Let’s hear it for the curmudgeons by Trevor Plumbly
That’s me in the corner
I’ve never been much of a party fan, especially since sight loss, and in recent years I’ve invested a fair bit of effort into becoming a grump. Now I feel I am reaching my peak, as they say in sporting circles. Time was when grumpiness was considered an affliction, age related, brought about by arthritis, bladder problems and so-on, but, with a bit of cunning and dramatic talent chucked in, I reckon it could become an art form. You see there’s people out there I just can’t be bothered with these days, and the clock is ticking. They used to treat us grumps like slightly embarrassing accessories to family life, sticking us in a corner, force feeding us tea and biscuits, before retreating to whisper stuff like, ‘The old boy’s getting on a bit,’ or worse, ‘He’s had a good innings,’ as if we’re going to get bowled out next ball.
Christmas/New Year’s a tough time for grumps: the warm fuzzies are in full flood, ‘get togethers’ are practically mandatory and there’s an army of ‘chirpies’ swanning around with bonhomie oozing out of every pore, determined that no one should be left out of it. My white cane pulls the crusaders like a bloody magnet, most flush with conversational openers like the asinine, ‘I can’t imagine what it’s like.’ I usually say something ‘darkish’, there’s nothing like flippancy to kill silly dialogue. I gave up mingling at parties ages ago: swishing a white cane in one hand and sloshing Shiraz on the carpet with the other doesn’t make anyone a sought-after guest; self-containment is the best option. Even half decent grumps need to cut off small talk, but doing that at party time seems to attract attention. The best trick is to back yourself into a corner, that way the gleeful buggers can only come at you one at a time.
Less is more!
Once entrenched it’s best not to overdo the defensive strategy; the aim is a couple of snorts in reasonable seclusion, rather than trying for the more common, ‘socially toxic’ or ‘looney’. The best way to go is limited response. A muttered “hmm’ is a classic, it works in much the same way as a preface to medical diagnosis, an indication that depth of thought is lurking, partywise it indicates that you are waiting for the talker to say something worth considering.
It’s a great way to strand a ‘chatter’ as in my experience chirpy crusaders tire easily and soon shoot off early to troll for more responsive ears. Method B works particularly well with the current affairs addict: the trick here is to listen attentively, pause, drop a hmmm, before offering close door lines like ‘As for religion, I’ve always felt that sort of thing is best confined to personal thought.’ This lifts you out of the ‘rude bugger’ bracket into ‘reclusive thinker’ with the conversational rejects muttering stuff like, ‘Not much gets past that old boy.’
I’m sure heaps of really interesting people go to parties, but they always seem to be holding court elsewhere. I don’t want to pile on the grief, but, as the evening wears on, it gets tougher in the dugout; half drunks and bores having exhausted every one else’s party spirit seem to regard me like a sort of curtain call. With these I use the double hearing aid ploy, tapping them apologetically and muttering, sorry old thing the battery’s a bit flat. The last resort is the blindy stare followed by, ‘I may need to go the toilet at some stage; would you mind helping me?’ Works every time!
Phew! Having swapped greetings with what seems like half the city and returned to the safety of my armchair [mission control], I clutched a single malt to alleviate the emotional overdose.
It was then that I stumbled on a new entertainment. Whilst listening to the Rolling Stones, I realised it was time for the King’s Speech. I shuffled up close to get as much picture as I could, but couldn’t track the TV sound button or the Spotify control, so I was left with a fuzzy image of his Majesty seemingly belting out ‘I cant get no satisfaction’ from the Windsor Chapel. Thrilled with the discovery and the possibilities, I tried the Vienna Boys choir with the Village People’s ‘In the Navy’ and wow! It’s an entirely new world this stuff: Prince Harry voiced over with Paul Simon’s ‘The Boxer’ shouldn’t be missed. I’m struggling with Trump and Putin and any ideas would be welcome. I’ll happily leave the party goers to pee in each other’s pockets; I’m trying to work out whether the French President would best suit ‘Send in the Clowns’ or ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’.
Happy New Year!
You’re onto something here, Plum. For Trump & Putin I suggest you give Graham Bonnet a whirl: “It’s all over now, Baby Blue!” seems to have the right ring to it. Who knows, you could go down as the Kiwi Nostradamus…