The Seven Ages of Man became fixed in my being when Miss Edwards, our fearsome English teacher, forced me to abandon my preferred 4-line poems. She had insisted that we should all learn a verse of our own choosing, every single week. On Friday afternoons at 2 pm precisely, Miss Edwards would call upon her victims-of-the-week to stand before the class to recite the poem they had sweated over.
I was never that good at poetry recitation, and Miss Edwards was well aware that I’d taken the easy option for just about as long as she was prepared to tolerate. I was instructed to try harder.
‘Twas on a Friday afternoon when I beheld Miss Edwards and took her breath away. By dashing away with the The Walrus and the Carpenter – word-perfect from start to finish. Admittedly, I took my own breath away too! I was fairly popular that Friday afternoon – few of my classmates were called upon to recite their own verses. Miss Edwards needed a long weekend to recover from the shock. In my innocence, I had little idea of the possibly deep but enormously relevant – now – interpretations of Lewis Carroll’s work. A dementia care satire, perhaps.
Miss Edwards left me alone for a good few weeks before pouncing again, as all good teachers do. I was plucked – and You are old, Father William came to my rescue. I was in my Alice phase.
Then, much to Miss Edwards’ delight, came The Seven Ages of Man. I’d grown and moved onto another stage. To this day, I can still recite You are old, Father William and The Seven Ages of Man, plus a few bits of The Walrus, but by no means all. This one has certainly stayed with me :
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing–wax
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
Thank you, Miss Edwards. I may not have appreciated your wisdom then, but I do now.
Recently, when I came across The Seven Stages of Dementia, I realised that I was unconsciously linking those seven ages of man to the seven stages of dementia care that sadly have been part of a more recent stage of my life, via the dementia of my own relative. All flattened, compacted and condensed into one grim and fairly short period of the otherwise long, happy and strong life of my relative.
There were many players involved in this tragedy. One shining unsullied star. Other less desirable characters, all with their entrances and exits, some quicker than others.
All never-to-be-forgotten performances
- Much mewling and puking
- Much whining
- Much creeping like snail
- Cannon’s mouth ready.
- Strange oaths, false promises
- Spectacles mislaid
- Fat pouch on side
- Few shining faces.
- No nurse’s arms
- No honour, no grace, just disgrace
- No chance of second childishness.
- A furnace hotter than hell.
- Sudden and quick in denial
- Seeking the bubble reputation
Sans purpose, sans control, sans care, sans everything