Tuesday 28 November 2017

'Britain is no Country for Old Men' celebrates its millionth page view

When I started this blog 8 years and 1,500 posts ago, I did so after being infuriated by the discourteous way in which I had been treated at a petrol station. In my opinion I had become invisible because I was perceived as being 'old.' I chose the name of my blog, partly because the 2007 Coen Brothers film, 'No Country for Old Men,' would arrest people's attention, but mainly as a nod towards the lines from the poem, 'Sailing to Byzantium' by W.B. Yeats :

That is no country for old men. The young 
In one another's arms, birds in the trees, 
—Those dying generations—at their song, 
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas, 
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long 
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies. 
Caught in that sensual music all neglect 
Monuments of unageing intellect. 

I described myself 8 years ago as a 'post-Second World War baby boomer, who has time to look around, turn over stones and see if this country of ours is, or ever was, a country for old men' and I have been doing that, ever since. Now that I have chalked up over 1,000,000 visits, it seems appropriate that I should pause to reflect on what I have found about the lives of old men living in a rapidly changing Britain in the first quarter of the 21st century.

Before I begin, I need to mention my audience, which consists of neither a single member of my family nor any of my friends, which is, perhaps, hardly surprising given the title of my blog and the misconception that it is only about old men. In fact, my researches over the years have given me a greater insight into Britain and its history and socio-economic structure. In this, I haven't been surprised to find that the importance of continuities have always outweighed those of change.

So, what, over the last 8 years, have I learnt about the quality of life of old men in Britain ?

I expected that their social class would relate relate to these factors and found evidence of this as was the case in May 2016, when I posted : 'Britain is a country where more and more poor old men live relatively shorter and shorter lives than rich old men.' and 'Britain is no country for old men looking for equality of dementia care' on 25/09/16. I presented more evidence in April 2013 with 'Britain is no country for old men retiring from work and into a life below the poverty line.' and 'Britain is no country for poor old men for fewer years compared to rich old men' in August 2012.

What did come as a surprise was the role that the location of old men in Britain played in their lives. Thus, they were worse off for various reasons if : they lived in :

Hertsmere, Hertfordshire
Glasgow, Scotland
The North in general
Shepway in Kent
Hackney in London
Leeds in Yorkshire
Manchester in Lancashire
Rural England in general

There were also significant groups of old men and who fared badly in Britain due to their particular circumstances and because they were :

and suffering from :

In addition to unsung heroes and old men like Graham Ayliffe : Prnice of 'Infection protection control' and Paul Findlay, erstwhile Director of the Royal Opera House, I also concentrated on individual old men who, for personal reasons, found that 21st Century Britain was no country for them :

Noel Conway : motor neuron sufferer who no longer wants to live
Prince Charles : Prince who wants to be Regent
Michael Heseltine  : politician in Brexit Britain
Ken Clarke : politician in Brexit Britain
Ken Loach : film maker dwelling on social injustice
Phil Scraton : Professor of Criminolgy who does not want an honour called an OBE
Martin Amis : novelist unhappy in Brexit Britain
Bill Telfer : tenant farmer clinging to his land
Ian McEwan : novelist unhappy in Brexit Britain
Roger Curry : American with dementia in Britain
Nobby Styles : football player with Alzheimer's disease
Alf Dubbs : lord failing to bring in refugees

I was also interested in individual old men who had triumphed over adversity and found that, as boys, Britain was no place for them :

Polio : Bert Massie : Disability rights campaigner
Congental spina bifida : Jeffery Tate : Conductor
Blindness : Sargy Mann : Artist

