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Saturday, 23 July 2016

I'm a Cider Drinker

Did mention I played squash on Monday? I did? I also played on Friday. You knew that 'cause I'd mentioned it in the earlier post. Right.

I lost...3 - nil. In fact I lost 5 - nil as we continued playing so that my opponent got enough exercise in his lunch break. He was very grateful. A nice chap: he's something to do with large inflatable balloons - the ones that could fly across the Atlantic and back - but don't. Something to do with the Germans, hydrogen and a nasty accident a long time ago. Anyway, they not in service yet, just flying around trying to think up what a large helium filled bag floating 20,000 feet in the sky can be used for.

I thought he might consider using one of them to relay the Internet to hard to reach parts - like Miserden in Gloucestershire which has a worse connection speed than the base camp on Mount Everest. Apparently not - all rather complicated and having a big balloon tethered to the ground would be irresistible to any old ne'er do well. Anyway he was extremely interesting so I didn't feel so bad at being soundly beaten.

It took me longer to shower and change than to lose 5 - nil. That was mainly because I had great difficulty in moving and, as the changing room had no air conditioning I just sat and had an  impromptu sauna.

I finally managed to dress and slowly leave the sport centre. The distance from there to the underground was too much to tackle in one go so I stopped half way at a Weatherspoons and had a pint of interesting cider.

A strange drink is cider. It looks like it shouldn't be taken seriously as an adult drink. My pint looked rather under the weather all cloudy and extremely apple smelling. I found myself humming "I got a brand new combine harvester" and pulling straw out of my hair. The bar woman was taken aback when handing over my money I said "Ey up me duck". It was however a very refreshing pint. A haystack to hand would have been ideal as the cider had a decidedly soporific effect on me.

Eventually, however, I managed to reach the station and catch a train home. Summer time on the tube can be a bummer what with overcrowded and boiling carriages. It does have it's compensations: watching tourists trying to figure out how to get from A to B using the underground map and hauling extremely large suitcases onto the up escalators and failing to dismount successfully at the top.

And then home. I was by then completely knackered. It had taken me over two hours to get to Walthamstow. I stopped at the florists at the station and bought the missus a bunch of flowers. I've got quite used to having a fresh bunch in the house each week.

When I got home I went out straight again to the Post Office collection office where a parcel was waiting for me. You see I'd opened this cash ISA account with the State Bank of India - lovely people and earlier this week they'd e-mailed apologising for not getting my ISA certificate to me. Also they were sending all their new ISA savers a box of chocolates. How nice: I frankly can't see my skinflint of a bank doing that! Anyway the postman had missed me and the parcel was waiting for me. A box of lovely chocolates.

So even if I lost at squash I was a winner in the end.

Mind you cider and chocolates rather take the shine off the health benefits of rushing around a squash court for 40 minutes.

Monday, 18 July 2016


Continuing last week's theme of trying not to get old but in some way accommodating the drag of entropy, I played squash today.

At my age it's a miracle that I can get my feet into my gym shorts without a) falling over; b) feeling dizzy; c) asking for oxygen. But I did, and I played 6 games against a man who was 20 -30 years younger...and I won.

This is a major achievement for me. It is my first victory since I joined the squash league over a year ago. My record has been consistent...until today. I lost all, except three, matches to 3 -0. Today I won.

This is on top of a 10 mile sponsored walk three hours. I spent the rest of the day laid up but this morning I was able to go to the allotment for an hour without feeling in anyway knackered.

All this illustrates my worry that I might, ever so slightly be getting old. That age is impacting cannot be denied. Hearing: I don't go to concerts anymore since the last one was so painful. In a pub I might as well be deaf. I spend a lot of time mishearing what people, but most importantly, my wife says.

Eyesight. I can still see with the help of increasingly powerful, and expensive, glasses. If you're going to have pebble glass it might as well be the best Venetican.

But my main focus: the measure of my ageing is my expanding waistline. It's all due to lack of muscle tone, you know the six pack you had when you were fit, healthy, attractive and...young. It's lost the will to live: a glimpse in the mirror shows devastatingly how age, and rather too much alcohol,  has expanded one's horizons - gut wise.

