Image Alt

Monica Porter

How to be Old School

These days we’re often made to feel that we should move with the times, keep up with current lifestyle trends and ways of thinking, whether we happen to agree with them or not. But what if we like being a bit ‘old school’ and don’t care what others think? When you reach a certain age you’ve earned the right to dismiss the diktats of the modernisers. You can afford to take a step back from the 21st century’s relentless advance of ‘progress’ and proclaim: I am old school and proud! Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  • Whilst sitting on a bus or train, don’t stare into a smartphone, tablet, iPad or laptop, like the automatons around you, glued to their little cold, grey screens. Read a real newspaper instead. Feel that lovely paper in your fingers. At first your fellow passengers will regard you as a dinosaur from pre-history, but soon they’ll be peering over your shoulder to see what amusing news story you’re chuckling at. That’s when you turn the page. Let them buy their own.
  • Just about everyone, no matter what shape they are, feels compelled to squeeze themselves into skinny jeans, or leggings or – worst of both worlds – the new-fangled jeggings. Or else they wear the ridiculously low-slung type from which one’s flabby bits have no option but to bulge out. What’s wrong with good old-fashioned jeans designed with traditional legs and waist? They do still make them, so get yourself a decent pair and look properly grown up.
  • Never before in the history of the human race has ‘coffee’ been such a complicated concept. Our high streets are lined with chain coffee shops, all boasting dozens of convoluted ways to drink the stuff. Life was simpler (and people were slimmer) when coffee came in only three varieties: black, white and frothy cappuccino. So if a posturing barista asks whether you’d like some cloying, sickly syrup in your brew, just say NO.
  • When on holiday, instead of posting another facile Facebook status update informing the world about your travels, which the world will either ignore or forget about in a nano-second, send picture postcards to a handful of your nearest and dearest, with personal messages and exotic stamps on them. These can then be displayed on a fridge to provide frequent moments of pleasure, or put away in a drawer and rediscovered decades later, treasured relics of the past.
  • So what if a Filofax is decidedly 1980s? It works, doesn’t it? It’s a handsome accoutrement to keep on your desk, and there is something reassuringly easy and straightforward about storing your diary, addresses and other important information on pages in a leather-bound book, which can’t ‘crash’. An added bonus is that, unlike an iPhone, no one will want to steal it.
  • Never let the po-faced arbiters of ‘correct’ terminology tell you which words you can or cannot use. If Bombay and Calcutta are more pleasing to your ears than Mumbai and Kolkata, if you prefer Burma to Myanmar, then jolly well keep using those fine old names. They were good enough for George Orwell and Rudyard Kipling. And as for ‘Afro-Caribbean’ and ‘African-American’, aren’t they just long-winded ways of saying black?
  • If you have grandchildren, you will have noticed how much time they spend playing computer games and video games, on their Wii and their Xbox, their PlayStation, their Super Nintendo and their god-knows-what. Don’t let them rope you in! When babysitting the kids, teach them some real Scrabble, Monopoly, checkers, chess, noughts and crosses, tiddlywinks and marbles are highly acceptable alternatives to those raucous electronic pursuits. (But refrain from saying things like ‘When I was a kid all I had to play with was sticks and cowpats’, because they’ll merely roll their eyes.)
  • Amidst all the emailing, texting, instagraming and whatsapping, it’s easy to lose sight of that low-tech but far superior device for communication, the human voice. One phone call, infused with the warmth, vibrancy and character of one’s voice is worth a thousand pings, beeps and buzzes on a gadget. And while we’re on the subject, long live the landline! The young have dispensed with this olde-worlde instrument altogether, but it doesn’t require a ‘signal’, doesn’t run out of ‘juice’ and people don’t ‘break up’ in the middle of a conversation.
  • Ever noticed the extraordinary snobbishness there now is around chocolate? Back in the day we were content with a Mars Bar, a bag of Smarties or a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Maybe a Walnut Whip as a special treat. But today’s uppity chocs must parade their foodie credentials and are devised by the likes of Heston Blumenthal, with their wacky ingredients and inflated prices. No one bats an eyelid anymore at chocolates containing chilli and cardamom and sea salt, wasabi, lime leaves, lavender and pink peppercorn. But stick to your guns, dear readers. Defiantly munch on that Snickers, scoff those M&Ms. And remember, during the Second World War it was the iconic Hershey Bar that American GIs handed out to British kids who hadn’t tasted chocolate in years – the very same treat that’s now available here in our supermarkets. And that’s a claim to fame today’s snooty chocolate-makers would be hard-pressed to match.
  • Music is all about internet downloads now, whether paid-for or dodgy free ones. And people mostly listen to it on their iPods or laptops. Yes, it’s all very slick and handy to have Spotify and YouTube and other digital sources through which to access our favourite songs. But true music aficionados know that digital recordings, like CDs and the obsolete cassettes, are not a patch on vinyl for sheer purity of sound. Which is why the LP has been making a comeback. So invest in a new record player and dust off your dormant record collection. Let the good times rock and roll! As an added bonus, those old album covers are an art form in themselves, something you’ll never be able to say about downloads on an MP3 player.
  • As with music, books are also downloaded, on to e-readers, which can store thousands of them. And while I appreciate the benefit of being able to go around with a veritable library on a small device that slips into your handbag, I ask: but then what? After you’ve read your e-books, will they disappear back into the ether, be shunted off to the Amazon Cloud? Get deleted and get forgotten? Tragic! Books are not just words, they are furnishings, meant for the shelves lining the walls of your cosiest room, attractive physical objects reflecting your lifetime of reading pleasure, your tastes and your knowledge. And impressing your visitors, natch.


So picture the scene. You’re lounging on the sofa in your comfy jeans, basking in the crimson glow of a log fire, surrounded by your beloved books and listening to Tubular Bells on the record player. You put down the newspaper and reach for another goody from the box of Milk Tray, then pick up the phone to give your best mate a ring. ‘Fancy coming over for a game of Scrabble?’

Old school and proud. Not such a bad life, is it?