Sunday, 10 February 2008

Humming the theme from The Great Escape

14st 8lb; 4.0 units of alcohol yesterday; 1,455; Portland.

This is a story of escape; an attempt to free myself from the surplus pounds that are weighing down my body and to lift away the useless possessions under which my free spirit is trapped. I will then advance purposefully onto the broad sunlit uplands of happiness and fulfilment, hand-in-hand with some delightful new partner, and live happily ever after or at any rate until 4 February 2012 if deathclock has got its calculations right (though, as my brother pointed out in an e-mail the other day, according to them he has been dead for 14 years, and it has proved really quite pleasant and enjoyable).

I wouldn’t hold your breath for the happy ending, if I were you.

But at least advances were made on all fronts today, when I spent a productive morning filling bin bags with the sort of clothes that I would be too embarrassed to offer to Oxfam; hideous suits and shirts with a high polyester content predominated, and there was the small bonus of finding an IOU for £10 in one pocket, from a man who is amazingly still alive.

The River Coquet at Shillmoor

After an early lunch the dog and I drove up the Coquet Valley to Shillmoor, intending to take full advantage of the late afternoon sunshine with a healthy walk. As so often happens when one parks in a deserted spot in the middle of nowhere, a Land Rover Discovery containing a couple and a large Alsatian drew up seconds after I did. We proved to be doing exactly the same walk, but they tackled it in the opposite direction, so our interaction was confined to grunting at each other at the halfway point. Whether they always intended to do it that way round, or adapted their plans to avoid dogging me (in the nicest possible sense), I do not know; but if the latter, I shall take this opportunity to say that their consideration is all too rare and very much appreciated.

The road to Batailsheil Haugh (not one to say when drunk)

I’d done the circular walk along the Usway Burn to Batailshiel Haugh, then over Saughty Hill to Clennell Street, a number of times before. The last occasion was seared in my memory because it was a day of exceptionally high winds; indeed, I chose the walk quite deliberately because the first section is in a very deep and sheltered valley, and there are absolutely no trees liable to blow onto one’s head. But I’d failed to take account of the fact that the final stretch over Copper Snout and Saugh Rig is very exposed, and found myself struggling to stay upright in the teeth of the gale. When I got back today, after an altogether calmer experience, I looked in my diary to see when this was, and found that the answer was 29 January 2000. Eight years ago, and I remember it rather more clearly than yesterday. Where does all the time go, and why is it determined to reach its destination with such indecent haste?

Dawn French or a breeze-block shed? This one's Out of Bounds to Troops

Shortly after finding that IOU this morning, I made a much less welcome discovery. Some 25 years ago, a client presented me with a magnum of Dow’s 1955 port to show his gratitude for my work on an unsuccessful takeover bid. This was in the innocent days before I’d started slapping in absolutely vast bills for this sort of thing (which should have been inflated in this case by the fact that it ruined my Christmas, now I come to think about it). I’d put the port aside for a “special occasion” that never quite arrived. Although it had been stored quite properly on its side, this was under far from optimum cellar conditions and I noted this morning that the cork had dried out and around an eighth of the contents had evaporated. Unable to face simply pouring a few hundred quid’s worth of port down the drain, I tried to salvage the residue to the best of my ability. And this evening I sat in front of the television and drank a fair bit of it alone. It would certainly offend the eye of a connoisseur, but it tastes all right to me. I’d have to spend £250 on another bottle of Dow’s 55 to find out whether it’s anything like as good as it ought to be, and I don’t feel that I am up for that. However, I am finally absorbing one important lesson along with the cloudy port: carpe diem. Never again shall I reserve for a special occasion something that I might enjoy today.

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