Tales of the Old West


And so to Somerset, for my brother’s combined house-warming and 60th birthday party. In attendance, a group he described waggishly as “my nearest and dearest, and hangers-on”. We drove in from all over England and Wales.

I had expected a version of the movie The Big Chill for an older generation, hopefully without the drug overdose. The group was large enough that not all of us had met before, and instead the evening became, as my brother had forecast, a group of old people getting drunk.

No fights to report, no misunderstandings. Just a very pleasant gathering of the Olderhood set marking my brother’s rite of passage.

On a personal note, I recalled the parties of my youth, when the oldsters sat in a row along one wall and watched, kibitzed, cluck-clucked and generally stayed out of the way of the more mobile young ones. On Saturday at one point, I sat in one such row, just a harmless old codger among his kind.

What tales we told of days gone by. Everyone’s favourite was the story of the Man Who Lost His Trousers.

Seems this fellow had gone out drinking one night. Having had a little too much, he found himself at his front door at the end of the evening, managed to open it and then fell straight into his front hall, face down, where he spent the night. It is salient to mention at this point that between the pub and his home, he had somehow lost his trousers, but retained his keys. The next morning the postman, having mail to deliver to this fellow’s house, found him in exactly the position in which he had collapsed the night before.

Without further ado, the postman threw the day’s mail on top of the fellow’s recumbent form and continued his rounds. Out hero woke up covered in mail with, as I say, no trousers.

We all had our trousers. We were, among other things, educational specialists, logistics officers, charity workers, computer people, race car technicians, media types and horticulturalists. One of us, the most convivial soul at the bash, was a 16-year-old who had come with his parents and had, in my estimation, the best time of all, not minding in the slightest that he was surrounded by people who could fondly remember a time when Queen Victoria was a girl.

As the supply of wine decreased and the hubbub increased, I became contemplative, being the only tee-totaller on board (27 years and counting).

We had all worked for most of our lives. We had been children and then raised them, and their children. We had taken the road less travelled as well as the high streets of life. To paraphrase Randy Newman’s words, we hadn’t been good men and women; we hadn’t been bad men and women, although we had been pretty bad.

We are all still going strong. We are the survivors.

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