Byline: BRIAN SEWELL
LONG before we could see it for ourselves, television critics were saying that When I'm Sixty-Four would be "the one to watch". On the day that it was broadcast, reviewers praised it for tackling one of the last inviolate taboos - the thought of senior citizens engaged in sex. And commendations the day after were benign - excellent performances, they said, wonderful contrasts of inertia and tension, "television still has the power to discomfit the most raddled viewer".
Raddled as I am, I was indeed discomfited, not by pathos, anguish, melancholy, longing, despair and empathy, but first by utter disbelief in the events, and then by the Peg's Paper happy ending to this tale of two old codgers in each other's arms, starting life anew.
When Ray, inveterate heterosexual, met Jim, dormant poofter with no sexual experience more profound than drifting into a rare wet dream, they fell in love and lived happily ever after. Had they been Rita and Jim or Ray and Jemima, this plot might have been credible, but the sight of two old male wrinklies unbuttoning, fondling, snogging and ( offscreen, thank the Lord), in spite of their mutual inexperience, falling into bed, seemed lamentably improbable.
Even if the event were nourished by faded recollections of pubertal experience with other boys, how could they carry it off without pubertal curiosity and the wild activity of hormones? What for these adult males of, presumably, some aesthetic awareness of the occasional beauty of the human body, had been the triggers of sexual attraction and desire?
I tried switching into lesbian mode and imagined the same plot with the desperate Esther Rantzen taking to Joanna Lumley's bed and was deafened by the sound of frottage as their wrinkles rubbed together.
When I'm Sixty-Four left me unequivocally incredulous. I do not believe that the lifetime heterosexual can contentedly switch to homosexuality. I do not believe that the lifetime chastity of the unlibidinous homosexual could comfortably be abandoned to give sudden expression to that sexuality with a man of his own age, without revulsion at the sags and wrinkles of the stranger's ancient skin. In an affectionate and understanding relationship without sex at 64 I can easily believe, but in a passionate, physical and all discretion to the winds affair, I cannot.
It is perfectly proper for the media to explore these matters, but surely with some firmer grasp of reality than the soppy romance of When I'm Sixty-Four. We have two current threads of male homosexuality in The Bill, one demonstrating the adolescent predicament, the other the resilience of a young constable whose life in this respect is further complicated by his being black.
We have lesbians unformed in Holby City and by the dozen in Bad Girls. I vaguely recall homosexual toes in the waters of EastEnders and other interterminable soaps and, as at least one of us in every 20 is a faggot, this is as it should be in terms of representing minorities on television.
But somehow I feel that I am being hectored, coerced and preached to by the politically correct.
NOW Richmond has announced itself to be London's Gretna Green for same-sex couples.
"Come hither," says the Registrar, "and be registered as civil partners," and a fat lot of good it will do them until the law is changed. …