How to Tell if You’re Old

Every time I go away, it takes me longer to recover. If you too find that jet lag lasts longer than the holiday, or that hangovers are more vicious these days, there may be a simple explanation: no matter how young you look, you could be deep in the clutches of anno domini.

Here are six more signs of age.

1 You enjoy sex. But a cup of tea and a nice sit-down are far more appealing, especially with a slice of Battenberg cake.

Royal Doulton teacup

2 Your kitchen cupboards are full of empty jars, take-away containers, and margarine tubs. Then you graduate to saving bits of aluminium foil, smoothing the creases out carefully to make it easier to reuse.

storing empty jars

3 You have to sit down to put your socks on. And you can’t put underpants on without holding onto something for balance.

pair of men's socks

4 You understand the meaning of “How are you?”, and know perfectly well that people don’t want to hear all about your gall stones or your hip replacement. But you tell them anyway.

5 Your mobile phone is powered up only when you’re expecting a call. After which you may turn it off. Or else forget all about it, until it plays Sgt. Pepper in the middle of a funeral.

Nokia mobile phone

6 It’s a mystery why people offer you a seat on the bus. After all, you still feel as young as ever. You even look it, as your mirror will tell you.

That’ll be the cataracts, then.

Apologies for not posting last week. I had some jottings for this post, somewhere. Spent days looking for the piece of paper, only to discover it right where I had left it. It was so unfair that I then had the worst gall bladder attack ever. A shocker, it was, I don’t mind telling you.

Ooh, before it slips my mind, you can now get my novel Hampstead Fever in many WH Smith travel bookstores, where it’s on a buy-one, get-one-half-price offer. Which is handy if you’re heading for a dose of jet lag.

Hampstead Fever, as seen in WH Smith

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Life is like a new bathroom

I had a dream.

No, not that one.  I dreamed of a nice new bathroom, one where the tiles weren’t lifting off the wall, the toilet didn’t run all night, and the taps coCP Hart cropuld be turned on (and, just as crucially, off again).

I found a good plumber and it was all planned out.  What could possibly go wrong?

On the first day, the supplier slightly screws up the order.  We drink tea and shake our heads over a shipment of the wrong tiles and twice as many toilet seats as ordered.  But hey, they might be handy when I’m older and incontinent (it’s always sooner than one thinks).

The water supply can’t be turned off and the plumber can’t access the pump. A lot more tea.  Another day gone.

The old tiles won’t budge.  So yer man tiles over them.  That makes four layers of tiles.  In truth, the wrong tiles look great, but the room is going to be much smaller than we thought.

‘Size isn’t everything’ points out the plumber.

I make him a tiny cup of tea.

Towards the end of the first week, it dawns on me.  Bathroom renovation is a microcosm of life.  Timing is up the spout, everything costs twice as much as planned, and it doesn’t look as intended.  Because of drainage issues, the tub has to be raised.  A frame is made for it. This takes more time.  Fingers crossed the work is done before I get too old to climb into the tub.  Now I’m not sure about white grout on the floor.  In fact I’m no longer sure about anything.  Maybe white grout doesn’t matter.  Really, what does?

By this time there are lots more people in my life.  For a start, I’ve got remarried and acquired three more offspring.  There’s also a new trio of builders.  Gary, Barry and Harry are on a break again, slurping strong tea as they pore over a copy of the Daily Star.  Barry adjusts his Chelsea hat and says ‘Cor, look at the jugs on that one’.

The shelves won’t fit by the raised tub. I forget now why we wanted them.  Oh.  For hair products.  Well, soon won’t have any hair left.

As time passes, I agonise over details like taps and mirrors.  The mirror is not a magnifying mirror.  So I will probably emerge thinking I look OK, and friends will wonder why I’ve put eyeliner on my ears.

The soil pipe isn’t quite where it should be and we can’t get a seal.  Now I’m obsessing over waste matter.  Call it a rehearsal for the twilight years.

At 3am I realise that we’re running out of Yorkshire tea, the fuel that keeps the plumber going.

The next day the plumber arrives with an apprentice.  She wears hot pants and fiddles with her iPhone like any 19-year old.  Petite and from the Far East, she turns out to be stronger and more willing than any number of male oiks from South London.  The only downside is that she believes she was a singer in a previous life.  I’ve heard her.  She really wasn’t.

Her voice comes through loud and clear since the bathroom door was taken off.  After a few weeks, I’m wondering: why bother putting it back?  If people had beaded fly curtains instead, then kids wouldn’t get locked in the bathroom. And you’d know right away when your other half passes out in the tub and needs CPR.

Progress is slow but Rome wasn’t built, etc. I survey the scene. It doesn’t look like Rome. It doesn’t even look like a bathroom.  With boxes of stuff and stacks of newspaper, all it needs is a beaded curtain and it could be a corner shop.

bathroom cropLast week the builder brought his dog, but said it would be OK in the van.

This horrified me.  So in came Buster for a bowl of water.  He saw the cat and chased it round the house, scattering tiles and papers everywhere.  Buster had to go back to the van, leaving the cat with a tail like a toilet brush.

I still don’t have a bathroom door or a tub that can actually take in water. The cat litter tray is still in the bedroom, and I’ve no idea where to put all the half-used tubes of toothpaste.  So I throw them out, along with the bottles of nail polish. It’s not like I have any nails left.

On the plus side, I have a lot of new friends, some of whom have two legs.