Old: Difficult. They’re too prone to saying things like: ‘Kids these days! Want, want, want. When I was a lad and Adolf was up to his tricks, you were lucky if you got so much as an orange for Christmas!’
Middle aged: Difficult. They’re too focussed on mundane practical matters and the fortunes of their favourite football team. Practical matters and football have their place, but surely not in conversation.
Young: Easy(ish.) They can be surprisingly diffident, good at listening, and are often gauche, but those qualities tend to require the willingness of the mature person to accept the superior position, as well as the responsibility to find something wise – or at least indicative of experience – to say. I mostly can’t be bothered.
Old: So-so. The problem with old women is that they’re usually so delighted that somebody has consented to stand and talk to them that they try to hold you on station longer than you want to be there.
Middle aged: A lottery. Middle aged women are often even weirder than I am, only in different ways. Some of my most challenging experiences in life have come at the hands of middle aged women. Generally to be treated with more than the usual degree of circumspection.
Young: Dead easy. They’re the group with the most open, intelligent and engaging attitude to life (mostly.) The only problem I have with young women is that I fear being seen as some ageing Lothario keen to be indulged with one final fling before the obligatory arthritis sets in. I tread carefully, but with mildly veiled enthusiasm.
Of course, the best people to have a conversation with are professionals on duty – doctors, dentists, podiatrists, physios etc. When you tire of talking, you can go silent without giving offence. They’re usually on a time limit and therefore glad that you’ve finally shut up, and that gives you a feeling of being in control. I tried it today and it worked a treat.