December 25: time gets very hard at Christmas

In our house we eat Christmas dinner about five. This is because we have eaten egg and bacon about eleven. That means that we put the turkey in the oven about one. Liz said she wanted to do the vegetables. She lives on the other side of Manchester. So I said what time’s she coming round? Dinner time was the answer. Does she know when dinner time is? I said. Olde dad said she’s coming round at half past. Half-past what? I said. Olde dad changes his tack. Half past eleven, he says. It is now three-fifteen. Which eleven? I say. Half past eleven in the morning or half-past eleven at night. Olde dad looks bemused. Which one is closest? he says. We’re about in the middle, I say. Half-past eleven in the morning, he says. But that was five hours ago. Dad says she must be late. Anyway, Liz is here now. She won’t touch sprouts, though. I’m the only one who actually likes sprouts. When do you put the veg on? We all look at the clock. Time gets very hard at Christmas. That depends when the bird’ll be ready. I opened the wine with the idea that the bird would be done at five. It’s Gevrey Chambertin, I say. It was Napolean’s favourite wine. Nobody is much impressed.  It’ll be ready when it’s ready says Helen. Olde dad nods. That’s the most sensible thing anyone’s said all day.

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December 23: olde dad’s periscope

When you are old you are diminished and you need the aid of things to give you the power you once had. I am at olde dad’s for  Christmas again. And sleeping on the living room floor again. Olde dad puts his glass of  water on a coffee table next to where I sleep. At 2 in the morning, just as I am dropping off, he comes in. The light goes on. Are you awake? he says. I am now, I say. He takes one sip from the glass of water that has been set up on the table. It is the business of two minutes. The light goes off and he goes back up. It is not easy getting to sleep in olde dad’s living room. By three o’clock I am managing to doze. And then Sclack! The light’s on again and it’s olde dad. He’s back for another sip of water. Are you still awake? This time I don’t bother with a response. Why doesn’t olde dad put the glass of water in his bedroom? you ask. Clearly you know nothing of these things. The glass of water is his periscope. Through this feature he keeps some form of control: sleep deprivation in his counterparts; a panopticom over his domain. Olde dad will not renounce power without a fight. You will have to wrestle the crown from his brow.

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December 9: Let it all hang out!

After four months and three GPs I finally went to my appointment with the physio today. Though it wasn’t the physio. It was another gate-keeper, or, as they call it, the Specialist Community Physio Practitioner. This is a step up, as, unlike the GPs, he will move away from his computer and look at me, even touch. It is, I realise, the practice for GPs not to do anything other than document the complaint. The Specialist Community Physio Practitioner asks me to take my shirt off. He touches me at various points with two strips of tissue. He then asks me to put my shirt back on. Then I take my shoes and socks off and he tickles my toes with the kleenex. I put them back on. Then he asks me to take my trousers off. After some prodding of the legs I put my trousers back on. I see this is the ploy for the Specialist Community Physio Practictioner. You do not ask the patient to take all his clothes off at once. It is only partial nudity. I am not to be revealed in all my Ionic splendour. That way we are not vulnerable before the doctor. Any specialist on the erotic will tell you that partial revelation of the body is more likely to incite arousal than total nudity, my hammer toes notwithstanding. But no matter, it is not to be. And I have no trouble with the business of my nudity. I am happy to reveal it in public arenas, certain public arenas. In the gym I make the trip from locker to the shower divest of all lendings with impunity. The willy, as far as I am concerned, is an anonymous beast. In a line-up no-one would pick mine out from a crowd. It plys its trade like any other, anonymous, a face in the crowd amongst so many others. It is, of course, the American paranoia machine that keeps the willy in thrall, like their hyper-hygiene, their hyper-hydration. Though I would not go so far as the Germans in their happy Naktheit. In Baden-Baden you will be expected to negotiate a business contract as unadorned as Adam (or Eve) in the public baths with some executive from Credit Suisse. We would shake hands on the deal and I would with great difficulty stop my eye from dipping below the horizontal. But these are doctors we are dealing with. If they can’t look at the merchandise there’s no hope. They have to see how the leg-bone’s connected to the shoulder-bone and the shoulder-bone connected to the back-bone. Let it all hang out!

As an addendum, I hear that the Finnish Foreign Secretary’s office often speaks to journalists in the sauna with everyone in the nude. This I hear from Alastair who heads the Brussels Reuters bureau. As my friend Christina says, it’s a case of debriefing without the briefs.

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December 2: and lo, even your slightest pleasures shall be taken away from you.

I am no longer allowed to read in bed. This is one of the few pleasures that remain to me but I am unable to perform it in a way that is not detrimental to my overall health. This is equally true for the settee. I’m  not allowed on there either.  In bed my technique was to stretch out and prop my neck against the pillows whilst shining a reading lamp onto the page. This, of course, is neck-wrong! How do other people read in bed? I am unable to sit on my bottom  and read like a normal primate; the torso collapses; my arms  dangle ; my bum shifts on the swamp of the matress. What I really need is some contraption like the one that Hannibal Lector got put in after he ate that man’s tongue for supper, an elaborate mechanical harness with my back shuttered in and a trap for the neck. I’d be hoisted up like Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster. I could read by the flash of the electrical storm.

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