It’s been five weeks now and illness has changed the way I do things. I have a long handled shoe horn now, which is quite useful now that I have worked out the best way to use it. I have also just taken delivery of a set of braces. (That’s suspenders to you Americans. I have to add that, because in the UK suspenders are a very different thing to braces.
Braces are what old men use to hold their trousers up (hence the title). Suspenders belong to a completely different demographic and are used to hold stockings up.
There are worse indicators of advancing old age, but these are the thin end of the wedge.
I’m actually wearing the braces at the moment and they are very comfortable. They also feel more secure (a shrinking waistline and a dodgy belt have conspired to make the last few weeks quite challenging). I was going to buy another belt, but after reading that they can, when tightened excessively, cause bad backs and all sorts of digestive damage.
They were a bit tricky to set up (Julia had already gone to work when I made my first attempt) and I did get one strap twisted to begin with but they are generally simple to operate and there was no unexpected pinging.
I’ve practised trouser removal and it seems simple enough. It wasn’t actually the removal that bothered me, but the retrieval of the braces. They seem simple enough in the packet but they take on a life of their own once you put them on.
Meanwhile, the physio rang me at 8.00 as arranged and I have an appointment at 11.40 so they can prod me about and give me some exercises to help me regain mobility. My phone alarm just sounded – time to get ready for the appointment. I will write again later.
This morning I went to collect cash from the ATM. At 8.30 there was already a queue, with two people in front of me and two behind me by the time I finished. Despite what the shops and banks keep telling us, people still want cash.
I was in the shop for 9.00 and, with a coffee on the desk, was answering queries from eBay users. In general, eBay users who ask questions fall into five categories. One is buyers who are reasonably intelligent and ask useful questions. These form about 10% of all enquiries. We didn’t have any of these this morning.
Some, possibly 5%, are enquiries about deliveries. We had one this morning, because the post has been erratic during lockdown. By the miracle of the internet I was able to put the tracking number into the Irish postal system and find that it has been sorted in Dublin and is out for delivery.
Another 10% make ridiculous low offers. We had a couple of these on Saturday but none this morning.
Another 10% ask questions that they could have answered themselves if they had read the description properly. We had one of these this morning.
That, as you have no doubt already calculated, leaves 65%. These are enquiries made by people who would at one time have found employment as village idiots. Thanks to the internet they are now able to extend their reach and disturb my morning from many miles away.
The rest of the day went quite smoothly, until I returned home. The gardeners had returned to finish the clearing, and had filled the skip, including a lot of roofing felt. You can’t put roofing felt into a skip these days, along with a lot of other things, so I had to set to and remove it all. This was tricky as it was in many pieces and much of it was still attached to parts of the shed roof. However, I am glad to report that my hands worked well, my back stood up to the strain and I managed to get all the felt out.
It was a minor victory. In fact, a few years ago it wouldn’t have counted as a victory at all, because I would have expected to be able to do it. A couple of years before that I would have demolished my own shed and wouldn’t have needed help. This is a picture of me in 2012. The contrast with the haggard me of 2020 is a bit of a worry.
This was a rugby club ID photo – I was much more colourful in those days, with a ruddy hue and ginger beard. I’m now pale and white, which reminds me – I had a look at yesterday’s foggy photo and have just noticed the decapitated scarecrow in the foreground. No wonder people have been saying it’s eerie. I missed that until today.
I am much more wrinkly than I was in 2012
It’s a sombre thought on the impermanence of what we regard as a normal way of life. Tomorrow I will try for a more cheerful view.
Meanwhile, I will leave you with a header picture of a poppy purple poppy. I like purple poppies. I found it whilst looking through some old photos. They seem to have died off in the garden, but the memory lives on.
As an antidote to musings on mortality we had sausages for tea and followed them up with rhubarb and apple crumble. You can’t be serious while you’re eating sausages, which don’t really lend themselves to solemnity. Crumble, though lacking some of the comic potential of sausages is a similarly cheery food and should, in my view, be prescribed as a cure for depression.
I may actually launch a movement to deliver crumbles to neighbours. Unfortunately, in these days of Type 2 diabetes and rampant anti-sugarism it may open me up to accusations of attempted mass murder…
All married men know the scenario. You are sitting down minding your own business when your wife asks a question and you sense that your life is about to turn to dust…
We were watching a TV programme about people trying to make themselves look ten years younger. They had done the first bit, which is asking people in the street how old they think the subjects are.
At that point Julia turned to me and said “How old would you say I was if you didn’t know?”
Time ground to a halt. The foundations of my life shook. The atmosphere cooled…
Fortunately this wasn’t my first time in a tight spot.
It is always best, I feel, to go in roughly five years low. There are no prizes for accuracy in this area.
However, do not go too low or you will be accused of lying.
(These guidelines only apply where you actually know how old people are, if in doubt go at least ten years younger to be on the safe side.)
And that, dear reader, is how I escaped from a tricky situation and made my wife happy.
(I was, of course, helped considerably by the fact that we met forty years ago and she doesn’t seem a day older to me. She says much the same about me, apart from the fact that that her remarks revolve around me failing to grow up. It’s much the same sort of thing.)
