Here I am, as my strapline proclaims, ‘An Englishman Abroad’, and I’m looking at England from that position.
I am not yet an elderly person, although it is a state which is looming ever larger in the windscreen of life.
Sometimes, the way England treats its elderly citizens seems perplexing. In the last couple of weeks, for example, I have spent time looking at the D-Day 75th anniversary commemorative events and watching the news about the TV licence fee charge.
I have seen some elderly chaps (mostly) landing on the beaches of Normandy and showing why we value them. Their stoicism, respect, bravery and sacrifice. They were, as the Queen pointed out, the wartime generation which were resilient and were owed a debt of gratitude. These elderly folks were well over the age of 90 and some of them, no doubt, are not well off.
A couple of days ago, the BBC, an institution which, I feel, produces and broadcasts some wonderful TV and radio, announced that most over 75-year-old people will have to pay for their TV licences soon.
So here we have the wartime generation, bemedaled but unbowed. They are revered by all, from the Queen to the waif. They have given to our country much more than could be reasonably asked.
What does the BBC do? It makes them pay to watch TV. Of all the groups of people in the UK, the group who probably find TV a support, a distraction, some company in a lonely life, are being asked to pay for their entertainment and pleasure.
If I were a D-Day veteran, I would be a trifle confused.
My country clearly values me, I would think. Why, I was taken in a big ship to France and feted. My Queen thanked me on behalf of the free world.
I came home, took off my medals and my beret and stored them away again. Then I was told that I’d have to start paying to watch the TV.
Maybe it doesn’t value me that much.
I am alone, I spend a lot of each day watching the telly. It lets me keep in touch with news, keeps me entertained and gives me something to talk to my mates down the Legion about when we get fed up talking about our friends who have died.
As I say, I am not elderly, but I feel acutely embarrassed.
In Portugal, where I live, TV is all but free (it’s a couple of euros a month on the electricity bill). Mind you, it’s not that fantastic, I suppose!
I don’t actually think the TV licence in the UK is bad value, actually, as the TV is worth watching. But to ask the older generation to pay for it is cheap and penny-pinching.
I think that the senior staff of the BBC, and it isn’t just one or two people, earn a good sum, so it looks a bit sick when a little old lady has to stump up for a TV licence when the bosses are coining it!
Mike Gaunt is a former assistant headmaster at St Christopher’s School, Bahrain – email@example.com