The Running Man on Thoughts of a Return (or Why You Can Never Take Too Long in Thinking Things Over)

After too many weeks of illness I am at last approaching normal health – my voice still sounds as though I have been gargling a combination of broken glass, maracas and dog whistles, but otherwise I can almost pass for well – my wife, however, a good week or so behind me in disease progression, remains quite unwell and so occupies a different bed in a different room – although she has yet to decide to leave the house.  She is not sleeping.  She reads, she watches TV, she thinks of all the things I haven’t done.  I know this because I lie awake listening to her.  She is the noisiest non-sleeper I have ever known.  Each time I stumble out of bed, trip over something, turn on the light, walk into the door, flush the toilet, turn off the light, walk into the other side of the door, trip over whatever I failed to pick up when I crossed the landing the first time and huff my way back into bed, I can hear her coughing.

My own cough, save for the obligatory morning hack, is now a thing of the past.  I am quite able to hold a conversation with anybody who is in the least bit interested in talking to me (so I don’t talk much).  I have yet to return to running – to be honest, I have yet to return to any form of exercise that does not involve chocolate or twelve year old malt – but I have begun to consider it.  Currently my mind is telling me that it is a good idea whilst my body is telling me to get a life.  Gulping down enough oxygen to make the end of the street is all that is currently holding me back.

I am left pondering upon a single unknown: have I taken so long to recover because this particular virus is insidious, ever-changing and particularly obstinate, or is it because I am getting old?  I scour the internet for evidence of the former.  I find nothing but proof of the latter.  My contemporaries are dying in their droves.  If you are my age and famous, you might as well hand in your cards: you are going to be on the news really soon.  I wonder if we are a particularly unfit generation.  I eat well (I refuse to believe that chocolate is anything but healthy), I exercise and I follow all of the doctor’s advice (except the bit about alcohol).  I am generally well (except for when I am ill) and I can still do most of what I want to do without stopping for oxygen.  I have four grandchildren and I would like to see them grow, but I want to enjoy them, and me, for as long as I can.  I refuse to wrap myself in cotton wool (knowing my luck, I would be allergic to it anyway).

We all know that for most people the last few years, months or weeks of life are less than ideal, so I figure I need to have some decent memories to cling on to.  If they involve me making a complete prat of myself, well… that’s fine.  It’s kind of what I think I’m here for.

My weight has risen just a little bit (in elephant terms) over this period of illness and inaction, but my blood pressure and my heart rate have stayed pretty constant, so I think a return to the running shoes may be imminent (if I can muster the energy to tackle the laces) and a first run of 2023 could be just around the corner (where, perhaps with any luck, somebody else might live).  Exercise bike first I think, then actual bike before putting in the plodding joyless running miles around the village, wondering when it was, exactly, that I became this stupid – perhaps a return to Couch to 5k might be the way forward.  I’ll give it plenty of thought.

It doesn’t pay to rush things at my age…

Should you wish to know where all this old age exercise nonesense started, you could do worse than look at this post from May 2020.

Whodunnit – Or At Least Where It Was Done

Back in the days of my yore (1979 according to the publishing notes) I purchased a beautiful little gem of a paperback book called ‘Life and Other Punctures’ by Eleanor Bron which has just fallen to hand because I am rooting through things in my office whilst I try to remember why I came in here.  For those of you who do not know the name, Bron was at the vanguard of the satirical comedy wave of the 1960’s, with the likes of Peter Cook, John Bird and John Fortune, and a well known film actress to boot.  Her book – the only thing of hers I have ever read – sits atop a pile of I really must read that again’s on a shelf behind my chair.  It is a joy of a book, but the font (what I almost certainly, way back then, would have referred to as typeface) is tiny, sub-microdot, and the concentration required to read it immense.  My particular copy (there may be others, I don’t know) is by Magnum Books (who were clearly finding paper difficult to come by, and sold I note, at a cost of 90p, which I think would have just about been enough for the deposit on a decent-sized bungalow in Torquay back then. 

