‘She’s well preserved for forty, said this twenty year old child on the train. I cringed in the seat across the aisle from hers and tried to make myself as small a target as possible; a granny who’s crocheting granny squares, trying to be inconspicuous. I don’t know why they call them granny squares. I sew mine together to make baby blankets. Today’s grans are well preserved too, for their age. They don’t dye their hair mauve like their grannies did or wear orthopaedic shoes or shawls unless of course they’re making a fashion statement. If they crochet it’s only because crocheting is a dying art and someone has to keep up the tradition. If their children had shown a flicker of interest, or their grand children, the grans could have passed the needles on and retired.
The child and her fresh faced crowd of friends were dressed to the nines as we used to say in the olden days. Race week has come round again and the fascinators are out of mothballs and perched precariously on the heads of children playing dress-up. It’s a mystery to me why these frothy but useless concoctions are called fascinators. There’s not enough material in them to fascinate or cover a gnat and of course now that we know about UV rays and how damaging they are we (they) wear hats once a year that provide no protection from the noonday sun.
I looked across to my left trying not to make eye contact and noticed that the child has defaced her peaches and cream skin with a long stemmed rose that trails down her back. She was wearing what we olds used to call a black lacy petticoat and the obligatory black tulle fascinator. She looked beautiful, but everything looks beautiful on the young. I remember posing in front of the mirror once and wishing I had the nerve to wear my petticoat as an outside garment. She looked so happy this young thing, unaware that her well preserved future was staring at her from across the aisle, minus the red, red rose. I couldn’t blame her for her confident belief in her immortality and eternal youth or begrudge her her turn.
When I was fifteen my friend and I agreed that her twenty year old neighbour shouldn’t be allowed to leave the house without her make up. We weren’t being cruel just incapable of imagining that her todays would turn into our tomorrows. My five year old grandson thinks his fifteen year old cousin is an adult and that everyone over ten is old to him.
In nineteen twenty five and nineteen twenty six respectively, Tamara Tsereteli and Alexander Vertinsky sang ‘those were the days my friend;we thought they’d never end.’ in Russian, In the sixties it was Charles Aznavour with me providing the harmony (in English.) I put my squares back in my bag and leave the train humming. I still have some days left to enjoy.