There are parts of myself that I simply cannot trust. (I probably should point out here that, as an elderly male, I am able only to comment upon parts with which I am, as it were, physiologically familiar: with which I am anatomically intimate. That is, if I’m honest, this is all about me. If you are searching for a detailed examination of the human condition, I can only suggest that you consider reading the blog of someone who doesn’t struggle with the instructions on a revolving door. I am aware that females carry about with them bits and pieces that I do not, and that the presence of these appendages can prove to be less than ideal in certain circumstances. I do not feel qualified to comment on such encumbrances. I feel that it would be disingenuous – not to mention a little weird – of me to mention anything of which, like success, I have no personal experience. Hence, this piece is a personalised roster of biological failings, rather than a generalised tract on human failings, which I do not understand. Except the failure. I understand failure.) So, let me begin at my very top. I am extremely fortunate that, at my age, I am yet to start losing my hair. It is not receding. It is not turning grey. It is not falling out. It is becoming alarmingly unruly. It goes where it pleases. I have tried wearing a hat, but my hair looks frighteningly wig-like when it emerges from such confinement, and I am much too vain to cut it all off – so unkempt is how it remains. Scientists searching for perpetual motion should take a look at my parting. It changes location twenty times a day. During Lockdown it becomes totally overwhelmed by the undergrowth. When I take off the hat, it looks like I have another one underneath.
My eyebrows have a life of their own. Together with my nose and my ears, they produce more extraneous growth than the Conservative Party. I trim my eyebrows with beard trimmers – which is ok, as they often manage to crawl half the way across my face. They are, in the main, very fair (in colour, that is, not magnanimity) but home to the odd pitch-black trunk-like cilia that I have to remove with a hedge trimmer. If I yank them out, I bleed. My eyes do not stop watering for a week, by which time they have grown back again. I will not trouble you with the problems associated with ears and nose, other than to say that if I pluck either, the screams can often be heard a bus ride away.
The corner of the nose is also home to the recurring little white spot which, regardless of what you do to it, always reappears at the very moment you do not want it to. It is generally tiny, but when you look in the mirror post-interview, the only thing you can see. If you attempt to squeeze it, it will not burst until well after the rest of your face is the colour of a beetroot.
The head is also the home of the teeth – although not quite so much so as you get older. I currently appear to be shedding bits of tooth at regular intervals. It is like some form of dental sloughing. I have so much mercury in my fillings that I am actually taller in the summer. I dare not chew anything more challenging than marshmallow.
I have what is described as a bull-neck. That is, my head appears to rest upon my shoulders via something that, at best, is too thick for any collar that is not attached to a shirt in which you could garage a bus. Yet it still looks like saggy wattle: like Donald Trump’s face, but not quite so luridly hued. It obviously needs to be of such a size in order to support a very big head. I cannot buy hats unless they are stamped ‘Army Surplus’. I believe they used them to keep the tea urn warm.
My skin colouring is such that sunshine and I are barely on nodding terms. Without clothes I have the pallor of skinned fish. I seldom take my shirt off in public for fear that the glare might bring down aircraft. If I sleep on the beach, I wake up covered in graffiti. Of one thing I have become painfully aware during my last six months of running and that is the need for a well-fitting man-bra. The chest that was once powerful now loiters around the top of my torso like an ill-set blancmange.
I have lost weight of late which seems to mean that my stomach appears emptied-out, but not reduced. It is incredibly frustrating that losing weight no longer makes me thin, just saggy. My once taut six-pack now resembles the gusset of an over-stretched pair of pants. I thought that I could trust my body to age gracefully, but it is determined to make a monkey out of me. I cannot take my eye off it lest something else slips inexorably south.
At least my legs are strong – they need to be because, ultimately, they support my big fat head – but my knees are about as trustworthy as a middle-aged male politician in a brothel. They collapse more often than England’s middle order when faced with spin*. Given that they have but one duty: to bend along a single plane, they are remarkably remiss. Stairs are simple enough, aren’t they? For some reason, my knees seem to find them so very difficult. They love letting me down mid-flight. The sight of me laying in a crumpled heap in the hallway barely causes any member of my family to bat an eyelid these days. I would not trust my knees as far as I can throw them. Which, of course, with my shoulder, is not very far at all…
*Cricket reference. Most of my readers will understand. Readers from the US may not. Do not worry, I do not understand baseball, which always reminds me of rounders** in armour.
**You haven’t heard of rounders either? Whatever next, no knowledge of French Cricket?