Whilst the manuscript is, perhaps, not particularly long (35,000 words at a rough estimate) neither is it unduly short, yet the book is itself unnecessarily Lilliputian and, bizarrely I find I can only read it when I take my glasses off.  I regularly make the effort though because it is a thing of pure joy and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It has no plot as such (so one less thing for me to lose track of) and merely recounts a couple of solo bicycle trips through France and Holland on a Moulton bike (a peculiar, small-wheeled contraption designed with the sole aim of making riding in a straight line almost impossible) bedecked with baskets, equipped with the wrong clothes and only a single spare shoe.

Now, I do not want you to believe of me (although it is true) that I have difficulty in holding the finer nuances of plot and character development in my head when I am reading a book.  Technically my recollection and understanding is second-to-none until I have to put the book down to make a cup of tea, smear on the sun cream or sleep (dependent on location) when things are apt to swim a little.  It is no problem, a short recap of the page or two before my bookmark is all I need to get me back up to speed, providing, of course, that I have not lost track of a character along the way.  The ‘hang on, who’s he?’ moments involved in the reading of Colin Dexter or Conan Doyle are sufficiently frequent to mean that my reading word-count is somewhat at a variance to the authors.  I never see the clues, or at least if I do, I never remember them until the detective jumps to the wrong conclusion about them.  I have the peculiar gift of remembering plot details as I re-read them, but to enjoy them as new none-the-less.  Knowing that a joke is coming does not, for me, diminish my appreciation of the skill with which it has been delivered.

So, having sat for several minutes reacquainting myself with the inestimable Ms Bron, it was time for cake and coffee and a trip back down the stairs, during the course of which I remembered why I went up them in the first place.  I remembered what I had done with the paper scrap containing the scribbled synopsis of the ‘great idea’.  I had gone up there to retrieve – except that recalling what I had done with it did not, I discovered, allow me any insight into where I did it.

Ah well, I’m sure that all will become clearer in time…

Feathers

Photo by Aman Bhatnagar on Pexels.com

When you reach my age you know, rather than believe, that Time Portals do exist.  Think of something at the bottom of the stairs and then ascend.  As you pass through the portal at the top, you have absolutely no idea of why you went up there.  Walk back down and as you pass through the portal at the bottom it all comes back to you.  Go back up and you remember exactly why you went up in the first place… after a while.  Obviously upstairs exists in a different time plane to downstairs.  Either that or nature has contrived a very particular way of ensuring that the elderly get sufficient exercise.  People of my age do not forget things, we merely misplace them: we accidentally leave them in the time and place where we first thought of them.  Time always moves on around us, but it doesn’t always take us with it.  And it almost always leaves the car keys behind.

The thing about memory is that although it has to exist in the present, it must, perforce, be part of the past.  Everything you remember has already happened, so who’s to say that everything you forget never did?  What lies in the past at the bottom of the stairs might just lay in the future at the top.  There’s no wonder you can’t remember it.  It’s all very well heading up the stairs to bring your winter coat down if, at the top, you haven’t brought it up yet.

The most sure-fire way of ensuring that you forget whatever-it-is that you seek to remember is to start the inner dialogue with, ‘I must remember…’  The conscious effort involved in the deliberate attempt not to forget is always sufficient to drive whatever you sought to remember right out of your mind.  Set off up the stairs thinking, ‘I must remember to ring Aunty Derek’ (we are a strange family in so many ways) and by the top you will be trying to decide what to have with the aubergines for tea.  The knowledge that you started the trek with a ‘must remember’ is enough to ensure that you will never dredge the information back to the front of your mind and, by the time you have given up, you will also have forgotten the aubergines and made soup.

Imagine then how interesting life becomes when what is being transported along this precarious route is an idea, perhaps little more than a thought, to be retained in the head for fourteen steps before being cyber-stitched into whatever confection is sitting open on the laptop following the last visit.  Imagine trying to hold that in place until you get there.  Step one may see just a couple of words become disassociated from the rest; step two may see a couple more swapping places.  By step three, that vital word that holds the whole thing together may well have slipped far enough behind the curtain as to have become too indistinct to recollect without a serious feat of focus.  By step four, the mind will have become so singularly absorbed in dragging this polysyllable back from the brink that all of its associates will have grabbed the opportunity to scarper – dragging the whole grand concept with them.  By the time you reach the laptop you have nothing there but feathers.

