Empty Nest Programming

Although I see old people going about their business every day, I don’t get much of a picture of what I will be like when I’m genuinely old. One of the few predictions I might make is that I will probably move quite slowly.

This thought was prompted by seeing an older guy making his way across the car park to Tesco, on Friday, just as I was coming out. He had a stick and he was moving at snail’s pace. It reminded me of when I was very very young and visiting my Granny’s house. The man next door, who was very old, used to walk to the end of his back garden and back on a little path that was carved out of the grass there. He moved exceedingly slowly and, to my five year old eyes, this seemed like the very worst thing in the entire world. At that age, I raced around everywhere that I went and the idea of the end of the back garden being the border of my world was a scary one. Now, though, on the threshold of sixty, the old man at Tesco holds less fear for me. Yes, he’s moving slowly but, hey, he’s getting there and why would he rush anyway? It’s not ideal, obviously, but it’s perhaps not too bad either.

The only other projection I might make about my impending old life, should I be lucky enough to get there, relates to my Sky box or whatever piece of kit will provide my TV entertainment in those slow, slow days ahead.

My Sky box will, almost certainly, be replete with certain programming. This, I feel, will definitely be the case. Here’s why.

We have an empty nest now, Patricia and I, and, with all respect to everybody, it’s rather nice. Yesterday was ideal. A sunny Saturday, doors and windows open, a bit of gardening (well… weeding), a nice G&T with some good quality T. Home made pizzas and baked potatoes, Eurovision, midnight playing-with-the-cat in the back garden and bed. Our empty nest, with our two guys off living their best lives, is A-OK.

But we miss them a bit too and it’s always fun when they come home, either individually or together. It's always a blast.

So... all good. You can tell, can’t you?

The only thing is there’s a small part of my brain that doesn't seem to have fully grasped the concept of my children having gone to live somewhere else. As a result, I keep saving TV programmes on the Sky box for us to watch together some time soon. I have quite a lot of these programmes. They sit there, a bit like a reprimand from a Harry Chapin song.

The programmes I might watch with the two guys are interchangeable, they both will watch the same things, but each also has his own programmes which seem more applicable to them than to the other. For John, it’s the quizzes. University Challenge and Only Connect. We both enjoyed a brace of these at any time. Sam would be firmly in on these sessions too, effortlessly batting away the bulk of music-based questioning. Back in the day, these quiz shows were the cornerstone of any Monday night viewing. Taskmaster is also a firm favourite. Patricia likes Taskmaster too and University Challenge, but Only Connect rather gives her the ick. She tends to come in magically just as the wall part is starting and is okay with it from there on.

For Sam, it would be gigs and concerts and Jools Holland in particular. Jools’ effortless eclecticism meant that there was always something worth seeing on there and Sam and I would enjoy the laid back musicality of it all. As for concerts, David Byrne’s American Utopia sat on the Sky Box for well over a year before we found a quiet couple of hours to enjoy it. The new David Bowie documentary will similarly linger on Netflix until such time as we get our act together once again.

These types of shows all used to be avidly watched by us as soon as they came out. Now they linger on the Sky box, amassing numbers, and waiting for the faithful day when we will all watch them together.

The boys (men) are up and down to us occasionally. They come and go intermittently. And when they’re here, we catch up on some of the old programmes. The final Paxman season of University Challenge still has lots of shows to go and Jools is still deep in lockdown days at his piano. We get a few in when one or the other of the guys show up for a weekend but it’s clear that’s we’ll never again fully catch up.

Why don’t I watch these programmes myself and with Patricia? On the surface, they’re just more fun when watched with Patricia and the guys, the quizzes in particular. It’s nicer to have a full house when you get some obscure question right or miss out on one by a whisker. On a deeper level, perhaps there’s a bit of nostalgia there. The shows sit there, not in the vain hope that they will all be viewed again one day. That would be a backward step and not something to be lightly wished for. Perhaps they sit there as a tribute to the good times, in youth and also in lockdown, when we would convene of an evening for a quiz, a Taskmaster, or a Jools, drink some tea, and have a biccie.

So the empty nest is great. It’s where we want to be now. The Sky box is nothing more than a gentle reminder of how a certain thing used to be and will be again… but only very occasionally.

And this is all I can see of old age for now. A slow walk back from the end of the garden, to make sure that all the favourite shows are still intact on my recording device.

Waiting to be enjoyed.

1 comment:

Jim Murdoch said...

My daughter turns forty-three this year so she’s been out on her own a long time. I only had her fulltime for about a year after she left her mum’s and, of course, I was with Carrie by then so it was a different dynamic. Her mother left me when our daughter was two so for all the intervening years I was a parttime dad, not a role I had ever relished or was suited to. I had wanted to be a family and delighted to have a child. Only seeing my daughter once a fortnight was not part of the plan. But we muddled through because that’s what you do. I did have stepchildren for a few years but, again, they were STEPchildren so things weren’t the same. But we muddled through. Lot of muddling over the years, Ken, lot of muddling. Technically I have a couple of stepchildren now but as Carrie’s son is only ten years younger than me trying to play dad was never going to work there but we’re friendly enough, share stuff about comics on Facebook mostly. Her daughter thinks I use too many words and she’s probably right. I watch happy families in TV sitcoms, the ones where no one locks their doors and people just waltz in, and I kinda wish I’d had that except that is really what my childhood was like, in fact old Mrs Summerville from No.6 would just wander into our kitchen whenever the mood took her. I just remember it differently, less idyllically.