Home for ageing ravers seeks pianist and masseuse

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WHEN she decided to consign herself to an old people's home, an excellent aged relative of mine observed: 'I like my son and his family. Why should I ruin their lives by going to live with them?'

I don't have any children, so my options will be restricted if I make it through to old age - a fate I have little chance of escaping, for my family is alarmingly long-lived. One great-uncle fell off his bike when he was 96, broke his hip and still lasted another couple of years.

Having reached that stage in life where so many of us struggle with the deaths or ailments of our own parents, talk in my circle often touches on what, eventually, we should do with ourselves. Almost no one contemplates battening on a child, but everyone is depressed by the joylessness and puritanism of old folk's homes. So a group of us has decided to set up our own home for merry old people.

The house rules are simple. Cheerful platonic friends will be encouraged to come for long visits, followers will be welcomed, and dinner parties may go on long enough into the following morning to join up with champagne breakfasts.

The essential purpose of the home will be to have a hell of a good time while it's possible. Our mottoes will be to do with the virtues of roistering - gathering rosebuds, making whoopee, celebrating friendship and all that kind of thing. No one will ever be shocked, and there will be no rosters for cleaning the bathroom.

Inmates have to be easy-going, good-humoured, untouchy and good company. The corollary is that we have to be prepared ruthlessly to get rid of each other to other institutions if Alzheimer's or physical collapse take over.

Jollity will not be enforced. We will all have rooms in which we can skulk if we want to, and we will provide each other with limited room service. The normal robust mockery that we apply to each other is still to be our style when we're ancient.

We have no intention of hanging around all the time, getting on each other's nerves. We will do much travelling, and for the sake of economy, we will keep a communal pad in Dublin, one in London, one in Greenwich Village and so on.

Would anyone with a flat in Paris like to apply?

We can't have anyone with high standards of domestic hygiene: comfort is the objective.

We all have skills to bring to living together. Barbara can dance; Jill can paint walls; Nina is a good gardener; Una an excellent cook; Mairin can sew and will be young enough to run the errands; Paul is good at sums and wine; Priscilla loves rushing round organising; and Michael takes photographs and keeps a comprehensive diary, so our pioneering work will be recorded for posterity.

I hate all domestic work except making scrambled eggs and cleaning up after parties, but both those attributes will be much in demand. We need a few other skilled recruits: a handyperson, a first-aider and someone to clean ovens, perhaps. And I would welcome a good jazz pianist, a masseuse and a mimic.

The preponderance of women comes about because most men are terrified by this idea. Women, I have come to realise, are much wilder than men. Even chaps who are great fun in pubs or who stay up all night at conferences have, deep in their psyche, a longing for order.

The idea of ending up in an institution boogying with a bunch of cheerful old female ravers makes them pale. 'Good God, no', said my oldest male friend. 'I wouldn't dream of living with you lot. But I'll come and stay occasionally, and bring in the public health authorities where appropriate.'

On the grounds of cost of living and excellence of transport to Dublin and London, the planning committee had almost decided on Belfast as the central location. My English friends were initially a bit worried about the dangers of Belfast, but they grasped completely the logic that, since we would be old, it wouldn't matter too much if we were knocked off by a sniper.

But now, of course, if the peace process actually works, house prices may go up and Gerry Adams may have some political power, so we may have to consider taking our custom elsewhere.

We have a few logistical problems. Most of us haven't any money and don't look like getting any. Some of us have husbands, or tenants of our affections, who may not want to participate. We have an age range so far from 36 to 59, so we can hardly move into the home en bloc. Some of us think 60 a good time to retire, whereas others are likely to hang on working much longer.

While Paul and Priscilla point out that we should start acquiring property now, those of us most given to elaborate fantasies wave such practical considerations aside and continue to make the crucial decisions. Should we have a Rolls or a barouche? Dogs, cats or both? And why not a parrot? And, of course, a jacuzzi will be necessary for our ageing bones.

Sometimes I think the planning stage is likely to continue until we're all dead. In the meantime, we practise our roistering.

Sandra Barwick is on holiday.