Oh well, at least it’s something…

Aah Yes, I Remember It Well…

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

…So, I know that I had an idea for today.  I was so taken by it that I wrote it on my, on the back of my, of my… I might be able to find it in my pockets if I could only remember what pair of trousers I was wearing.  Or was it pyjamas?  On a scrap of paper.  I wrote it on a scrap of paper.  I tore it from the… It must be in my trouser pocket.  I never wear pyjamas.  Not during the… you know, when the curtains are open.  I do in bed.  These days.  Containment is the secret at my age.

Gas bill!  It was a gas bill.  I wrote it on the back of a gas bill.  Or electric.  I wrote it on the back of a bill.  Could have been gas, electric, credit card, water rates… It was definitely a bill, I’m sure of that.  Unless it was a letter, although nobody writes letters these days, do they?  Except the insurance company.  I don’t think it was on the back of one of their letters.  They fill both sides.  Like… I was watching the football, no the darts, on the telly… It was a flyer from the man who wants to clean my gutters, my windows, repave my drive.  I ripped it off and put it in my cardigan pocket.  That should be easy, I only have one of those.  Blue.  Big pockets…

I found it!  Brown.  No pockets.  No paper in them, but it’s ok.  I remember now, I wrote the idea on my… you know, not lapdance, little grey job.  You lift the lid and… laptop!  I wrote it on the, I was drinking tea at the time.  I seldom drink tea but I was having a biscuit.  You know, black and white, swims a lot… No wait, it was coffee.  And a Hobnob.  I got crumbs on the keyboard.  Penguin!*  But it wasn’t a Penguin, it was a… I’ve just checked the crumbs.  It was a cheese sandwich.  I wrote down the… not needle is it?  PIN!  I wrote down the PIN so I’d… you know, so I could get the lapdog working.  I wonder what I wrote it on?

Never mind, my wife, my daughter, the DPD delivery driver, he got it working for me.  No PIN apparently.  One less thing for me to… I checked in my Documents, but there was nothing.  Forget!  One less thing for me to forget.  But there was nothing in my documents that I could, you know, find.  All good though.  The DPD driver showed me how to set up a Direct Debit.  Used his bank details as an example…

Not that it matters.  I realised when I gave the postman, Tesco driver, man in the cap the cheque, that I had written the idea on paper.  All I have to do is to find the… not pencil, I don’t use a pencil.  It wipes off on my sleeve.  Especially wool.  I would have used a pen, if I was wearing a cardigan…

I’ve checked the cardigan.  Purple.  Very small.  Would fit my…  No paper in the pockets though.  Wife!  It would fit my wife, not me.

I used a red pen.  I remember now.  I saw it on a pad near my… It was blue and the pad was, it had a frog on the cover, or maybe a skyscraper.  Or a pyramid.  Either way, I remember it clearly because my pencil was laid across it.  Titchy orange rubber on the end, should I want to…  except it was just an idea.  I wouldn’t… I would just scribble it out wouldn’t I, if I thought it was…

Anyway, let’s forget it for now.  I have a, what do you call them, a blog to write and I could really do with, the kind of thing I used to worry about in the… where was I?  Idea!  That’s it, I just need, not constipation, it’s…  I always write it down when it strikes unexpectedly.  Inspiration!  I always write it down when it…

I’m sure I had an idea when I started, I wonder where I put it?

*A chocolate covered biscuit, popular in the UK, best known for being advertised by a man with a stutter.

