Exciting times. I am awash with letters from the NHS just lately. Today’s missive contained a ‘kit.’ My cup run etc over. Following the instructions, took ages to locate the version written in English, I obtained a very fine sample of my poo by scraping a plastic stick across a carefully collected section of the ‘product’ – the three cardboard strips system is no more – and posted it off to the offices of the Nasty Medical Conditions Affecting the Bowel Screening Pie Company in Rugby for examination.
What rewarding jobs some people have.
The attached leaflet explained they only required a ‘scrape’ and specifically asked the donor to refrain from adding ‘extra.’ The envelope is quite large so I assume some people have been filling it to capacity in a misguided desire to please. Less is more when it comes to the examination of poo.
Another missive in the post recently from my newest best friend Matt Hancock. We are mates by now so he just signs his many letters ‘Matt,’ and he is going to send me some Vitamin D tablets. He intimated he would send me a life time supply, but when they arrived in our post box there were only 120, enough for four months. I think I need to request a look at my medical records. Four months? Rather worrying. What does Matt know that I don’t?
We went for a Covid vaccination, supposedly just for me but Marigold, whose invitation hasn’t yet arrived and who hates missing out, managed to wangle a jab for herself as well. Awkward start to the day as the car windscreen was a sheet of ice, but we’re used to minor setbacks and had added fifteen minutes to our trip to cover unexpected snags.
Isn’t driving a car strange? It seems so unnatural after all this time. I’m not sure the car appreciated being so rudely awakened early on a bitterly cold morning after a lie in of so many weeks.
We found the health centre, not one we’d been to previously and the car park was full, even at 08.30 am. I managed to squeeze in at the end and we made short work of the trip across the car park to the vaccinations entrance. Bare arms and short sleeved shirts make vaccinations easy, but don’t do much to repel arctic temperatures.
The woman sitting behind the reception desk was wearing what I took to be one of those ‘designer’ fashion masks until I noticed the fancy script on it it said Mecca Bingo.
We were called into a room for the jab, we went in together, and there was a skeleton in the corner dressed as Elvis. Pretty good, actually. The doctor looked as if he had got out of bed about five minutes ago, was wearing clothes even I would think twice about wearing in public and had a photo of himself and his family on the desk. Five kids, no wonder he looked a bit rough first thing on Sunday morning.
Marigold drew my attention to the photo as the doctor went to find a relatively new needle for his syringe. The wife looked harassed and had a remarkably retroussé nose. That’s a French word meaning tucked up used to describe a nose that turns up at the end. We usually call it a ‘pigs nose’, if we don’t like the ‘owner’, which isn’t quite as polite. Maybe some people look better when wearing masks. I’m sure I do.
Is it just me or do television news programmes only focus on misery these days? Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening' and then proceed to tell you why it isn't anything of the sort and we’re all doomed. Nobody on Sky or the BBC has blamed me or Marigold for any of the nation’s woes so far, but I haven’t checked Channel 4.
I usually lose interest in the tv news these days after a quick glance at the headlines. I still read (online) most newspapers every day. Yes, many articles still annoy me, but at least I don’t shout out loud at a newspaper.
I have been busy lately rearranging our pandemic larder. There’s a fair few tins. I am trying to organise them in sections - the contents we either consume regularly, quite rarely, scarcely never and, quite a lot of stuff we’ve somehow bought at some point for reasons that now escape us.
These latter items make up the majority of our stocks. Things we don’t eat, may never eat, have no idea what to do with, there’s a fair few of them knocking about. After much denial and bafflement we remember the dark days of last March and April when confined to the house and unable to get anyone to deliver food to vulnerable old wretches like us.
Yes, I know, when I say ‘us’ I mean ‘me’ as Marigold is younger, significantly more attractive and has a fully functioning heart. The Council, ie the LA, possibly after being told by our MP of a vulnerable VIP in the area – sorry about the acronyms, but they’re everywhere just lately - delivered a food parcel to our door on three occasions.
What joy as we unpacked the large cardboard box of goodies. We’re well travelled, adventurous folk with wide experience of world cuisines, but some of the items in those boxes were obviously chosen by a computer with a serious wiring malfunction.
Of course we kept them. They’re still here. Unloved and yet carefully hoarded away in case apocalyptic rumours prove to have been true all along. Fancy tinned artichoke hearts? We’ve got three of them. Tinned Brussel sprouts too. There’s a product labelled simply ‘lard with meat,’ the writings in Polish and we’ve enjoyed many foods while travelling around Poland, yet somehow we’ve still not got around to trying this. Maybe tonight. Yum yum. *actually, I love Brussel sprouts, just not from out of a tin.
I have now got everything in date order – come on, I’m in lockdown – and that’s no easy task. Finding an expiry date is either dead simple or a task rivalling the Times crossword for difficulty. There’s no middle ground. If you’re interested, the tinned sprouts are deemed okay until May 2026. I shall place them on the storage area labelled ‘vintage items’ next to my last remaining 1990 bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape.
We lived within a few miles of the actual village at one time. You don’t have to be rich to live in Vaucluse, or almost anywhere else on the Cote dAzur, but it certainly helps! They soon found us out! Not every English resident of that era was named Peter Mayle.
That bottle of wine from 1990 is our last link with the region. It’s one of the most recent vintages termed ‘great’ by the wine growing fraternity. Not merely a Grand Cru, but the far more rarified Grand Millesime and I may regret not having drunk it before my enforced abstinence became necessary.
Our lovely friend Gill rang and said she was sending us an email of a word that describes me perfectly. Marigold emailed back and said, ‘was it dickhead?’ Gill said I had ‘Hyperthymesia’ which is a condition that leads people to be able to remember an abnormally large number of their life experiences in vivid detail. It is extraordinarily rare, with only about 60 people in the world having been diagnosed with the condition. I wonder who the other 59 are.
*Just adding a dose of reality; if any of the few remaining attributes I possess was discovered to be so rare as to be thought remarkable I’d prefer it to be something other than the ability to retain endless recollections of trivial events.
One of my oldest friends still lives in Chateauneuf du Pape. He’s a rather erudite friend and can usually be relied upon for a good laugh. He rang me the other day in far from jolly mode. He says he’s ‘marooned’ in France, unable to return to England due to Covid restrictions and complaining bitterly about being denied the vaccine jab he would surely have been offered in England.
He suspects he will be waiting a very long time before France has enough stocks to get around to vaccinating an elderly expatriate Englishman, resident in France for over 30 years but still regarded locally as the token Englishman, or Rosbif. In fairness, he’s also widely regarded by his neighbours as a bien pensant. Roughly speaking that’s French for a good bloke.
My friend insisted he was suffering from acedia, in an advanced and possibly terminal stage. Acedia, it’s an interesting word, describing what so many are feeling in recent times. Acedia symptoms include – according to my venerable ‘school’ dictionary: - (don’t trust online definitions), ‘moroseness, weariness, fatigue, melancholy, gloominess, feeling overworked, discouragement, dejection, instability, activism, boredom, disenchantment, depression, languor, torpor, mediocrity, laziness, loss of interest and a compelling absence of joy and hope.’
Sounds about right in the Covid-19 era. I told him to stop being a miserable git, to buck up and start drinking the good stuff tucked away at the back of his wine cellar which he always assured me was reserved for my next visit. As I no longer imbibe - damn this useless heart - I cannot bear to think of my friend feeling forced to subsist on the thousand or so bottles of wine he regards as barely drinkable for a moment longer.