In February 2014, I came across Maggie Watts, who had lost her husband Keith to pancreatic cancer at the age of 48 in 2009 and had mounted a campaign to get the then, Cameron Government, to address the issue of granting more funding for research into this lethal cancer. Maggie had organised an e-petition for this end, but was a long way short of her target and I saw that the recent death of the popular Parliamentary correspondent, Simon Hoggart, from the same cancer, as an opportunity to raise thr profile of her petition with MPS. With this in mind I constructed a post entitled : 'Why no parliamentary sketch writer could replace Simon Hoggart and 53,500 signatures are needed for Maggie Watts e-petition for research into the cancer which killed him' and spent a weekend tweeting it to the 400+ Members pf Parliament listed on twitter asking them to read, sign and retweet the petition. It got me sent to twitter jail for a few days, for repetitive tweeting, but it did elicit direct responses from some MPs, including one from Northern Ireland, who promised Maggie support if she needed it.

Having reached and breached her 100.000 signatures, in September 2014, Maggie got her afternoon debate in a Committee Room in the House of Commons in which a Junior Minister of Health conceded that : pancreatic cancer was a very serious condition and more had to be done to combat it. I got to meet Maggie and her supporters who were photographed in the Jubilee Room. Maggie, with blond hair and black dress stands in the centre and I stand just behind her son on the far right of the picture.

Kneeling on the floor in the middle was campaign stalwart and actress, Julie Hesmondhalgh, whose Coronation Street character Hayley Cropper died after battling pancreatic cancer.

I also got particular pleasure from :

Sally Hines, the daughter of the author of 'Kes', Barry Hines who saw my post on her Dad and tweeted : 'That's really great. Thanks John.'

Michael Sheen, the actor, in reply to my post about Bill Mitchell landscape theatre, who he had worked with on 'The Passion of Christ' in Port Talbot said : 'Thanks very much for that John. I appreciate it.'

Dave Davies of 'The Kinks' who tweeted that he 'liked' my post about his brother Ray's 'Waterloo Sunset'.

Acoustic guitarist, Gordon Giltrap, when reflecting on guitarist John Renbourne said : 'John, I had known JR for nearly 50 years but there were things in your tribute that I didn't know. THANKYOU.'

and Cerys Matthews,  Welsh singer, songwriter, author, and broadcaster. who wrote  'Beautiful - thanks for posting x'

Corrie Corfield, newsreader and announcer for Radio who said of Nicholas Winton : 'A wonderful post for a wonderful man.'

Kirsty Wark, BBC commentator, who retweeted my post on Polish pilot Captain Zbigniew Mieczkowski.

Maurice Gran, writer of stage musical and tv comedies 'Birds of a Feather' and 'The New Stateman' who said of my post on TV Producer, Allan McKeown : 'Good work Cooper. Will retweet.'

Michael Deacon, political sketch writer for The Telegraph who said of Simon Hoggart : 'Thanks John. Won't be the same watching Prime Minister's Questions without him muttering asides two seats away.'

Jonty Bloom, Business Correspondent for the BBC who said of debt-busting philanthropist, Marin Dent : 'Thanks for that great read.'

Giles MacDonogh, author of books on German History, French gastronomy and wine and contributor to the FT, Guardian, The Times and FT Deutschland who said on historian Chris Bayly : 'That's very good and more informative than the Telegraph obit ! Thank you.'

The newsreader, Alastair Stewart who replied to my post on the war correspondent Michael Nicholson : 'Wow; comprehensive, candid and well written. '

Maureen Van Zandt, from the States, the wife of Steve Van Zandt who plays in Bruce Spingsteen's 'E Street Band' who loved my post on Dave Clarke and said that she had shared a dinner with him the week before.

The publishing journal which got in touch ask my permission to ask if they could publish my post a unsung theatre designer, John Gunter.

I published other comments in my post in 2015 marking my 600,000 visits.
In March 2017, I looked at the reach of my blog around the globe in 'Who in the world visits 'Britain is no Country for old Men.'

By way of conclusion, I would say that :

" Given the fact that old men, living in Britain today, were born in the first half of the 20th century and now live in the very different Britain in the first half of the 21st century, Britain is indeed, for them :  No Country for Old Men."

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