It is so civilized to recognize that one is old, so English. Mary Sharp is a spritely, frank, practical English lady, retired, and almost 60. She has lively, vivid opinions and wobbly upper arms and lives in a not very nice part of West London with a sweet young lodger. Five of her friends have died this year. The rest are about to die, one way or another. But dying is not the point: being old is the point. As she announces at a ghastly dinner part after asking the hostess to move the penis shaped flowers (“But I can’t see you, darling!”):
If you’re sixty, you’re sixty. Sixty is old. I’m just longing to be old and I don’t want to be told I’m young when I’m not. I’m fed up with being young. Boring. I was young in the sixties. … When I was 20, 60 was old. When I was 30, 40 and 50, 60 was still old and I’m not going to change the goalposts now….
And when her hostess says: “But I don’t feel a day over 30,” Mary responds:
But Marian, don’t you realize that that’s tragic? To continue feeling 30 for the whole of your life? So boring! A nightmare! I’m longing to feel sixty! What’s wrong with that?
And so Mary is happy to turn 60, to join the 7 million grannies in England involved in child care, to master the technology necessary to babysit an infant:
I tried everything…. I picked him up and sang to him… I offered him more milk… The only way I could calm him down was to walk him round the flat talking nonstop and pointing things out to him… Let’s look at these nice bannisters…. OOh! Here’s a mirror . I an see Gene in there, and granny’s looking a bit distraught and knackered, isn’t she? And now …. We looked out the window and watched all the cars…. occasionally people would pass by. Look, Gene, I would say in my gentle voice: there’s a man in a hood. He’s probably a mugger. He’s a naughty man, isn’t he? And look! There’s a nice drug dealer the other side of the road. He’s making lots and lots of money selling people heroin…..”