…Helps the Medicine Go Down…

Way back in time, when my salad days were but a Cos seedling twinkle in my mother’s limpid eye, she, in the absence of any manner of vitamin supplement outside of Bird’s Eye frozen spinach, spoon fed me Malt Extract in order that I should grow big, strong and healthy.  For those of you unfamiliar with it – anybody under sixty years of age – perhaps I should describe it to you.  Imagine carefully removing the chocolate layer from something like a hundred weight of Malteasers before, in the parlance of Masterchef, reducing the brown crumbly bit down to something with the colour of molasses, the consistency of bitumen and the volume of a small egg cup, and there you have what was thrust down my throat every Sunday evening in the years that filled the interim between romper suit and chalk-stripe bellbottom trousers.  I was lucky mind you, many of my friends were forced to imbibe Malt & Cod Liver Oil in its place.  Whether we could not afford the fishy additive or whether my mother knew that thus conjoined, she would have no chance whatsoever of getting the stuff down my throat, we shall never know, but, for whatever the reason, I was always offered my germinated barley juice without the added fish innards.

These, of course, were the days of Horlicks, Ovaltine, Bournvita and Milo: all malty drinks made with hot milk and designed to help the progress of the average hyper active tot into sleep.  I remember that you could also buy Horlicks Tablets, although what they were intended to achieve I am really not sure.  According to our friend the internet, malt extract ‘improves digestive health’ and ‘stimulates better mood’, especially when consumed in beer.  Anybody who has ever toyed with a homebrew beer kit will recognise the brown gunk in the tin as malt extract.  It is similar, in this form, to superglue, in that it finds its way onto every surface with which it has had no primary contact and from which it steadfastly refuses to be washed.  Home brewers will be fully familiar with the sensation of not being able to let go of the spoon.  It also has, I am told, fifty times the antioxidants of fresh broccoli.  I do not know what antioxidants are, but if these are the only sources, I’m happy to live without them.

A further consultation with Dr Internet tells me that cod liver oil is beneficial for heart, brain, mood, bones and in the treatment of arthritis – although quite detrimental, I assume, to the lifespan of the cod.  It would appear that combined, there is little that these two viscous goos cannot treat.  With such vastly enhanced mood, heart, memory and skeletons, it is a wonder to me that so many of my contemporaries died so young.  I presume that without it, they would not have made it beyond nylon ‘Y’ fronts and winceyette pyjamas.

So I have, of course, checked whether malt extract is still available and, it would appear, I have missed seeing it staring out at me from the shelves of every supermarket I have ever visited over the last forty years.  The stuff is everywhere and is, I am assured, perfect for spreading on bread or toast, or as a substitute for sugar in most baking recipes.  You can also make beer with it.  Malt extract and cod liver oil is also widely available – although this mutation seems to be found mostly in Health Food outlets, meaning that it is approximately ten times the price of either of its constituent parts – and is, I presume, less suitable for spreading on toast or bread and, probably, not so useful as a sugar substitute in baking – unless, presumably, you are making fish cakes.

Tempted as I am by the health benefits, I will not return to the weekly spoonful of yesteryear.  I will, instead, check how many pints of beer I have to consume in order to receive similar benefit.  In no time at all I will be as fit as a flea – especially when I replace the Horlicks tablets with Malteasers.  As for the cod liver oil, well, it is possible, I presume, to be too healthy – and nobody wants that at my age…

Testing

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I have no desire to put myself to the test these days because I have no need to find myself wanting in a whole new range of ways, but life… ah life… it has a different agenda.  The very best (just possibly the only) good thing about being the age at which I now find myself (other, of course, than not finding myself at the age at which I now find myself) is that I have, in almost all scenarios, lost the impulsive need to ‘test myself’.  By and large, I don’t need to; I know what the outcome will be.  I have never been forced into conflict, but I can quite easily imagine myself as a reluctant, conscripted soldier facing the tests associated with being dropped into a theatre of war: would I become a) a hero, b) a coward or c) one of the vast majority who does whatever it takes to survive?  I can be pretty certain it would not be a): I am not the stuff of which heroes are made.  I am the stuff of which ‘scared’ is made.  Nor am I brave enough to be a wartime coward, because wartime cowards get shot.  I do not have to actually test myself to know that I am c) one of the silent, disposable, majority: far too scared to be a coward, far too frightened to be a hero.  I know this; I do not have to test it.

