Packaging Will be the Death of Me

I was conducting Beethoven’s Eroica and had the clarinets to bring in which, like washing at the first sign of rain, could not be abandoned. But the doorbell was insistent. A delivery.

It was, by the way, a harmless book but it had been vacuum-packed or something so that neither scissors nor knives made much impact. Old fashioned staples or even tape would not, it seems, have confined its will to escape before it reached it is proper destination. You know how these books are. Or maybe you don’t. Possibly you click on your iPad and the e-book appears without a struggle. Tempting. In the supermarket, I am stopped in my tracks by a thought. What would Mrs Rosewall have said if my mother had asked her to wrap a single sweet potato in a little box with cellophane (no happywrap in those days)? Kenny’s Mum, who ran her little grocery shop with Mr Rosewall in the 40s while Kenny hit his tennis ball against the Masonic Lodge wall up the street, would have thought my Mum was taking the mickey. But these days single pieces of fruit or veg are seen in this excess of wrapping and people say nothing, unless they are old like me and my friends. Of course we don’t buy our veg that way, though our dislike of waste might tempt us, and this means we don’t learn the price until we get to the checkout. My kitchen is not like Jamie Oliver’s but it does contain many implements for overcoming wild animals and other vacuum-packaged goods, screw-top lids… and lids that have to be popped, such as those on jars of gherkins. There was, though, nothing to help with a terrible many-sided coffee lid, known to have brought old people to tears before it was replaced. Yes, I rang them, and I think of the times I took the jars back and asked for checkout persons to open them. Which they did, willingly, but with… mmmm…sort of pity. An old fashioned steel to sharpen knives helps with difficult ring tops. But it’s tragic that smaller cans of beans and corn, suitable for the meals of old people no longer in families, are the hardest to open. Old paws just can’t get a grip while applying the pressure to pull the ring back. For years I have bought milk and a lot of other things not by choice but by ease of opening. Some cardboard squeeze-me milk openings work and others don’t. I could do a thesis on it. My old friends do the same. We deplore the waste of excessive packaging, but most of all we hate the sense of helplessness it brings. All so unnecessary. There are no wild animals to be contained. The packages, jars and bottles are simply excessively topped or wrapped. And why did I need to mention, casually, that I was conducting Beethoven in my living room at the beginning of this piece? To reassure nervous middle agers that there are great pleasures to be had from the licence old age bestows to counter the misery of battling packaging. Imagining my next career as a Simone Young or at other times wrestling with watercolour… I suspect all oldies act out these adorable fantasies. But it is vile how practicalities like intransigent, stupid packaging overcome our inspired moments. I listened to Question Time instead, keeping it real. There was some art to be found there… the artfully arranged women behind the speaker at the dispatch box to give the impression that we might see dozens of women rightfully taking their democratic places behind and in front of the men, if only the camera looked around. But the art did not quite conceal. It was like a bloke arranging strands of hair to hide a bald spot. Xxxx The plan to remove pensions from people who have contributed and planned all their lives for this little bit of independence in old age is a revolutionary act. When it sinks in that if you visit your family living overseas for more than six weeks you will lose your pension, a lot of old people will see themselves doomed to lonely lives far away from their loved ones. The overseas stay has to be worth the strain of overseas air travel. I just hope they will express their dismay at the ballot box – it’s not only migrant families affected but unless made aware of this new state of affairs, they won’t, and will vote for that nice Mr Turnbull whose voice and suits remind them of Menzies. Get with it, Oldies. We have been dudded again.

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