Well that soon went by. Not just the month, but the last ten years, which is how long it is since I left Britain’s shores to seek my fortune. I’m still looking! Yes, this time a decade ago I was heading to Amsterdam to live and work, something I did for 8 months before retreating to France for a bit more peace. I can’t say I really miss the place, Holland nor England, for that matter. OK, the beer and the rolling hills around my ancestral home do get me a little nostalgic from time to time but generally I am happy with my lot, and that’s all that matters. Each year sees a few more funerals but I suppose that is inevitable once you pass 50 and start spiralling towards the prospect of Saga holidays and incontinence. 60 is the new 40, they tell me, which I assume means 80 is the new 60 and I won’t see a penny of my government pay-off until I am four score years and five. Does this also imply that the Queen will no longer send out telegrams, or emails, or whatever medium they now use, until we reach 120? Oh well, it will save on the ink, I suppose.
Anyway, after three weeks of constant rain, the sun is shining here before breakfast at Chauffour, backlighting the sheep in a golden glow amidst a covering of white frost. On mornings like these it is hard to imagine anything wrong with the world. Long ago I stopped taking a daily newspaper and now I even refrain from seeking the news on TV or the Interweb, else it might spoil the illusion of tranquillity and satisfaction. Occasional news does filter to me eventually, via post, text or social media, the former about the financial problems, mine in particular, and the latter either about more funerals or what one of my cyberfriends is having for lunch. I will admit that Facebook and Twitter are an unwelcomed distraction from my busy schedule, which currently includes getting a 60,000 word novel out of my head and on to paper, after two years of cluttering up my mind. However, at present I am writing a true story about an American, which involves me looking up jargon online, only to be presented with adverts for things I bought for Christmas. Yes, the online marketing people are now so smart that they now know what I have been recently buying. Here’s a tip, Amazon. If I have just purchased some bath taps, a new pair of shoes, and some loft insulation, why the hell would I want to buy more of the same? Surely you would be better offering me some cheap paint and socks? Or better still, the services of a reliable plumber. Oh no, I forget, they are as mythical as unicorns and Boris Johnson’s hairdresser.
The reason for the urgency in my latest literary panic is that at the end of this month we are heading off to the slopes for a week and, following that, I have another stint in Scotland sorting out some business. Then comes lambing, a few month’s building work, the summer visitors, and all of a sudden it is next Christmas and the page is empty. As the confines of my desk allow me no more exercise than the shake of a wrist, and my ski suit doesn’t fit, I try and find time to get half an hour each day with the cross trainer. No I don’t mean Reme Garde – sorry, had to get an Aston Villa joke in somewhere – but a piece of apparatus that allows me to run like hell, without getting anywhere – a bit like Villa, actually (ha, that’s 2, Ed!). Only problem is, in an attempt to build up a few extra leg muscles that will carry my weight on the snow, I find that my knees are not getting stronger, but weaker. And they hurt like hell. After a word with a friendly doctor, I ascertain that the joints in my knees are, to use a technical term, buggered, and grinding them away with physical movement isn’t helping. A wee touch of arthritis comes to us all eventually, for one reason or another, and mine can be wholly attributed to years of kneeling down in cold damp sheds, lambing sheep. Damn things should carry a health warning!
Going back to my earlier point about online shopping, here’s one for you marketers: when I bought a new pair of ski goggles from lookwhatinicked.com, you could have checked my age and then offered me some new knee joints as well? Because that it is what it is coming down to, since all the doctors have gone on strike because they have been asked to work weekends, that we can buy pretty much anything prosthetic online these days and jump the 15 year NHS queue. I kid you not, there are dozens of websites out there pedalling everything from a plastic toe to a whole new abdomen. From a link alongside that, you can make an online booking into a clinic in Korea that, for the price of a London suburb, will fit the bits while you wait, a bit like that twelve year old apprentice outside Halfords who will attach your new windscreen wiper-blade for you. Not only that, but with some pre-ordering, you can go green too when your new carbon foot print will actually be made out of recycled bits of Natalie Bennett, or Bono. It’s a win-win for everyone. I’ve already got my name down for a new liver made out of Janet Street-Porter’s teeth!