I had a shock this morning. As I waved to Julia after dropping her at work I realised I had my father’s hands on the ends of my arms. I have the same ageing skin, the same slightly bent fingers and the same way of holding my hand when I wave. I even have some brown spots, though mine are freckles rather than age-related.
It was a bit of a shock.
I once wrote a poem, my first published poem as an adult, about looking in my shaving mirror to see my father looking back. It wasn’t quite accurate (or “authentic”, if you prefer), because I don’t, as you may have guessed from the beard, shave. And in those unguarded mirror moments I actually look a lot like my maternal grandfather who has handed down his distinctive head shape to me.
Eventually, I will probably write a poem about this. It will be much more complicated than the anecdote I have just related and will include angst and a word I can’t quite remember. I’ll remember it when I stop thinking about it. It’s like ambivalence. It might be ambiguous. Something along those lines anyway. Editors, it seems, like that sort of stuff, and I don’t have enough of it.
That reminds me, I have a haibun in Contemporary Haibun Online January Issue. I feel that it may be the last for some time, as one of the main magazines is closing and the chief editor, who has accepted several of my haibun, and offered editorial advice, is being replaced by a man who I do not get on with quite as well.
Time to work on my craft, and begin battering editors with my brilliance.
There were eighteen parcels to pack this morning including several with multiple content. We also bought in a pair of Great War medals and some sovereigns.
We turned down the tin of worthless coins and the stamp collection. It was plain that the owner of the coins thought they were worth a lot more than we did so we persuaded him to keep them as their interest outweighed their commercial value. The stamps, we were truthful about – the market for modern First Day Covers has been dreadful for years and we don’t buy them unless they are autographed or have a coin on them. Or they belonged to Freddie Mercury’s father.
Falklands Crown 2014 mounted on postal cover and autographed by Sir Tom Courtenay
For tea, we will be having haggis. This time it is made with meat. I’m looking forwards to it, and to making veggie burgers with the leftover veg,
As a welcome coincidence, it begins with “H” and allows me to indulge my passion for alliterative titles.
Four years ago I went to the opening of a Great War display at Nottingham Castle. I was there as a guest of one of my gardening customers, as I don’t normally move in such circles. There were several people I knew there, including two local historians and someone who works as a volunteer in the regimental museum. One of them said to me that I was looking very much like a King.
“What,” I said, “Henry VIII?”
With my ginger beard and regal looks, I have in the past been likened to Henry VIII, though I would like to point out I have no intention of obtaining a divorce or expelling the Church of Rome from the UK.
“No,” he said, “the other one…the bald one…Edward VII.”
Edward VII, or Edward I if you are Scottish
I had to admit, after a few seconds of thinking, that I do look a lot like Edward VII. Considering his somewhat loose morals there is, I suppose, a distant chance of me being in line to the throne.
This is what Edward VII would look like if he had less ermine and more Cotton Traders shirts. And no comb.
I really don’t know where to start today. Rose at 6.30 (unwillingly). To hospital by 7.16 (I had a slow creaky start to the morning) and found myself 9th in the queue.
I didn’t have to wait too long and only read four pages of my “waiting book” before being called. It’s taking a long time to read because I keep it in the back of the car and only read it while I’m waiting for something.
It was a three tube day. The needle went in fine and the blood flowed like… whatever blood flows like. She looked at the first tube a little too long for my liking but I was soon done. I then nipped to the toilet and filled my tube for the urine sample. Returning to the car park, I was allowed out free of charge (I’m beginning to think the timer may be broken) and took the sample to the surgery.
Could it all have been so easy? Seemingly so…
Only one thing of note happened in the shop today. A lady came in to sell some coins and asked for a seat. When given one, she asked if we had a lower one. Fortunately we did have a lower one. She was, it seems, suffering from frailty and old age.
In conversation afterwards my ungallant co-worker referred to her as a “little old lady”. I protested, not through gallantry, but because, in the conversation, she had told us she was born in 1958.
Hot on the heels of the elderly retired gent we’d seen last week (born 1960), I’m beginning to feel quite youthful. Some people seem to look and act old despite still being quite young.
I, on the other hand, having been born in 1958, still feel I’m quite young. Julia sort of agrees, though she did use the word “immature”, which isn’t quite the same as “young”.
Later in the day I had a phone call – the blood test had not been satisfactory and I have to have a fresh test tomorrow.
It’s not a health problem, I’ve had this before. If they don’t fill the tube properly the laboratory refuses the sample. And if the blood tester looks at the sample for too long after testing it usually means they aren’t convinced they’ve filled the tube.
That means another early start and another half hour wait.
I can’t help feeling cheated – I did everything they asked and I’m being punished for it.
I was so annoyed I came close to using a Bad Word.
This has truly been a week that keeps on giving. A curry, a nosebleed, new trousers and, finally, a booklet on bowel cancer from the NHS.
I think I’ve covered the curry and the new trousers. I’ve probably covered nosebleeds too, as I have several every year. I may have to have it seen to.
