep wearing them for the rest of my days.”

It has been a trying day…

The body creaks in all its joints.

There´s nothing that will stop the decline.

At best you have the occasional day when you´re not bothered as much by this ache or that, but genuine improvement is not on the cards.


Hair isn´t suddenly going to start growing back.

(Not on the pate, at least.

It readily sprouts from the nose and ears.)

The arteries aren´t going to clear themselves out.

The bumps and lumps won´t go away, and the leaky nether parts aren´t going to stop dripping.

A one way ticket to the grave, that´s what it is.

You never grow younger, not by a day, nor an hour, not even a minute.

Look at me whining and moaning like an old crock.

If that´s where I´m headed, I might as well go and sit in the Conversation Lounge downstairs.

Whingeing is pastime #1 down there.

I don´t think half an hour goes by without somebody bringing up their aches and pains.

I do believe I´m in a rather sombre mood.

You´re supposed to enjoy your sunset years, but it bloody well isn´t always easy…”(The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old)

Barring unforeseen accident or disease, is this what I have to look forward to?

Mind you…

“Old age isn´t so bad when you consider the alternative.”(Maurice Chevalier)

Above: Maurice Chevalier (1888 – 1972)

“You know you´re getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.” (Bob Hope)

Bob Hope, 1978.jpg

Above: Bob Hope (1903 – 2003)

Other telltale signs that you´re getting old:

  • You stoop to tie your shoes and wonder what else you can do while you´re down there.
  • Your ears are hairier than your head.
  • Everything hurts, and what doesn´t hurt, doesn´t work.
  • You´re still chasing women, but can´t remember why.
  • Whenever you fall asleep, people worry that you´re dead.
  • You can remember cover versions of songs the first time around.
  • You can live without sex, but not without glasses.
  • Your knees buckle, but your belt won´t.
  • You have a party and the neighbours don´t even realise it.

“I´m at an age where my back goes out more than I do.”(Phyllis Diller)

Phyllis diller 2-25-2007.jpg

Above: Phyllis Diller (1917 – 2012)

There are age groups I have trouble understanding…

Two-year-olds and teenagers never seem contented…the former say “No” out of spite, the latter seem perpetually depressed about the inherant unfairness of a world that they didn´t make but yet are forced to somehow conform to.

Women in the midst of their “mental pause” are always difficult to comprehend, for one can never predict in which mad direction a woman´s changing hormones will drive her.

Living with a menopausal woman is a lot like being tied to the mast of a storm-tossed ship…

You hold on and hope you don´t sink along with the ever-changing current.

The elderly also puzzle me.

The older a person seems to get, often the more helpless that person gets, but adult pride, even after the loss of one or more of the senses and/or the loss of mobility, is the last remnant of character to go.

Finding that balance, that midpoint, where you show an elderly person respect and dignity yet are there to catch them should they fall, is akin to walking a tightrope across a chasm.

It is so easy to make a misstep.

The Walk (2015 film) poster.jpg

Above: The Walk (2015 film) poster

Sources: The Mammoth Book of Jokes / The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old / Wikipedia


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