When the British Government’s motivational Keep Calm and Carry On poster was merchandised a few years ago, I thought it was terrific, and was probably one of the first people to have a Keep Calm mug. As is often the case with great ideas, though, people get carried away and introduce variations on the theme. At first these are quite witty and amusing (Keep Calm and Kill Zombies), but after a while they’re just plain silly (Keep Calm and Eat Bacon Pancakes).
I’m hoping the same is not going to become true of what I’m calling the Who books: The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared; The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari; The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden; The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe; and The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules. These are great books with nifty titles, but there seems to be a growing number of them and I’m fearful that further down the track they might just start to get annoying.
At this point, though, we haven’t reached saturation point and like all the Who books, this latest one, The Little Old Lady, is a light and fun read, but with an obvious and pointed message: the message being that old people should not be written off, but are capable of continuing to enjoy vibrant, active and happy lives long after retirement.
So, when Martha and her four best friends are sick and tired of the way they’ve been treated in the once fun retirement home, Diamond House, they start to plan a way to get sent to prison. This makes perfect sense having watched a documentary on Swedish prisons. Prisoners can go outside, they can use the gym, they can be involved in fun activities, and, of course, the food is monumentally better. In order to pull this off, though, they need to commit a crime – a perfect crime. So, with a little encouragement and inspiration from Martha’s secret stash of Cloudberry Liqueur, The League of Pensioners is formed.
Complete amateurs, of course, they abscond from Diamond House and make their way to Stockholm’s most luxurious hotel. The plan is to access the pool-side safety boxes with the aid of a serious amount of hashish and a planned power outage. Not an overly successful hoard, but armed with the encouragement that they actually got away with it, they plan their next, obvious adventure: a major art theft from the National Museum. For this they’ll need some gadget-enhanced walking frames and the type of distraction that only a senior citizen could pull off.
The story is utterly ridiculous and totally unbelievable but like any Who book, that’s the intention: so just sit back and enjoy.