Naturally old age comes with all kinds of grief, but if you are able to laugh about it, life remains bearable
Are the characters based on real people? For example, the hard drinking Avert and the other members of the ‘Old But Not Dead’ club?
Well, take two dozen existing old people and make a list of their peculiarities, their ailments and diseases, their appearances (fat, skinny, pretty, ugly) and their floral dresses, runny noses and threadbare slippers. Their best traits and greatest flaws. Stir well and create another two dozen brand new old people. They will be indistinguishable from the actual people. The same recipe goes for the day-to-day events at a care home.
The books also explore, in a rather touching way, dark issues like euthanasia, quality of care for the elderly and the awfulness of creeping dementia. What are you hoping to achieve by tackling such serious issues in a book that is very comedic?
Naturally old age comes with all kinds of grief, but if you are able to laugh about it, life remains bearable.
In the UK, a TV documentary called Old People’s Home for 4 Year-Olds aired this year; it followed an experiment where young children spent six weeks with elderly residents in a care home. What do you think Hendrik and the Old But Not Dead Club would make of that idea?
We definitely like being surrounded by young people. And we definitely have lots of them. Except that they’re over the age of 80 and are always whining. It can’t hurt to add some cheerful toddlers. The members of the Old-But-Not-Dead-Club will receive them with open arms. But please deliver them with a nanny, in case we’re away on a day trip.
As the author of the books, you’ve famously decided to keep your real identity a secret. Why have you decided to remain anonymous?
I don’t like fuss and I wanted to cherish my peace and quiet.
Are you genuinely shy of fame? Could you be a care home whistle blower? Sceptics might suspect this is all just a canny marketing ploy…
I’m not a whistle blower. There was plenty of whistling going on in care homes, loud and clear, long before my diary came out. There was no cunning marketing plan either. My success made me realise that it is very fashionable to bring the subject of old age to people’s notice. I am glad I was able to contribute to the debate.
You will know there is lots of speculation about your identity, a lot of famous literary authors being suggested as the real writer, as well as a librarian from North Amsterdam. Can you give us any hint? Are you really called Hendrik for a start? Are you a twenty-four year old woman!?
Well, let me give you one important hint, I’m not a twenty-four year old model, nor am I a forty-six year old hairdresser.
One last thing – the new book is called On the Bright Side. As we kick off the New Year, what would Hendrik advise us to do to get things off to a positive start?
This is Hendrik Groen’s recipe for a bright 2018:
1. Do Not Die
2. Be happy in your old body
3. Take Good Pills
4. Keep good company
5. A pinch of luck
6. No moaning
7. Always have a stiff drink
8. Stop people’s fussing!
9. Be nice to others
10. Be nice to yourself
Preparation time: 365 days