We belong to a Probus club and had agreed to organise the monthly outings. Choosing the outing venue is not so difficult but then comes ‘transport’ and ‘the meal’.
A few years ago, neither Herself nor I (not ‘myself’!) could have imagined ourselves sitting in a coach with a lot of other old people, all wearing name tags, going on ‘an outing’.
To be seen going on an ‘outing’, in a bus/coach with a lot of other older people, was code for the horrified thought,
“My God, he’s getting past it! I can never see us doing that!”
It’s a bit like ‘the fall’.
When you are younger and assumed to be in control of your faculties, you just ‘fall over’. You trip because of too much exuberance or because you just make a miscalculation.
When you get older, you ‘have a fall’ and that’s an entirely different thing altogether. As soon as the phrase, “Poor old X has had a fall!” is uttered, it is inevitably followed by raised eyebrows and a knowing, “Oh dear.” Not the casual, “Oh dear, that’s a bummer. I hope s/he gets better soon,” but the more sinister “Oh dear!”
Immediately everyone checks their smart phone diary to check whether X’s obviously imminent funeral might clash with their regular HRT appointment or their base jump booking.
So leaving the shuddering horror of the situation to one side, let me proceed.
Hire transport tends to come in two sizes, the 24-seater, adequate but a bit like crossing the Himalayas in a billycart, or the 48-seater coach, the more comfortable and more expensive, stretch hearse alternative. Before hiring the 48-seater, for an outing in a month or two’s time, you need to be sure you can get the 48 participants with at least 10 on the waiting list because, as you know, at our ages, we have a lot of ‘falls’.
Then there are the outings we can get to by public transport.
This means we have to ‘do a recce’ beforehand to check the timing, the ease of access and where we might have lunch.
Now you’d think cafes and quasi restaurants would go
out of their way to attract cashed up oldies on an outing.
They have no trouble setting aside seating and tables and in some cases providing a fixed price meal but as soon as you ask, “Can we have separate billing?” so many of them throw up their hands in horror and complain that it’s too difficult. Strange, because our Dine Out and Lunch groups find restaurants that manage quite well and have received return business as a result. So we trudged from one venue to another, desperate to find somewhere that wanted our custom.
We eventually found ourselves in Federation Square and as it was Saturday, the second hand book sellers were set up in the food hall
area. Herself trawled the tables looking for titles we probably threw out when we shifted a few years ago. In the meantime, I was ordering lunch and checking out the cafes as potential lunch sites.
“I’ve found these!” she cried.
I walked over to be somewhat amazed that what she had ‘discovered’ were six titles from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. It seems that our Enid has had somewhat of a resurrection. Our grandkids are devouring her books and we were both amazed an delighted to hear from our local bookseller that Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series are also constant sellers.
“The kids can borrow these or we can read them to them,” I was informed. “And at $50 for the six, they’re a bargain!”
I suggested we check out Young and Jackson’s as a possible lunch venue before we took the train home. It was as inflexible as the rest.
We could pay $32 a head for the “express lunch’ in the upstairs posher section, but again, we would need to collect the money “to make it easier for us”.
As we walked to the train station we felt a little subdued.
Public transport to the venue was a doddle but lunch! It seems we were going to have to either collect money before the outing or go through the nightmare, on the day, of collecting money, people not having the correct money, not having change to give people who didn’t have the right money or people making addition and subtraction errors leaving us with the shortfall to cover.
On the train we decided to pre-collect the lunch money.
Then Herself rummaged in her bag and then started reading, Five Go To Smuggler’s Top. She offered me one to read but the thought of a man of my years being seen reading Enid Blyton on a train was almost worse than being seen on a
coach, wearing a badge, going on ‘an outing’.