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Chronicles of the Oldie Youngster

Blog | By Annabel Sampson | Jun 14, 2017


To recap on my last instalment - I was disillusioned attending more memorial services than weddings; I’d grown familiar with the dulcet tones of Barry Cryer; and the Hollywood actor Trader Faulkner came to tea – it ended with a cliffhanger, his 90th birthday party, yet to come. 

I’m delighted to report that the ceremonial odds are turning in my favour - at the weekend, I attended the first wedding of a friend of my age, as opposed to a cousin or relative. 

It felt reassuring to be back inside a church, despite the guests being so brightly adorned and alarmingly youthful. I rarely attend church other than at Christmas, and the recent memorial services for Alexander Chancellor and Jeremy Lewis. Those occasions reminded me of the creativity that can come with ‘service curation’. I confess, I have become quite interested in service sheets, or the service ‘running order’ - and not ‘the itinerary’ or what my good friend called ‘the line up’ (this is not a festival).  

At Alexander’s, an extract from The Merchant of Venice was performed, followed by a operatic sextet singing ‘Chi Mi Frena in Tal Momento?'; at Jeremy’s, we left to the sound of ‘Whisky in the Jar’ by the Dubliners. At Milly’s wedding, the choir sang ‘When I Grow Up’, the opening song in Matilda, the West End musical, which had been the newly-betrotheds' first date (not an accurate depiction of the youth dating scene). 

Back to the wedding; after church, there were speeches. The best man, the groom, the brother of the groom – all the banterous youths needling the newly-weds with tales of childish mishaps and accidental house parties. Really, it was the heartfelt tribute by the father of the bride – the comparative oldie – that set the tone. His choked disbelief at setting his young girl off into the wild world of marriage was heartwarming. 

Dinner was followed by dancing: on reflection, I can see that my behaviour that evening was an identical reenactment of how I would have behaved at an 18th birthday party, nearly a decade earlier. Stampeding around the dancefloor like a headstrong child on Easter Sunday, spilling champagne with flailing limbs and stealing cigarettes (I never normally smoke) from unfortunate bypassers. 

My 18-year-old self might have envisaged a more elegant creature, partaking in articulate conversation with the godparents of the bride – not the case. Is this how I’ll behave at the 40ths, 50ths, 80ths and other landmark celebrations to come? Or course, I’ve heard the age-old adage that, as you grow older, you feel quite the same – I just thought I might have been the exception.

The Oldie of the Year awards were a case in point - a fairground for the older generation. I witnessed venerable oldies in playful ties, guffawing with laughter as they sloshed back red wine, greedily leaning in to catch every morsel of the joke or gossip being shared by their neighbour. From the sidelines, I could recognise that maybe some things don’t change? Flirting, frolicking, chit-chatting, perhaps a little less dancing. It’s reassuring to see that there isn’t a great deal that fundamentally separates an 80th and an 18th. It bodes well for a very jolly future.

ANNABEL SAMPSON, @annabel_sampson.