Sunday, 23 August 2015

Stairway to heaven

When I was little, one of my grandmothers lived in a bungalow, and the other lived in a house, with a staircase. And one day, I remember one of my parents - I don't remember which - casually saying that this was sensible on the part of bungalow-Gran, as it meant she would be able to carry on living there even when she was very old. (It must, by the way, be one of the strange hazards of being a parent that, while the vast majority of everything you say to your kids, especially concerning teeth-brushing and room-tidying, is instantly forgotten; every so often you'll say something utterly unremarkable which your kid will NEVER FORGET.)

In this case, I think the reason it made such a big hit with me was it was the first time it had ever occurred to me that old people could get even older. I knew about death, of course, and I knew, without really believing it, that I would be a grown up one day, and my parents would get old. But this idea that either of my grans were not yet as old as they were ever going to be - as old, indeed, as it was possible to get - was completely new.

And I remember having two distinct reactions to the stairs thing: on the one hand, following my parent's lead, I too solemnly commended bungalow-Gran's foresight and good sense. But, at the same time, I secretly rather admired stairs-Gran's daredevil recklessness - her apparent refusal, not that I would have put it this way at the time, to go gentle into that good night...

Stairs-Gran would at the time, I think, have been about 65.


Lothiriel said...

Thank you for sharing this, it was lovely to read!

Lothiriel said...

(Though may I just say, the captcha system on this blog has gone crazy. It asked me which ones of a set on blurry pics contained juice, as if that's proof enough that I'm not a robot. Pff.)

Kathryn said...

Growing up in a bungalow has left me with a lifelong mistrust of stairs, which I always suspect are trying to kill me. Similarly escalators.

Bungalows are great, though; loads of loft space, massive gardens, no upstairs neighbours, and most importantly, no murderous stairs. I hope to end up living in one again someday. And they're often near the sea, too - the one I grew up in had a view of Brighton and Hove spread out below, and the English Channel glittering murkily beyond. What's not to like?

Anonymous said...

I live in a bungalow with a converted loft room, so while I don't have stairs per se I do have a set of pull-down wooden step ladders. Yup, a bungalow with an upstairs :) The way we view age and life in general as kids is interesting. I was playing with my parents' five-year-old godson and told him that when myself and his Mum were little, we played hide-and-seek all the time. He looked at me and said "where was I?". He couldn't comprehend the idea that we were once little and that there was indeed life before Tyler. It's adorable to see.

On a side-note, when I saw the title and the photo I did wonder if this blog was at all going to reference my favourite film, A Matter Of Life And Death. The "Operation Ethel" staircase was rather ground-breaking in 1946, haha!

Tealin said...

My landlady in college lived in the basement bedroom of a three-floor townhouse, and swore the stairs kept her young. Last I saw her she was on the cusp of 80 and just as agile as she had been 14 years previously. I know falls can be serious business the older you get, but perhaps stairs have a silver lining ...

Anonymous said...

My 80+ mom has a house with very few stairs but has still managed to break both her hips on whacky misadventures. (With such life lessons learned as: Never let the aunt who's nearly blind be the one giving directions when you are attempting to move a shelf unit with a wheelbarrow.)

EMB said...

It's such an utter and complete pleasure to read your blog posts. This was lovely. Thanks for coming back to it!

Anonymous said...

'Never let the aunt who's nearly blind be the one giving directions when you are attempting to move a shelf unit with a wheelbarrow',by anonymous above, is one of the finest comedy sentences I've ever read. I'm still shaking with laughter.

Horsa said...

Is this picture of the Odessa steps (as in Battleship Potemkin?.

Tim said...

Everyone, a song that will change your opinion of "bungalows" Bungalow by Scott Helman. That is all. (was not sure if I could post youtube links so just trusting that people will look this up because I humbly request it)

Philippa Sidle said...

So true about unremarkable comments by parents not only staying with children, but being taken by them completely literally (depending on age). When we were coming back from a week away once, my father casually remarked as we swung round the corner of our street, "Oh, the house hasn't burned down while we were away, then."

I don't know how old I was at the time, but I do remember that for a long, long time after that, I was quite genuinely TERRIFIED whenever we were getting close to home after a holiday or a visit to grandparents that we would find a smoking husk where the house should have been. The fear started some miles away, and built up until that sickening moment we turned into the street.

I never mentioned the fear to my parents. I doubt they would have understood or taken me seriously. You never really know what children are thinking. Beware.

Daedalus said...

Shouldn't there be a pram on those stairs?

Eclectic Man said...

In the excellent comedy "Episodes", the former, ousted network boss 'Merc' is back, pitching ideas for shows to his former subordinates. He pitches one idea which he had rubbished when running the channel, and his previous thoughts are returned to him. His responds: "I never remember what I say". To which an underling replies pointedly "We do".

Being an 'underling', we remember every slight, every insult, every broken promise of reward. So, just like children really.

Very much looking forward to your next creations, though I do hope the Archers scenes will be making a reappearance, I've reserved a place on my dining table for a cardboard box ever since...

PurpleSparklePony said...

Never-forgotten things our parents say.

My mother once told me there were no trees in Iceland because the goats ate them all.

Iceland the country.

Not the shop.

And the appendix is for filtering grape seeds.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to that 100%, Philippa Sidle. I don't know if I was told something similar when returning from holiday, but for years I dreaded the drive home in large part because I had a similarly vivid fear of seeing the smoking ruins of where our house had once stood. Fortunately, it never transpired; I wonder why it was an (apparently common) fear?!