By the time you reach your sixties, you know yourself pretty well.  I know, for instance, that I can handle any form of mental examination until boredom kicks in – which it does, of course, far more quickly when I am not equal to the challenge.  Having been recently given the GCHQ Puzzle Book, I am aware that I become instantly bored the moment I do not know the answer.  I know that my mind deals far better with the head-on than the oblique.  I am a disciple of the Times Cryptic Crossword, which I will stare at happily for hours.  I don’t mind not knowing the answers – I have long-since given up on trying to kid myself – but as soon as the realisation kicks in that I don’t even understand what the clue is pointing towards, mentally I down tools.  Once my brain has started to consider the ingredients on the Rice Crispies packet, there is no way back to 1 Across.  I know that I cannot solve the Rubik Cube because it is unsolveable: it is a conjuring trick, like those little linked pieces of metal wire you get in Christmas Crackers that most of us solve with pliers.

The days of the Grand Test may be long gone, but life continues to plonk little hurdles in my path, keen to see whether I am still up to the contest, or whether it needs to start ordering in the hormones that will, in the fullness of time, encourage me to walk towards the light.  Physically, such ‘tests’ to which I now succumb are significantly less strenuous than those of yore, but no less challenging: I know that I will never climb a Himalayan peak; I will not swim an ocean, run a marathon, eat my own weight in chocolate, but I do begin every day by attempting to put my socks on without holding the wall, brushing my hair without poking myself in the eye, putting my pants on without finding the labels at the front…

Getting old is life’s last great test and, sadly, the way in which we approach each of the little hurdles it throws in our path is not always ours to choose.  Age makes me ever-more conscious of all the things that I cannot control, but it does also teach me that although I might not be able to fix the holes in the roof, I don’t have to sit under them when it rains.  And I can see the sun so much better when it shines…

Sunnier

I am pleased to report that three weeks in the sunnier disposition of 2023 has so far survived influenza, New Year’s Day, my birthday and, at the time of writing, remains in place, tested, but as yet unbroken.  Now, before I start receiving acid comments – most of them from my wife – I would ask you to note that the word I so carefully chose (above) is a comparative adjective and not the more easily quantifiable simple adjective (e.g. sunny).  My sunny days, if ever they existed, passed long, long ago with Tank Tops, Cork Heeled Boots, tinned Pink Salmon and Tiger Nuts.  Not, I want you to understand, that I have ever been particularly morose – at least not for long – I am, in general, happy far more often than I am not.  I just, by and large, prefer to keep it to myself.

So, here is how sunnier works for me.  Life is full of ‘inputs’, each of which has any number of possible outcomes, ranging from the best possible at one end, the most likely in the middle and the inevitable crock of shit at the other.  Now, if I can somehow manage to lower the anticipated excrement level at that end, surely my disposition must automatically improve.  The knowledge that, like it or not, I will end up neck deep in the ordure, can only be lightened by the realization that it is unlikely to be quite as deep as it used to be.  In short, it is my intention to raise my faecal threshold against a background of a falling tide.

In fact, I wonder, could it be that the acceptance of doo-doo ahead, is in some way actually itself the source of my comparative sunniness?  Perhaps I am reconciled to always, ultimately, ending up in the muck: maybe the ‘bus’ of my life has ‘Poop’ on its destination board; I’ve paid my fare, I know where I’m heading, I can handle it – I’ve had a lot of practice – look at the shiny little smile on my face…

Perhaps I should clarify.  I have a very vivid imagination.  However bad things could possibly get, I can always think of something worse, so nothing – in my head – is ever quite as terrible as it might be.  Ipso facto, all in all, things are not too bad: they could always be much worse.

New Year came and went without a single substantial hit to either ego or id; my birthday passed without a solitary ‘dink’ to my mental armoury.  The outlook, as foreshortened as ever it seems to be at this time of year, holds nothing that troubles me more than it did a year ago.  I have resolved not to fear the unknown, because it is… unknown.  Unless anybody is able to tell me any different, it could be good, it might be bad, but it will never be that bad.  I have decided to drive with eyes ahead and not, for a change, fixed onto the rear-view mirror.

