There is so much explaining to do. For a forthcoming Oxford Book of Friendship I picked up a revealing and touching passage from Julian Barnes’s Staring at the Sun, where a character reflects that when they have lost their friends and contemporaries the very old need interpreters: ‘Everything you wanted to say required a context. If you gave the full context, people thought you a rambling old fool. If you didn’t give the context, people thought you a laconic old fool.’and
But the rules, mythical or otherwise, set off expectations. For all time's blurring and homogenising effect, old people remain individuals, and cannot well be lumped together, however humane the intention, under banners, whether of doom and despair or of hope and glory.