As a child - seemingly from a very young age - I was also assiduously warned by my parents of the dangers of drugs and remember being absolutely terrified and appalled when Superdrug opened on the High Street; so brazen, I thought! So dangerous!

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Anonymous said...

Sorry, I know this isn't related to what you posted (which gave me a chuckle), but did you know that someone has tried to advertise Cabin Pressure on an image sharing website called imgur?

PurpleSparklePony said...

Again not post-related, but CB was the_girl_who_was_on_Only_Connect's specialist subject on Mastermind last night. She won, as is only right.

Steve said...

Terrible questions on Mastermind, too many easy ones (of all the things they could ask about Mr Birling, they go for what's his favourite sport?!) and it didn't give a very good impression of the show. You wouldn't hear those questions and think "that sounds like a fun show, I should investigate further". Heck, from those questions you'd struggle to recognise it as a comedy. But well done to Rachael Neiman!

Bedders said...

'Never let the aunt who's nearly blind be the one giving directions when you are attempting to move a shelf unit with a wheelbarrow',by anonymous above, is one of the finest comedy sentences I've ever read. I'm still shaking with laughter.

Seconded :)

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劉小良/ Chun-liang Liu said...

The fact that old people can grow even I can't remember capturing similar thought when I was little.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Finnemore,

I came across Clive James's poem, "The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered," for the first time today, and it made me think of you. I believe it might make you laugh. I'm adding below a link to the author reading it aloud, with gusto.

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Eclectic Man said...

John's latest comedy radio show is on Friday mornings on Radio 4.

Very good.

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Unknown said...

Hi, so okay.. Today I went to your souvenir programme recording (utterly awesome) and then afterwards went to meet you :) however being the awkward potato that I am, all I really said was 'I love your writing' and my mum did the whole 'she's my daughter, it's her 16th birthday speel' however what I did not say is how much I adore your writing. Honestly your comedy has helped me in so many ways; two/three years ago I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and I often found myself in dark thoughts. That was when I discovered cabin pressure and thus, your souvenir program and genuinely your witty humour gave me a way out of them dark thoughts. When I say thank you for writing, I don't just mean that; ive talked to a number of your fans who are in the same boat as me and you really do help. I just hope that you know how much your writing means to us all because it really does give us a brighter perspective on life. Thank you so much for continuing to write and unknowingly help us all out :)

Anonymous said...

Coming to your blog when you haven't updated it for ages is like wandering through a failing concrete shopping precinct, where most of the shops are closed and there's rubbish blowing about (see advertising posts), but then there's an unexpected lively window, like the warmhearted post above, all alone in the middle of the howling gloom. Save us John, as only you can, from this despair ...

What did you say - you're busy writing new stuff? That just feels like everyone else is in the town centre mall but I'm in the suburbs and can't afford the bus fare.

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Fee said...

Wanted to come and tell you how much I enjoyed the Double Acts but alas! you haven't posted about them on your blog, nor on the blog at all for some time. Maybe there is a forum or similar somewhere where fans of the blog caan discuss new John Finnemore, but in case any fan has missed them look up John Finnemore's Double Acts on the BBC iplayer - but quick, the early ones are already disappearing. My favourite is English for Pony Lovers, and I've listened to it about five times already! Like Uskerty, it's brilliant.

Unknown said...

I once heard of an elderly person who fell and broke their hip dusting their stairlift (made by a famous stairlift making company).

It's not funny! :') Don't laugh!

Come on Mr Finnemore - please post some more blog entries - I have re-read them all 20 times and although I'm eking out the funny if you would bring some novelty into my dreary and boring life it would possibly help it to be not quite so tedious and dull! Or maybe not! Wouldn't want you to get too big-headed what with all your awards, and all the praise heaped on you, like anonymous says - "Your style is very unique compared to other people I have read stuff from. Thank you for sharing your experiences and I look forward to reading more"

Me too - I like lots of people's stuff but yours does seem quite unique and all of your experiences are always shared so wonderfully!

Come on John - December's nearly here - what's our advent calendar going to be this year??!

Unknown said...

Just so you know John, I have "Deck the Halls with Martin's Brolly" stuck in my head for the last day or so. Cabin Pressure is forever in my head. That's not even the most recent episode I've listened to!

Anonymous said...

I hope you see this because I'm posting this on 29 November 2015. This page of real comments overheard on airplanes is by an insane young cartoonist on a site called "The Oatmeal" and it reminded me so much of Cabin Pressure -- life imitating art:

Loved the Souvenir Cabin. . . . Thanks

Anonymous said...

It's the 1st of December & I've just finished listening to the last episode of Double Acts. I missed the first one or two but I've loved the series, and the last one (Hot Desk) was so wonderful I was clapping at the end. Wonderful! Thank you!

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Anonymous said...

So which one lasted longest or are the Grans still around ?

Laurie said...

"Shouldn't there be a pram on those stairs?" No surely a Piano in a packing case?

BTW my aged great aunt Lou (in her late 90s) lived in her downstairs only in the 80s - living / bedroom + kitchen / scullery + toilet.

Once visiting her for family history research purposes ( I was sent up stairs* to get a photo of her grandmother; it was like a moment frozen in time the upstairs left as it had been behind the door for many years.

So you don't need to have a bungalow, just an alternative idea of the house.

*The staircase was behind what looked like a cupboard as they were traditionally in old cottages in East Anglia.

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