Sunday 30 March 2008

How to spot a terminal illness

14st 0lb; zero alcohol (but lots of chicken soup); 1,405; St Pancras.

I really was ill yesterday: I passed the Dog Test. It works like this. I go and lie on the sofa under a duvet. The dog comes bumbling into the sitting room, leaps up onto the duvet and lies down on my chest, looking me closely in the eyes. I say “I’m not going for a walk; I don’t feel well,” and the dog either (a) accepts this and remains lying on top of me and looking at me in a concerned way, or (b) divines that I am malingering and creates an immense fuss, culminating in our departure for a walk. The answer is usually (b), to be honest, but yesterday he was an absolute pushover for (a). And it wasn’t even raining or snowing, when he tends to go off the idea of walking in any case. I have this vision that one day he will not only fall for option (a), but will go off and bring me one of his biscuits to cheer me up. When that happens, I shall know that I am not only ill, but terminally so.

I finished reading the black “comedy” and started an 822-page sub-Dickensian epic about London low life and the pioneering days of Australia, which was given to me by a kind client last year. He had adored it. I can imagine it making a brilliant page-turner on a long haul flight, of which he takes many and I take none at all. Lying on a sofa in Northumberland, I couldn’t help feeling that I might as well be reading genuine Dickens rather than a pastiche. Then the dog came leaping up for today’s Test. And I failed, miserably. Which seemed a bit unfair since I still felt as weak as a kitten (maybe he found that image provocative) and was being racked by periodic stomach cramps.

When I limped out into the conservatory I became conscious that something strange had happened. I assumed that there was a fault with the electric heater that is timed to come on at night to protect the plants from frost, but it proved to be turned off. So the fact that it was warm enough to sit out there for the first time this year could only be the result of one thing: Spring. This impression was confirmed by our walk. The verges were full of daffodils and the fields that contained only fat ewes when I headed for London were now filled with the bleating of new-born lambs. There is only one word that covers it: aaaaaah (not sure about the spelling).

I’m a bit of an obsessive about e-mail but I did not even bother to turn on my computer yesterday, which is probably an even better indicator of illness than the Dog Test. When I finally did take a look this afternoon, there were the usual several dozen ads for Viagra, penis enlargements, bukkake videos and replica watches, and the first response in several years to the advert I placed on my other website seeking a wife, girlfriend or carer. The respondent claims to be writing on behalf of a friend who is “somewhat technophobic” and not in possession of an e-mail account, though the resulting impression that she is probably in possession of a pension book is countered by the description of her “Bambi legs” as the result of “drunkarexia”. There is a reference to an article in last week’s Daily Telegraph that will explain these terms, but it proves not to exist. However, I think I have got the drift. I am sure she would fit in perfectly down the Bigg Market, if indeed she exists at all. Whether she would be the partner of my dreams is more open to doubt. As regular readers of this blog will know (if there are any) I have been known to drink too much from time to time, but I have never been under the delusion that doing so is either clever or funny. This may prove an unbridgeable gulf. On the other hand, the fact that someone has bothered to respond at all after all this time has cheered me up no end.

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