Charles Darwin died at least 50 years before the invention of the ring-pull, which explains why the great man overlooked the astonishing phenomenon of regressive evolution within the lifespan of a single human being.
Thanks to new research, of which more later, we now know that, at the age of 50, man’s fingers, though still prehensile, are incapable of pulling a ring-pull. More remarkable still, this occurs at exactly the age of 50. Boing! The bell chimes two-score years and ten, you awaken, rub your eyes, and, sod me, the ring-pull becomes a challenge as insurmountable as the north face of the Eiger.
For this extraordinary revelation we are indebted to Yours magazine, a publication for the over-50s. It recently canvassed its readers and discovered that 99 per cent of them had problems with food packaging; worse, 71 per cent had been injured as they struggled to open products with pliers, scissors or knives. Chief among the offending items were bleach bottles, jars, shrink-wrapped cheese, ring-pull cans, meat and fish tins, milk and juice cartons, and child-proof tops on medicine bottles.
Some 2,000 people responded to the questionnaire. The figure would have been larger but an untold number could not get the tops off their biros.
I am not one to boast, dear reader, but it would be false modesty were I to deny that I have so far defied this process of maladaptation. Though, as I glance back at my dusty footprints in the long march to God knows where, and can just about make out the 50-mile stone on the fading horizon behind, I am still able to open a ring-pull and a jam jar. And I have no difficulty with the other items aforementioned, with the exception of bleach bottles, for which I have no demand and on which I am therefore unqualified to comment.
Emboldened by the knowledge that I am possibly unique in having passed the age of 50 without absent-mindedly mislaying the gift of dexterity, I could go on to boast of other achievements, such as the nifty way in which I can conquer a champagne bottle or even open a door – provided the wind is not against me. But in my heart I know that I am not alone.
Indeed, I would confidently bet that there are millions like me. In other words, Yours magazine is dribbling into its porridge and talking tosh. Everyone can experience difficulty with packaging, regardless of age. There is nothing either in experience or logic that tells us a 30-year-old is any better equipped to open a package of shrink-wrapped cheddar than a 50-year-old.
That is not to say that at the age of 50-plus one does not have complaints, rather that they are inclined to be of a kind other than physical. As a card-carrying grumpy old man (an offensively politically correct term for what is properly called a miserable old git) I have a few of my own. How does life irritate? Let me count the ways.
For a start, it is quite shameful that the UK no longer has a single grown-up national newspaper. The Times and The Daily Telegraph, once serious publications, now devote pages to populist rubbish. One example: this week, The Sunday Telegraph wasted an entire page on discussing who was the older, Lynda La Plante or Anne Robinson. As if anyone in this breathing world could give a toss one way or the other.
Secondly, it is almost impossible to find a decent pub any more, ie: one without music, TV screens, pool tables, and loud-mouthed locals in whose vocabularies the sole adjectives are either “fantastic” or “brilliant” and the only adverb begins with an “f”.
Come to think of it, it’s people who make life unpleasant. People with mobile phones, people who wear sunglasses on top of their heads instead of hats, people who wave their fingers in the air to make inverted commas, people who drive cars so selfishly they make you curse and push up your blood pressure, people who pronounce every sentence as though it were a question, people who have never heard of the words “please” or “thank you”.
I could go on. Never mind ring-pull cans, what about loose inserts in magazines and newspapers? I shake them out and then tear them up with the kind of frenzy my dog used to apply to the morning post as it dropped on the mat.
And isn’t it about time to draw a line (as the Prime Minister would say) under the epidemic of fat and ugly people posing for nude calendars, ostensibly in the name of charity but in truth in the name of exhibitionism?
Yours magazine focused on the wrong people. The real evolutionary changes are among the young. Who would have guessed, for instance, that an entire generation would be born without the ability to pronounce the letter “t” in the middle of words? If this carries on they will lose the need for front teeth. And it is a fact that the craze for texting messages is producing a generation with unnaturally enlarged thumbs. How on earth they will cope with a jar of Phyllosan when the time comes heaven knows.
Well, having got that little lot off my chest, it’s time to console myself with a glass or two of claret. Touch wood, I can actually work the corkscrew.