Saturday 5 January 2008

How hard can it be to say one simple word?

Weight this morning 15st 3lbs, amazingly, presumably as the result of acute dehydration; alcohol units yesterday off the clock; days of life left 1,490, but I wouldn’t mind at all if I went a lot sooner than that. Like immediately.

I can’t think why it all went so wrong last night. But perhaps it had something to do with spending the morning finally tackling all those things in my “To Do” list that I’d been putting off for weeks, particularly writing the letters and e-mails that kept being deferred as “too hard”.

I had my first brush with Temptation in the afternoon, when I called at the garage to have my new number plate fitted (I thought if a professional did it, there was a reasonable chance of it not falling off again, and a cast iron certainty that I’d have someone else to blame if it did). Like a fat kid in a sweet shop, I started just looking at the new boys’ toys in the showroom and then casually enquired about replacing my car, even though there is no need to do so and a pretty compelling financial argument for maintaining the status quo. Within minutes, the genius in charge of sales had gently persuaded me to test drive a superior model. I say “gently”, though in fact his approach reminded me of Mrs Doyle in Father Ted. And what superb patter he offered: why, with that particular model being a demonstrator, used only for very infrequent and short test drives by elderly nuns, yet coming in an amazing £5,000 cheaper than the full list price, I’d be mad not to have it, wouldn’t I? Now I want it. Really WANT it. I can see that £7.50 number plate ending up costing me roughly what I paid for my first flat.

Then Temptation got me again at supper time; I’d just have one glass of red wine as a treat with my supper. The problem is, I’ve never, ever been any good at “just the one”. Total abstinence is fine but, like the late Magnus Magnusson, once I’ve started, my programming is to finish. So glug went a whole bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape; which, I noticed as I was putting it very quietly into the recycling box this morning, weighed in at 14.5% ABV. They must employ a peasant to hoy buckets of water into the fermenting vats to keep it below 15%, when it would have to be classified as a fortified wine.

Mind you, I can’t swear that it was the strength of the wine that accounted for my hangover this morning. It might have been the Islay malt I started drinking after it as a nightcap.

I’ve definitely felt better.

I certainly didn’t sparkle over lunch in Newcastle today, but then that was probably just as well as I had it with an old friend of mine at his parents’ house. The two of them have a combined age of 173, and I’d worried that too much hilarious banter might prove fatal. Luckily there was no danger of that. My crack about Margaret Thatcher being a dangerous moderate, in particular, went down like a lead balloon; so much so that I thought I was about to be invited to leave the premises. It made me feel about 17 again, which I would have been when I last saw them, as a member of a little dinner party club set up by a group of sixth formers in a doomed attempt to develop an air of sophistication. I offered to come back again in another 37 years, but they said they wouldn’t be there. Strange to think of moving at their age, but I expect they know best.

This evening I watched a fascinating Channel 4 documentary about how the world came to the brink of Armageddon on 8 November 1983, thanks to a series of mischances and misapprehensions which convinced the paranoid Soviet gerontocracy under Andropov that the US was about to launch a first strike nuclear attack on them. Excellent television, marred for me only by the selection of a narrator who was apparently constitutionally incapable of pronouncing the word “nuclear”. You’d think they’d have picked that up at an audition, wouldn’t you?

“Just say the word “nuclear” would you, love?”


“Thank you. Next!”

It’s a simple enough word, for God’s sake. But not as simple as “no”, and just look at the problems so many of us seem to have in getting that out.

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