On age: it is only a matter of time

This post is inspired by a conversation with a friend who teaches a ballet class for elderly people. It’s quite a big class with around 20 dancers aged between 75 and 90. They do a 1.5 hour class which includes a warm-up, a full barre, floor work, enchainment and even a grand allegro. It sounds quite demanding. She told me why she loves teaching children and elderly people to dance: although they are very different in terms of their ability and how they learn and work, they are more responsive than others to nurturing and encouragement. It’s not just about instruction; it’s about caring.

Our conversation turned to the relationship between children and old people; how children don’t view age in the same way as adults do. Children are generally more tolerant than adults in that they have fewer preconceptions and elderly people often have the time to listen to children, especially these days when parents are struggling with the ever-precarious work-life balance.  We are time poor and this can make us impatient. For children, old age is relative; they see all adults as old. For them, elderly people are older still. Old age is less frightening for children than it is for adults because it is a lifetime away.

These thoughts bring back two personal memories. One was from my schooldays, when one of our work experience options was to help out with social work locally. My assignment was to do some light shopping for an elderly lady and to keep her company for a few hours a week. She was a lovely lady in her eighties who had once been an actress and dancer, but was virtually immobile, confined to her upstairs flat and reliant on meals on wheels and visits from various carers and cleaners. She had no living relatives. We got on very well and I loved listening to stories from her youth. Some of them were quite risqué!  As I got to know her, I discovered she had not left her flat for months, apart from a visit to the doctor’s. I felt so sorry for her and I decided to find a way to take her out.

My friend’s boyfriend had a van, and they were both willing to help, so one afternoon in early summer when I was supposed to be keeping  her company, the three of us carried her down the stairs, put her in the van and took her out for tea in Richmond Park. She loved it and we all had a wonderful time. But when this adventure was discovered – I cannot remember how – I was sacked from my work experience post for irresponsibly removing the old lady from her flat.

With many years’ hindsight, I can understand the issues – what if there had been an accident or she had been taken ill? The social services would have been hard pressed to explain why one of their charges was running around London in a van with two 16-year-old girls (me and my friend) and a 20-year-old boy (her boyfriend). On the other hand, as a young girl, I didn’t see her in the same way as social services did. This is not a criticism of the social workers who no doubt had a tight schedule of multiple visits each day; it was a matter of time. In one afternoon a week for a couple of school terms, I spent long enough with her to see beyond her immediate situation and physical issues to discover a life scattered with glitter and glamour, sadness and loss.

Years later, my grandmother was in an elderly people’s home for the last couple of years of her life. It was a friendly place with caring staff and at Christmas they put on a party with some entertainment for the residents and their families. My son, who was about ten years old at the time, went along. As one of the few children there, he spent some considerable time talking to the residents. I asked him what they talked about. “Not much,” he said, “They kept asking me my name and where I went to school. Some of them asked me the same questions two or three times.” Did this bother him? “Oh no, they are very old. They have a lot to remember”. 

Every day we are making more memories and every day we are subtly changing. Here’s Noah Kalina’s memorable video to one of my all time favourite songs: Everyday, by Carly Commando

 

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Prometheus: back on Alien territory – with a few glitches [Spoiler alert]

I finally got to see Prometheus. And I really enjoyed it. It had the requisite elements of Ridley Scott’s Alien movies: the aliens are evil; they come in several varieties and they get into people’s bodies scarily fast. I’m afraid this post includes some spoilers, as these observations are aimed at a readership that has seen the movie. Unlike some reviewers, I definitely recommend Prometheus. It’s highly entertaining: a good plot line – in fact numerous plot lines – and special effects. I have a few observations to add to the many reviews out there.

Legend and classical literature

In Greek mythology, the Titan Prometheus created mankind of clay and stole fire from the gods for man to use. An immortal entity, he was punished for this by the eternal torment of being bound to a rock and having an eagle eating his liver, which would then grow back to be eaten again the next day. According to Hesiod’s Theogeny and Aeschylus’ tragic drama Prometheus Bound, he was eventually freed by Heracles.

Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound brings in creationism. Prometheus is transformed into a romantic hero and it is left to the anti-hero – the Demogorgon – to explain that God created mankind.

Ridley Scott’s Titan-like alien at first appears to sacrifice himself to create life (possibly) on Earth, and is later shown to have human DNA, although there is no mention or hint that he also created fire. Then he apparently changes his mind and creates more aliens to destroy life on Earth and eventually comes to a sticky end courtesy of the result of his latest bout of creativity. Ridley Scott’s creativity is surely a match for Ancient Greek mythology: I reckon having your liver eaten by an eagle would be less traumatic than being forced to undergo an extreme and fatal version of oral sex with a giant squid-like alien and die when a hybrid humanoid/Alien (as in the movie) bursts out of your abdomen…

Religion

The significance of the cross and creationism with direct references to Christianity and indirect reference to the Ancient Greek cult of Prometheus have been explored in detail by other reviews which rehearse the recurrent themes of self-sacrifice to save mankind and a succession of major characters having their abdomen ripped open in order to give life to…something. Biblical references include the alien birth on Christmas day and the Annunciation – John the Baptist’s mother, the prophetess Elizabeth, is the only barren woman in the Bible.

Inconsistencies

There have been many comments on Elizabeth’s DIY’ vending machine’ caesarean that removes the giant squid rapidly growing inside her and her request for a caesarean rather than an abortion, which indicates that she anticipates a live birth. Elizabeth first sees the surgery pod in Meredith Vickers’ quarters. So why is the surgery appliance configured for a male patient when it is installed in a female’s quarters. I realise that it could be intended for the old man, Weyland, but then why is it in Meredith’s rooms? There are other issues around the nature of the implements used to do the job and how they could possibly be applied to a male body, but I know little about surgery, so who knows? Like others, I was struck by the fact that notwithstanding the huge line of staples across Elizabeth’s abdomen, none of the crew members acknowledge the surgery or the fact that her alien child is alive and growing in Meredith Vickers’ quarters! Just as well Meredith didn’t need to go back to her rooms for anything…

Obvious inconsistencies about transportation to and from the alien structure. The fact that two geologists have been left behind isn’t discovered until the rest of the crew get back to Prometheus. But the group that did get back had to drive all the vehicles. Surely they would have assumed that the first two would have taken one and checked on their whereabouts?

Touching stuff

Finally, two observations that are not glitches but amused me:

The fast pick-up line where captain Janek asks Meredith Vickers “Are you a robot?” and her response is “Meet me in my room in ten minutes”! Someone once said to me “Are you a replicant?” referring to Blade Runner’s ‘Nexus-Seven’ replicant Rachael. I recall finding this somewhat unnerving, perhaps because one of the film’s key themes is the replicants’ tragic awareness of the brevity of their existence. Incidentally, the ability to have sex does not tend to be flagged up as a differentiator or a barrier between robots/replicants and humans – in Prometheus the differentiator is defined by Weyland (played by Guy Pearce – why didn’t they use a real old man?) as the possession of a soul rather than sexuality.

Another observation – that the apparently soul-less David can’t stop touching everything –  is illustrated in brilliant and hilarious fashion by Res Gestae on Deviant Art –

 

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