The school sports day is approaching and tutor groups discussed who from their groups would represent their house in a day of competitive athletics. A spirit of rivalry quickly emerged, no-one wanted to allow anyone to enter who did not have a serious chance of winning against the entrants from the three other houses. There are no illusions that participation is enough, it is winning that matters.
At the end of the day, walking to the school gate to supervise the safe departure of the two hundred Year 8 students, a student I knew well fell into step beside me.
“Are you entering the sports day?” I asked.
“Nah, sir. I have the body of a forty year old geezer.”
At most, he was a very slightly plump, it seemed a very odd answer.
“What’s a forty year old geezer like?”
“You know, sir. The men who sit in pubs and shout at the television when the football is on.”
“Do you know any geezers?”
“Not really, sir. My dad doesn’t drink.”
“Nor does mine,” said a boy who had appeared on the other side of me.
The concept of the forty year old geezer was new to me. “Why a forty year old?” I asked.
“Because, sir, that’s the age that geezers are.”
We reached the gate and the boys set off on their homeward walk.
“What’s a forty year old geezer like?” I asked a colleague standing at the gate.
“I don’t know,” he said, “I’m twenty-four.”
Another colleague responded, “I had a real crisis when I was forty. But I don’t think I was a geezer.”
Fifty years ago, when I was the age of the student, “geezer” was generally prefixed with “old.” It conjured visions of an old man in a raincoat and trilby hat walking down the street with a shopping bag in his hand. An old geezer would have been retired, he would have recounted stories of what life was like when he was young, he would have despaired of the young people he saw. A geezer would not have been just forty years old.
Consulting the Urban Dictionary, the boy’s definition of a geezer seems to reflect a wide understanding of the word. The interesting suggestion is that geezers are able to recognize each other, as if to be a geezer you must know a geezer. What is not explained by the Urban Dictionary or Wikipedia is how being a geezer moved forward twenty years.