So here we are, a few weeks into the New Year – at what stage it becomes The Current Year, I am unsure – and whilst my expectations do not stretch quite as far as it being a good one, I am looking forward to not too bad, and I’m happy with that…

Aurora

My own Northern Lights experience…

On reading that the Aurora Borealis has recently been visible in the North of England and thus convincing myself that I have seen it over the roof of the shed, my memory started to whirr…

Seeing The Northern Lights is, I know, prime bucket list fodder and I consider myself very fortunate indeed that I have done so.

We were in Finland, kitted out in more layers than a politician’s conscience, with nary a single millimetre of flesh exposed to the kind of chill that is apt to snap off unprotected extremities.  We had, over the preceding few days, driven skidoos along frozen rivers, dog sleds through glacial forests and been tugged along vast expanses of what a paucity of geographical knowledge allows me only to call frozen tundra (e.g. wherever you looked – up, down, round and across – was white) by reindeers who delivered us to the mouth of a hide tent within which thin slices of their relatives were being slightly singed over an open fire and served with warm Ribena.

We also climbed a mountain – probably a forested hill if you’re being pedantic – with tennis rackets on our feet which worked perfectly well as long as we kept to the path.  One step to either side, however, found you buried up to the chest in a sarcophagus of snow that would just not let go.  It was a long trek, punctuated by brief spells of pulling/being pulled out of the white powder quagmire and at the summit we sat, again around the obligatory campfire, scanning the heavens, waiting for the lights to arrive.  They did not.

In Finland, I am aware, that even in sufficient clothing to double your mass, even in front of a roaring fire, even having drunk the obligatory glass of lukewarm blackcurrant cordial, it is unwise to remain still for more than a few minutes and so, it wasn’t long before our whole little cryo-snake began to meander its way back down again.  The journey was a strangely spiritual and bonding one, despite the absence of lights in the sky.

Back at the hotel – via the usual breakneck bus journey – we spent the habitual three hours divesting ourselves of our outer layers before eating dinner accompanied by a single beer costing little more than the price of a bungalow in the Algarve and heading to our room at which point we became aware of an unusual ‘buzz’ about the hotel: The Lights were out.  We threw on a couple of dozen layers of clothing – too few as it turns out – and waddled outside and into the bottomless darkness that is the surface of a frozen Finnish lake in the middle of the night, to watch the show.

The Northern Lights – at least in my experience – is a more visceral phenomenon than a visual one: more of a swirling, back-lit, celestial mist than a firework display (the bright colours, it transpires, are only really witnessed through the camera lens – which also reveals that, despite how it feels, you are not alone) but the affect upon the soul, when witnessed against the backdrop of a billion needle-bright stars, is more uplifting than GCSE English allows me to express.  Until the cold kicks in – which it does quite quickly when you have rushed out underprepared – and becomes impossible to ignore.  The gap between ‘It’s a bit chilly’ and ‘I think I might just have lost a finger’ is short, and pretty soon you find yourself joining the fast-assembling penguin-trail back to the hot chocolate, feeling exactly like a 60 year old man who has just experienced something that, though not at all as he had expected, rather like the comfort of a thermal-lined, base layer gusset, is something he will never forget…

…and then I remembered that we have solar lights on the back of the shed…

Yellow, Orange and Red

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It is one of the vagaries of The Way That I Write that having reached the end I, more often than not, have to go back and change the beginning.  ‘The End’ is almost always the point at which I realise that I have nothing more to say.  The beginning is where I return to make some sense of it.

In my head, I am in the middle of my life, but biology, family history and that little voice in my head all compete to assure me that I am actually much nearer the end of it, and I am beginning to toy with the idea of trying to make sense of it all.  Except that I really don’t want to, because every trip that I take to the beginning brings, perversely, the ending much closer.  Many, many posts ago – ‘200 – A Retrospective’ – I used the phrase ‘sucking the colours from a puffin’s bill’ (which itself became the title of a later post) and seemed to me to be a perfect metaphor (simile?) for what I felt was my attitude to life: the desire to drag whatever colour was to be had from the blandest of blank backgrounds in order to fully embrace life: in the words of an old school friend, ‘to kiss the f*ck out of it.’