As I sip a glass of Chilean Cab Sav and fill my face with a raspberry topped cheesecake, I'm sure a long walk/series of short walks/trip to the off licence will eat away at the bulge. I breath in, except I've so little muscle tone all that happens is my bum pushes out. It's a struggle and it's my age that's at fault.

I remember when all my shirts were slim fit, my pants small and my trousers fitted. Now my shirts, no matter how expensive, have to be of a size that resembles a head sail in a gale. My trousers have an expandable waist band and flies that self seal, as I'm more likely than not to forget to "zip up".

Socks are a luxury. Shoes still have laces, but if I'm playing squash I have to make sure the ones I wear are ones I can take off and put on in less than 20 minutes. It's disconcerting when people start laughing.

I still have my hair. It's no longer the colour it started out as, but it's, more or less, intact. This adds another level of age related anxiety. How to maintain the thatch. Expensive haircuts - to ensure all the silvery/grey hairs are shown off  to their best. Exotic, organic hair treatments to  keep away incipient dryness, flaky skin and widow's peak syndrome. Careful grooming in front of the mirror to ensure as few as possible hairs are detached from the aged pate.

Skin is the great betrayer. Twice a day, morning and night I bath my skin in Clinique's "Dramatically Different". It works: it should given how many thousands of pounds I spent on my visage. And yet all this, all of man's ingenuity - body wise - cannot compete with the inevitable increase in entropy. My body may have been well and truly ordered 40 plus years ago but now it's rapidly sinking into dissolution.

I'm playing squash again on Friday against some twenty something. He'll be so up for it and I'll have to explain the reason why he beat me, if he does, is because

H(X)=-\sum _{i=1}^{n}p(x_{i})\log p(x_{i}).

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Born to be Wild

Yesterday three old friends met up to share a meal at "The Bell". One came by car - a brave man given how car unfriendly Walthamstow has become. Another travelled all the way from Roydon, on the borders of Herts and Essex, alighting at Tottenham Hale and taking a Uber free black cab to the home of the third member of the triumvirate.

We three have been friends for over 40 years: we shared a house in Belsize Park for three/four years until 1977 when I married and moved out with my first wife.

As we talked many images re-surfaced. Mornings on the tube at Belsize Park.  Buying cans of Fosters, imported from Australia, at the shop in Belsize Square. In Hampstead High Street being knocked over by a young woman in hot pants and a bra-less top. Talking to our landlord in the garden of the vicarage of St Peter's Belsize Park. Bar billiards in the Belsize Tavern: and a drunk girl friend upset having been dumped for another pub regular. A fantastic holiday in America in '76. Reprobates who became vicars and long forgotten friends we heard who died alone.

I look at myself now and try to see the younger me. It's impossible. I recall vaguely that I spent a huge amount of time in the pub, loads of time in friends bedsits listening to the sounds of the 70's. I also recall that I found working extremely difficult. I was told by a fellow drinker at the Tavern that I was repressed or was it depressed? I had no idea what he meant.

I see ghosts...that time, that place populated by the dead. Faces that I glimpse and emotions that  echo, oh so frustratingly, across an ocean of hours,days,months and years: unreachable.

Yesterday we three spent much time  bringing to mind our friends from the past. Old personalities whose sense were clawed out of our failing memories. Seeking to recall in those lost sunlight hills emotions now attenuated.

It's a seductive itch, a pleasing peeling back of the scab of memories.  Plunging into a seductive past, dragging up the stripped bones of memory I can, I'm convinced, meander through the frames of a lost past: stop and drink in the bitter sweet echoes of those distant days.

It's a dangerous dream. I'm 40 years on and in the here and now and my friends and I in the Bell in Walthamstow are not young blades - if we were ever that.

We have a future - curtailed I grant you. A future that if we are brave is worth so much more than any glorious, youthful past.

Who is that young man on the Honda 125. Was that me?