Monday 17 October 2011

A new life challenge

I'm all discombobbed. That's what comes of having a few days in London (with cocktails) and a weekend out and about.

It starts this morning on the way to school, when a new nuance of my memory disorder comes to light. Having come to the end of Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (oh God! That was due back at the library last week), which we much enjoyed, particularly Aunt Dahlia's inspired insults to Wooster (with which I would love to enrich my lexicon, but I can't remember anything more than 'worm' and 'louse', while Lily has already put Aged Relative and Old Blood Relative into circulation), Lily resorts to playing one of her classical music/story tapes. It's about Bach. I identify Air on a G String correctly (hmmm - just Spotify it to double-check ... Yes! Correct!) when suddenly we flit to another piece of music, which, if I am not mistaken, seems to be the work of another composer.

'Have you just switched to someone else?' I demand. 'Is it Handel? Is it the Water Music?'

No! Horror of deepest horrors. It is none other than my favourite composer, Vivaldi, with his best-known work, which I could have identified standing on my head in a swimming pool when I was 12: The Four Seasons.

I am filled with dismay. So, it seems, highly familiar pieces of music are like old friends - you know the face/tune intimately, but you can't for the life of you remember the name, particularly if you haven't come across them/it for some time, and particularly when you see/hear them/it out of context. As soon as Summer gives way to Autumn, I know exactly what it is. But honestly. What more ignominies are we to endure? (Don't answer that: I see the possibilities all around me, at Mistlebourne Market, at Daphne's dementia home, on Lily's bedroom carpet.)

I remember to buy Parazone in Candlebury on the way home. Administer Parazone to mysterious ice blue slick that has appeared beneath cold tap in bath. It instantly turns black, like a smear of tar! Why? Why?


Walk over to the big house to get my post. Yes! I've been waiting for a massive cheque from Dusty's insurance, so that I can pay my credit card bill. Argh! It's an oil bill. £298.99! They must have filled up my tank while I was in London. Damn.

Hmmm. There's also a flyer. Enterprising Minds. 'Invest in an Enterprising Mind' - Yes! - 'and watch your donation grow.' Donation? Donation? They want me to give them £30 and they'll give £20 to a young person to start a business. Puh. What about giving it to an old person who wants to start a business? What's all this obsession with helping young people nowadays? Nobody tried to help us start businesses when we were young. They positively acted against us. Our careers advice consisted of ten minutes in the school secretary's office, looking through a card index box of job ideas. Puh.

The phone's ringing as I open the door. Vincent.

'I've been thinking about your Passion and Energy levels,' he drawls. 'I'm worried that they've slipped below par. It all started when you came back from Saigon.'

'Which isn't surprising considering I was pregnant and my husband had just turned gay.' I screw up the oil bill envelope and throw it at the recycling pile by the door.

'Absolutely; completely understandable. But Lily's what...? Ten? Eleven?'


'Exactly, twelve. So it's 12 years now. I think you've allowed her to dissipate your Passion and Energy. And I couldn't help but notice the other night that you're looking a little bit... more voluptuous than I remember.'

i.e. 'fatter'. Is he going to turn this around? Because he is skating on perilously thin ice. I walk over to the bathroom and stand on tiptoe, but I can't see below my waist. This is half the problem. The lower half.

'And,' he continues with some trepidation, 'I couldn't help but notice that you ordered chips with your steak tartare, and, unlike the rest of us who left what we couldn't eat, you took them into the cinema in a doggie bag...'

'Yes?' I am containing myself admirably.

'I think the Daily Haiku Challenge sounds great fun and a very worthy idea...'

'It's extremely challenging and brain-sharpening,' I retort. 'Have you tried writing a haiku a day?'

'No, no,' he backtracks, 'absolutely, it's a great idea, and I'm sure it does sharpen the brain, and you definitely shouldn't give it up. But, Eliza, the missing link is Exercise. What exercise do you do these days?'

'Well, of course, when I moved to the country I went on two-hour walks up the downs every morning, but I can't do that now, can I, because of Dusty. She can't walk for more than two minutes.'

'Yes, that is difficult,' he says, pausing for a suitable length of time to denote sympathy. 'But I do urge you to get into a routine before it's too late.'

'What do you mean, 'too late'?'

'Well, to put it bluntly, before you put on more weight and lose more muscle tone. And atrophy. The reason I still have my Passion and Energy is I go for a run every morning and swim every evening and play tennis at the weekend. The Haiku Challenge is fine, but a fit mind is nothing without a fit body, and if you tone up your body, you'll automatically tone up your mind, I guarantee you. You'll notice the difference within two weeks if you take up swimming and running or cycling or even brisk walking for half-an-hour every day.'

Hmmm. It's all very well for Mr Goody-Two-Shoes Personal-Trainer-Manquee, who glosses over the fact that he regularly nods off at dinner mid-conversation. At least I do my nodding off in private. The problem with living in the country is you have to go everywhere by car. No racing to the bus stop or the tube. No swimming pool within a five-mile radius.

Right! I shall show Mr GTSPTM Vincentface. I'm going to set myself a new challenge. The Daily Exercise Challenge. Starting n...  Actually it's spitting with rain and it's practically dark. Starting tomorrow morning!

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