Skip to content

Take me to Love Island, but not as we know it!

July 19, 2019

In my chosen national newspaper, there’s been acres of coverage in recent days about a programme called Love Island – about how embarrassing it is to watch as a parent in the company of your teenage kids, how useful (or utterly ridiculous) it is as a sex education aid, and how excruciating it is to watch emotionally pubescent twentysomethings dissolve into shuddering sobs at the breakdown of the “relationships” they pretend to create with their fellow narcissists.

Any pervy frissons experienced by folks of my age, who are more capable of remembering than doing, would seem to be neutralised by the thought that these could be our kids. Even if our kids don’t spend their all holidays drinking, rutting or pair-bonding, they’ve probably had a few Love Island moments in Newquay, Santorini or Benidorm. Most of us, however, would prefer not to imagine them in flagrante.

What sparked off this line of thinking is the wondrous new Russian invention, FaceApp. If you agree to share your camera roll with these folks – who are probably connected to Vladimir Putin, because everybody in Russia is in one way or another – they will repay you by sending you a picture that shows what you will look like in middle or old age, or, if you’re approaching senescence, how you appeared in your golden youth.

One of our daughters sent her older version to my wife the other day. My beloved screamed with laughter. “She looks like me!!” she shrieked, as if that was a fate worse than death. “She would be very lucky if she did” was the only gallant reply open to me.

So I wondered what life would be like if, just as Leonardo did, we valued the flaws and imperfections of later life above the blemish-free blandness of youth. After all, given a choice between the perfectly sculpted, rolling green hills of England’s home counties and the wild coast of Cornwall or the mountains of Scotland, how many of us would opt to spend their holidays in Didcot rather than St Ives or Glencoe? So why are we so obsessed with perfection when all around us is a work in progress – human or geological?

Then I imagined the logical implications of such thoughts. What if we really did find the physiques of the elderly to be fascinating and full of beauty, and the characters of the old to be far more interesting than those of their descendants (who, let’s face it, know nothing and have experienced little worth talking about)? And if the proportion of TV programmes made for my generation versus that made for young people was reversed, would we not be sitting down every night to devour the antics, wit and wisdom of participants in an over-70s version of Love Island?

How much more exciting it would be to witness the men in a gnarly state of semi-undress discussing the health of their prostates, or admiring the socks their fellow inmates wear under their sandals? Or the women whose flesh cascades in waves over their sun loungers, regaling each other with tales about their pathetic ex-husbands? Or the men without necks talking endlessly about golf and complaining about immigration? Or the miracles of reconstructive surgery comparing tummy tucks? Or folks of either gender moaning about the inconvenience of incontinence?

Imagine also the private space where couples disappear for a game of whist or, heaven be praised, a night of elderly passion. The cries of surprise, rather than ecstasy, at the moment of fulfilment. The Viagra, the gin and tonics. The sighs of relief when an arthritic lothario decides to plant his long-neglected seed elsewhere.

Perhaps that would be taking reality too far.

In a less visceral version, perhaps we would delight in watching a few old folks getting slightly tipsy as they sit around the pool talking about how life was. About rations, national service, rhubarb in season, the fear of World War Three. About sex before the pill, never having it so good, an NHS that worked, holidays in Weston-super-Mare. About parents who died before their time, teachers who ruled with an iron hand, first girlfriends, first boyfriends, a lifetime of work for a single employer, pride in the moon landings and winning the World Cup. All the stuff that parents or grandparents never discuss with their offspring except in tones of “you don’t know how lucky you are”. Old people stuff not mentioned to the kids and grandkids for fear that the young ones wouldn’t find it interesting.

Perhaps when members of the gilded Instagram generation look horrified and fascinated at the photos of themselves in fifty years’ time, they should look at this elderly Love Island and reflect that this is also me – these are the things I’ll think and the way that I’ll think. This is what my body will look like, assuming I make it that far. These are the people I’ll become. These are the last memories I’ll cling on to when I succumb to dementia.

They should also remember that these old folks had their own youthful Love Islands. Maybe not as exciting or public as the current version. But most of us oldies can remember some episodes in our lives that were considerably more fun than Theresa May trampling a wheat field.

And long before FaceApp was invented, we had a very effective method of imagining what we would look like in the years ahead. All we had to do was look at ourselves in the mirror the morning after getting through ten pints of Newcastle Brown and a couple of packs of Players No 6.

Unless someone comes up with an Oldie Channel, it’s unlikely that Senile Love Island will catch on any time soon, so I guess we’ll have to be content with The Real Marigold Hotel as the next best thing. Part of the problem is that few of us actually believe that we’re really old, rather than young people burdened with bodies that don’t work so well anymore.

And the message to the Aphrodites and Adonises prancing around in paradise? Enjoy your feckless youth while you can. Your turn will come soon enough without the need for FaceApp to warn you what old age looks like.

From → Media, Social, UK

One Comment
  1. Marvellous writing…. BUT…..spectacles-alert (rose-tinted – La Vie en Rose)! I hope you’re not remembering pints of Newcastle Brown from anything other than 550ml bottles… the FIRST-EVER draught was poured in…..(time’s up)…. 2016…. 19 days after “The Referendumb”….. who’da thunk it?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: