Only two days left until the end of October. 5.40 pm and the already bible-black night creeps in through the still-open patio door. Such confusion: I must carry a torch to light the ridiculously short and slippery route to the wheelie bin which I take in what seems to be the dead of night. It seems as though I should be preparing for bed but it’s too early. Pointless wouldn’t have finished were I watching it. And it’s so hot!
A heavy mist – more of a fog really – has enshrouded the now inappropriately named Twilight Zone. It hangs heavily and uncomfortably and silences anything that might dare to noisily intrude. The sparrows, always keen to devour the Lidl fat balls in a Hitchcock-like threat, have long since departed into night-time foliage. The deer are nowhere to be seen. Even the sirens have finally ceased.
It’s Wednesday. It’s Diamond Day at B & Q where swarms of the elderly will have gathered earlier in the safety of daylight. I often join them, seeking a purchase or two at discounted prices. Generally, I don’t mind fighting my way through a car park full of pristine Jags, Audis and extra-large Hondas, all with booster seats on the driver’s side. Normally, I’m not averse to undertaking a slalom through walking sticks and Zimmer frames, Usually, I’m ok with avoiding all those extra-large trolleys on which the ancient transport new doors and fences in order that I can purchase a tin of wood stripper or suchlike. Let’s face it: I’ve also got a Diamond card and sufficient wrinkles to argue a familial connection with Jagger. Not today. I’ve had enough of old people this week.
I went to Tesco instead. I inadvertently caused a problem by deciding to take up the offer of a number of stamps to enable me to buy an iron casserole dish at a reduced price. The person that gave me the stamps was about 190 years old. This is my BIG fear. I will be too old to continue in a job whereby I dish out (probably) unwanted advice to the young. They will farm me out and, finding myself finally paying the price for a wayward life with no adequate pension, will be forced to man the till in my local supermarket.
Old man on the till recognises me as someone of a suitable age to chat up. I wanted to tell him I had Freshers’ Flu which is why I look particularly decrepit. I had neither strength nor inclination. Young man, back in the day, might’ve invited me for a drink. Old man gave me ten iron casserole dish stamps instead of the regulatory two. Old man, being very old, couldn’t find the necessary card on which to stick said stamps. Old man became upset and confused. I left him sobbing and chose my iron casserole dish which I took to the fag counter.
Ancient lady on fag counter was distraught and unable to cope with iron casserole dish stamps because they were not stuck to a card. Aware of an increasingly hostile crowd behind me, I offered to stick stamps on anything she might care to give me. I had already apologised to members of hostile queue and mentioned that I was a little anxious. Ancient fag lady said there was no need to worry because all the people in the queue were young and didn’t get upset like us oldies.
Finally, I escaped and set off in the direction of home. Unfortunately, due to the fog, there had been a major accident. The way home was blocked as ambulances screamed their way to the scene of carnage. I managed a 48 point turn and thought carefully about alternative routes. There was no getting away from it: the only way to avoid the tailback was by cutting though B & Q car park.
I’m only recounting this tedious story because I started swimming again this week. Due to old folk’s complaints, I’ve been, factually and euphemistically, out of the water for a month. It doesn’t suit me. It makes me even more disagreeable than usual. A friend from the changing room emailed to say could I hurry up and return because she had no-one normal to talk to. And when I reappeared on Monday, after knowing her for seven years, she invited me for coffee for the first time. These are truly desperate days.
I don’t know whether some well-meaning GP has advised a load of old folk to take a spot of exercise in the pool but we were back to the slalom: this time trying to swim a path between herds of ancient wilder beast wandering aimlessly through the water with no sense of direction or purpose. I asked the duty manager whether they were filming a remake of Cocoon. Duty manager was of an age whereby reference to Cocoon meant nothing. She claimed they were there for social reasons. Well, go to the frigging park then! Why would you be so ancient and insist on getting up at 6 in the morning?
Probably because these foggy silent nights are so very long.