Such little idioms drop themselves into what is written, I don’t think they are ever consciously thought through, but this one has stuck in my head and every now and then, when I am not at my sunniest, I think about it.  There have been some cloudy days in the last year – you may have spotted them – I have lost people whom I always assumed would lose me first, I have confronted demons and, worse, worried about friends who now have to confront their own, but my solace is always in writing and – each time I sit with nothing good on my mind – sticking a straw into that seabird’s beak and sucking for all I am worth is what gets me through.  I don’t really do profound – most of the time I don’t even manage found – but I do try to slap a bit of colour on the beige whenever I can.

These colours do not go down like Constable’s; they do not hit pre-loved canvas like those of Van Gogh; they do not have the vibrancy of Pollock, nor the shock of Picasso, but they are there if you choose to look for them.  My beloved grandma had Bragolin’s ‘Crying Boy’ on her tiny bungalow wall for all the time I knew her.  It is the most god-awful, soul-crushing painting of all time, but she loved it and, as she loved it, I began to see colours in its sepia awfulness that I am sure the artist never intended.  In the end, I saw what she saw, and it was full of colour, and it has just occurred to me – because that is the way that things work – that if I went back to the beginning in order to view it from the end, I wouldn’t be seeing her painting at all, I would be seeing my own.  And that would make no sense at all.

I think that I am probably already too deep into the New Year to say that, whatever you face in the twelve months ahead, I wish you only yellow, orange and red, but I’ll say it anyway.

Prostate II (A Slight Return)

This little outpouring of middle-aged angst that is ‘Getting On’ actually all began, four years ago, not with inspiration, but with the sound of latex, the smell of Vaseline and the words “Now just raise your knees up to your chest and relax” and all I can remember thinking is, given the circumstances, what kind of person could actually relax.  Lying on my side in a doctor’s surgery, aboard what looked uncomfortably like a mortuary trolley, whilst a lady doctor – who it turned out had got much bigger hands than anticipated – prepared to slip in through the ‘out’ door, was not a situation for which the desire to relax sprang easily to mind.  And I realise that the gender of a medical practitioner is irrelevant, but, frankly, when you are naked from the T shirt down and have adopted the foetal position, prior to receiving a sheath full of finger, it does add to the discomfort.   You determine to breathe deeply and evenly, and you take in one giant gulp of air, releasing it about three minutes later when the voice behind you says “Ok, you can pull your trousers up now” and you hear the distinctive clank of the pedal bin lid.

I have to admit, it was not the first time I had an index finger up my backside.  It had happened to me just once before, when I was sixteen and it was, again, a doctor’s digit making the intrusion – lest you should have any contrary impression.  On that occasion, it turned out to be acute appendicitis he detected – I ate a pillow that day – but this time I was ready, I knew what was coming, and I had an idea of what the result would be.  On this occasion the words “It’s very big and very hard” were not the ones I wanted to hear.  “Nothing of concern there,” would have been very much the preferred option: “Go home, eat chocolate and don’t worry; there is no further reason for me to go back up there” would have been nice.  The knowledge that further investigation was required and that my rectum was the only available means of access did not fill the mind with joy (any more than the later realisation that it isn’t the only point of access – but that’s a different tale, for another day, after you’ve eaten.)  Suffice to say that, for one reason or another, and excluding my ears, I have now had a camera inserted into every available point of access and I feel that my lights have possibly been the subject of more photographs than the zebra crossing on Abbey Road.

Initially, I did actually consider calling this little blog of mine ‘Prostate’, but I quickly realised that despite the very ragged nature of this particular not-so-little gland, it was actually going to be about so much more.  It was going to be about the potential future of failing eyesight, collapsing teeth, expanding belly, trapped wind, untrapped wind, sagging knees, crap on the telly, short-term memory loss, inability to adapt, short-term memory loss and ‘Oh dear, has Mr Floppy come to play again…’ and ‘You can pack that in for a start…’  This blog is about growing old.  It is about addressing fears (principally, that I might one day smell of wee) whilst embracing life.   It is about being old, but it is also, I hope, about somehow finding the joy in it.  And – you’ll be thrilled to hear – my prostate barely ever features…