That just leaves the bowel cancer. I don’t really need the stress of being told I’m at risk of bowel cancer, as I’ve already had this pointed out a number of times. Nor do I need additional details on taking stool samples, reasons for false positives and how I’m at greater risk due to my weight.
I’m always at greater risk of things because I’m fat.
Greater risk of cancer, greater risk of heart disease, greater risk of running out of chocolate…
It’s possible I may be asked to do as many as four tests before they decide they need to have a look at my bowels.
That’s not a test, it’s a way of taking up more of my time than the NHS already does. Having fully explored the potential of one embarrassing orifice (see the posts from 12 months ago) they now want to shove a tube up another one.
It’s bad enough being 60 without all this.
I’m so annoyed that I can’t even begin to think of other things just now. This is a shame, as I have many other things to talk about.
If you are involved in the NHS I would just like to leave you with one thought – why not leave this sort of thing a month or two instead of diving in while I’m still getting used to being older than I would like.
Actually, two thoughts. You’ve never yet made me better when you’ve called me in for these age-related examinations – you’ve just added to the list of things that are wrong with me. I can do that myself thank you.
We went for a curry tonight – three shop staff and five customers celebrating a birthday. For reasons of internet security I won’t tell you who was having a birthday, which birthday it was or what the exact date is. I can, however, tell you that it wasn’t mine.
I had a nice mild curry, drank tonic water and only spilt down my shirt once. My days of raucous behaviour and painfully hot curries are over. As my 60th birthday chugs over the horizon I have finally discovered the benefits of middle age.
Life is good/
The only fly in the ointment was that I was late due to a heavily congested ring road, but as the people in the crash were clearly having a worse day than me I listened to the radio and tried patience.
I’m not sure I like patience so I may revert to shouting next time it happens.
It was, as the title suggestd, misty this morning. Due to Julia’s start time it was also dark, so there was no photo-opportunity. I may try again later.
Mist, which can be a nuisance on a long trip, is always welcome at this time of year because it tells me that Spring is coming. There’s a fine line between yearning for Spring and wishing your life away. and this year is probably the first time I’ve felt this quite so sharply. The last twelve months has made me focus on health, age and mortality in a way I’ve never done before.
It’s also the first year where I’ve been so aware that there’s more to winter than crisp mornings and a nip in the air. This year I’ve had to worry about falling and the fact that I need to keep warm. O;d people die in winter, and I’ve been feeling old. In fact I’ve been feeling Very Old for the last few weeks as all my joints seems to have turned up the pain setting. If I was youmger I’d insert a Spinal Tap reference here about the pain levels being turned up to eleven. But I’m old. So I won’t.
They used to say that one of the signs of old age was that the policemen were looking younger. That happened ages ago, and didn’t really bother me. My personal milestone, is that Life Peers seem to be getting younger. I’ve added a link for readers who aren’t familiar with the UK’s constitution arrangements but, frankly, it doesn’t help.
All you need to know is that in the old days (basically from the dawn of time until 1958) if you worked hard, did your best and tried to be a useful member of society you would be allowed to wear yourself out and die.
If you added a layer of corruption, politics, back-stabbing, lick-spittling and (often) cash to that , you could become a Peer. In fact, let’s face it, if you did enough of this, you could get by without the hard work, doing your best and being a useful member of society. If you look at the current crop of Peers it’s hard to see many that will be of any use until we have Soylent Green on the menu. Having lied, cheated and bribed your way to the top you could then pass on your title to future generations of inbred offspring.
All this changed in 1958. After 1958 you were generally no longer allowed to pass it on, and there was more politics involved. Because if you want to improve something, adding more input from politicians really is the way to go, isn’t it?
Getting back to the point, Life Peers are looking younger. To add insult to injury, they also remind me of my lack of success as they all look sleeker, richer and socially superior to me.
I had to send Julia off to work on her own this morning because I had an 8.50 am appointment with the doctor and the timing didn’t allow enough leeway to get from one side of town to the other.
This brought back memories of sending the kids to school as I fussed round making sure she had her flask and sandwiches (ham and mustard on one lot, ham and pickle on the other – variety being the spice of life).
It wasn’t much of an appointment, just to confirm my new tablets weren’t causing problems and discuss a letter from the hospital.
I ended up being prodded and questioned by a medical student on work experience. There’s probably more to it than that, but that’s effectively what it was. They have to learn somehow, besides, the doctor offered to do my anti-coagulant blood test, allowing me to get on with my day instead of returning for the test at 11.30.
After that I shopped, called at the Arnold Sorting Office to pick up the parcels I missed yesterday, and called at the jewellers.
There, I scrapped in two gold medallions. Although the price of gold has gone down it is still high compared to a few years ago. As a result I got more for the medallions as scrap than I had been trying to obtain as a retail price when I last went to an antique fair.
If only all profits were that easy.
As I prepared to leave a local collector entered the shop. I haven’t seen him for years so we spent half an hour catching up. He’s aged over the years, his beard has turned white and he’s a grandfather now. It was a bit like looking in the mirror, apart from the grandchildren.
I’m seeing more people from the past now that I’m getting round the shops and markets, but also finding that several have died, which is a bit of a shock.