Layabout Stands Up for Granny

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The production of “Finding Joy” by a wonderful quartet of actors from VAMOS was in London for two performances at Jacksons Lane Theatre during the 2014 Mime festival. I ordered four tickets before we left home on the grounds it would interest our English “cousins,”  now in their 80s, and if we didn’t understand what sounded to be very British humor, they could explain it to us.

 

 

VAMOS, it turns out, specializes in social issues. The theme of “Finding Joy” was aging and the problem of what to do with Grandma once she begins to act “funny.” This grandma slept with her handbag under her pillow (which I wish I had done more often). She wore a dish towel on her head and a plastic bag on her foot. She thought she had a dog. It was when she walked out into traffic that something had to be done. The useless teenager was the one who took her in — or, perhaps, agreed to let her take him in. As her carer.

One of the aspects of this production is the scenery, three “flats” which were in fact not flat at all. One was a cupboard for bedding and the beds, as well as furniture for the lounge. Another was the kitchen, and the audience could glimpse into the fridge from the side when it lit up upon opening. The third became a train carriage in Grandma Joy’s dream of being sent away during the Blitz.

Both Linda and I were crying at the end, acknowledging to one another that we had both cared for our mothers during their last years. We also acknowledged that soon Joy would be us. We didn’t examine the problem of which of our grandsons would be so wise as to care for us.

Two Potential Carers

Two Potential Carers

 

In fact, it wasn’t until today that I thought how different my world is from the average English family. Our grandchildren have callings. If they aren’t at school or university, they are working. One has children. Here the situation is similar for people in our professional class, but there still is an underclass of would-be layabouts. They can’t find work. They can’t pay for tuition. This is, in part, because the idea of attending college is a relatively new  for middle class families. Thirty years ago, only the best and brightest could get in.

During the intervening years, many schemes have been developed to get people educated to a higher level. At one point 15-20 years ago Oxford students were screaming bloody murder about the high costs of living and the infusion of bright underprivileged students — the wider net cast to include young people ordinarily left out.  Traditionally, Oxford (and Cambridge) student arrived through carefully cultivated and narrow channels, starting when they were very young to take steps toward a degree. Now the Comprehensives  were fishing grounds for raw genius.

For a take on Oxford in 2006, go to the “STUCK IN ENGLAND” PAGE OF THIS WEBSITE: OXCOLLS

Today things are not so straightforward. Yesterday it was announced a former child chess champion won his second fortune by selling  a company based on neuroscience. He has an PhD, but he didn’t get that until after he made his first fortune with video games. It was then, after he proved his brilliance, that he turned to the university in his 20′s to study computer science. I hope he has a deserving granny.

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