Monday 21 January 2008

The nurse, the builder, the fire and the blizzard

14st 13½lb; zero alcohol; 1,475; Faeroes.

I’m up early this morning to visit my doctor’s surgery, where the usual cast of consumptive OAPs are coughing their guts up in the waiting room to ensure that, even if you aren’t ill when you arrive, you will be by the time you leave. Fortunately I am quickly whisked away for a blood pressure test and the extraction of some blood samples. The former confirms that I am no longer suffering from hypertension, which is a small triumph since I took medication for it for years. The nurse tells me that I have the body of a 45-year-old, which I deny hotly as she was 39 and, in any case, I disposed of it weeks ago. This makes her look very uneasy, though not as much as my subsequent enquiry as to whether something could be done to increase my blood pressure, very selectively, in fact just here …

She pushes the panic alarm under her desk and I feel that it is time to leave and complain to my builder about the continuing leak in my roof. Comically, as I am sitting there another old Bloke bursts in and starts berating him about the continuing leak in his roof.

“I thought we’d fixed that.”

“Well, you bloody haven’t. I wouldn’t mind so much myself, but it’s the wife …”

At least that’s one problem I haven’t got.

I waste a fair chunk of the rest of the morning counting all the books in my house, to support a frankly implausible claim in a newspaper column that I am not a total Philistine. The total is 3,398, which I find a bit disappointing. I now know exactly how Churchill felt when he asked someone how deeply the swimming pool by which they were sitting would be filled if he had emptied into it all the bottles of Pol Roger champagne he had drunk over the previous 60 years, and they worked it out as about one foot.

After all that, the paper refuses to print my column because it is rude about National Express, with whom they are running a promotion to shift train tickets. The irony is that I was not, in my opinion, anything like as rude as I should have been.

There is a distinct whiff of Teesside about my study, as I was reduced yesterday afternoon to chopping up for firewood the old electricity poles that were lying about in my wood store. These are well soaked with creosote and not only does the resulting fire smell horrible, but there are distinct black particulates descending in front of my computer screen. Bearing in mind that you can be fined £2,500 for throwing a window envelope on a fire, because of the EU’s prohibition on burning plastic in domestic grates, I wonder exactly how many laws I am violating, and about the potential consequences to my health.

On the other hand, my octogenarian neighbours have been chucking everything on their open fire for at least half a century: plastic bags, milk containers, you name it. True, everyone living downwind of them has died of cancer before the age of 40, leaving a range of orphans with rather more than the usual number of limbs, but my neighbours are right as 1s 6d (being ninepence twice).

Luckily my reliance on the old poles (no ethnic jokes in this blog: it’s a rule) is ended in mid-afternoon when the Seventh Cavalry arrives with a lorry-load of top quality split hardwood logs, which are dumped in the middle of my backyard. It would have been better, on the whole, if this delivery had not coincided with the onset of the first serious blizzard of 2008. But, as I’ve surely remarked before, you can’t have everything.

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