THE BLOG

I Want to Grow Grumpy Not Happy

30/04/2015 09:40 BST | Updated 29/06/2015 10:59 BST

There are few benefits to being old. Spending a pension, perhaps, enjoying free transport, heating my house (or bedsit) just for the hell of it because I have a taxpayer-funded allowance, and getting half-price tickets to West End matinees. No one would dare deprive people in their twilight years of such life-affirming moments.

I'm looking forward to all of those but the one thing I'm truly anticipating - one might say salivating over - is, according to a new report, going to be denied me. And I'm pretty, bloody stroppy about it.

Apparently, I am living in a nation where the happiest pensioners reside. A survey from the official statistics body, Eurostat, concludes that out of all the European nations, the UK is the home of the happy old man. Our health is better, we have greater chances to work into old age, there's plenty of free perks on offer and we're not foreign.

Yet this goes against everything I want to be when I'm old, everything that old age should reasonably and properly bestow on men. The chance to be as grumpy as we want - safe in the knowledge that everyone will forgive us.

Happiness is the preserve of the young, the unburdened, the naïve and those blissfully unaware of the dark realities of life. In my final couple of decades, I want to see and shout about the world as it really is, railing against the injustices all around me.

Consumed by fury, I will tell embarrassed mothers of unruly children to get a grip of their offspring. And, seeing their own parents in me, they'll do all they can to assuage my anger and apologise when doing so. Instead of being shepherded to a dank table by the toilets in my favourite restaurant, I will stamp, or perhaps shuffle, my feet and get my cantankerous way because no one wants to cross a grumpy old man. I will be able to tell campaigning politicians of every party that they won't get my vote until hell freezes over because they haven't a clue what they're talking about, and then watch them nod their heads, smile and merrily bid me goodbye, because I can say what I like.

It is the ultimate prize of old age. To be grumpy and not be admonished for it. In about 30 years - and what an infuriatingly long wait that is going to be - I fully intend to allow my inner-Larry David to enjoy free reign. Children's balls that have been kicked over the fence will gather dust under the stairs, fellow shoppers in Tesco will fear the weird-looking nutter who pushes to the front of the queue because 'I haven't got long, you know', my extended family will let me sleep in front of Dad's Army with the claret close by my side because I'll ruin Christmas otherwise.

The French - not for the first time - seem to have it the right way around, according to the Eurostat survey. They start off adulthood with more joie de vivre and have one of the lowest satisfaction ratings once they get past the age of 75. That sounds about right. Have you ever seen a happy, grey-haired Frenchman? Do you really think Gerard Depardieu is going to mellow with age and go on a diet to cheer up? Will Raymond Blanc still happily serve uncouth hedge fund managers in his magnificent Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons hotel with chips and ketchup, or will he turf them out amid a barrage of Gallic obscenities?

I hate to disagree with one of the most wonderfully grumpy writers of our time, but Doris Lessing was wrong when she said: 'The thing about getting old is the number of things you think you can't say aloud because it would be too shocking.'

Isn't that the point of reaching a grand old age? We can say and do things without fearing censure. Growing old is not just the great leveller, it's the great enabler. It enables us to be who we really want to be.

Grumpy old men.