"Ah yes, I remember it well." - Maurice Chevalier in Gigi
The Joy of Senior Moments
by Sep Meyer
This morning I woke up.
This is not an unusual occurrence. On average it happens to me at least once every day.
What was unusual on this occasion, however, was that I did not ask myself such questions as "What day is this?", "Where am I?", or even (it has been known!) "Who am I?".
No! This morning I woke up with one clear thought in my mind: "I have to write a book review for Nurturing Potential".
This thought gave me enormous pleasure. There is little more dispiriting, having reached "a certain age", than the vista spread before one of a day devoid of any rewarding activity. A bleak panoramic view of . . . nothing - punctuated by an occasional TV programme, a trip to the barbershop, a visit by the cleaning-lady (usually while I am seated in the barber's chair, having failed to look at the calendar blue-tacked to the refrigerator door).
So this morning's thought heralded the excitement of an unusually constructive activity.
I got out of bed . . . [No! That is not as stupid a statement as it sounds! Read on.] . . . put on my dressing gown, and proceeded downstairs to make my morning cup of tea. I set the kettle to boil and opened the refrigerator to remove the milk. At which point my eye was caught by a post-it note on the fridge door, reminding me that the book review had to be done.
"Then felt I as some watcher of the stars, when a new planet swims into his ken" (or words to that effect). I had actually anticipated the activity without the needed prompt of the post-it note. What a pity Keats is dead. I could have given him an idea for a new stanza. But, I thought, while the water is boiling in the kettle, I might as well switch the computer on . . . Just to make sure. You understand.
As I went down to the office I spotted mail lying on the inside front doormat. I picked it up and took it into the office, noticing that among the junk mail and obvious bills, was a hand-addressed small package. This is quite an event. One that needs nurturing. One that needs the suspense of prolonged anticipation. So I decided to leave it until I had opened the rest of the mail. But first I would throw the junk mail, unopened, into the wastepaper basket.
The wastepaper basket is full. The three items of junk mail can barely be inserted. So I remove the liner, tie it up, and take it to the wheelie-bin at the front door. As I open the door and insert the rubbish into the bin, I become aware that I am still wearing nothing but a dressing gown. I hastily close the door and start to climb the two flights of stairs to my bedroom.
At the first floor landing I notice that the milk bottle is on the kitchen top. It should be in the refrigerator, I think, and then remember that I was preparing a cup of tea. I enter the kitchen. The kettle has boiled. So long ago that the water has become cold. So I switch it on again. I put some milk in a cup and take the bottle over to the refrigerator, where my eye is caught by a post-it note reminding me to do a book review for Nurturing Potential.
I am trapped in a panic of indecision. What should I do first? Should I wash and dress? Should I make my tea? Should I start on the book review? The options resolve themselves into one as the pop from the kettle tells me the water is once more boiled. I put a tea bag into a cup and pour hot water on top. Then I return to the refrigerator for the milk, which serves to remind me that I've already poured some into another cup. Good. I've actually remembered something without prompting. Or with very little prompting. I put the milk back and then realise I need it for my cereal. I take it out again, put cereal in a bowl, add the milk, and put the bottle back into the refrigerator.
I am on a roll!
I pick up the bowl of cereal and go up to the bathroom to wash and shave. I put the bowl of cereal on the bathroom shelf. I wash. Then I reach for my cup of tea, but my hand grasps a cereal bowl. Where did I put my tea? Of course. I must have left it in the office when I went down to switch on the computer. Well, I had better get it before it gets too cold to drink.
I dash down the stairs and am almost at ground level when the front doorbell rings. I hurry to the door and am just about to open it when I realise that I am completely naked. I look through the peephole and spy a man in some sort of uniform. "What do you want?" I shout. "Electricity," he says. "To read your meter." "You'll have to come back another time," I say. "That's all right," he replies, "I'll stick a card in your letterbox and you can take the reading yourself."
The card drops onto the doormat. I pick it up and take it into the office where I spot some unopened mail and an unopened parcel. I am feeling very dry-throated now and rather cold. I need a drink and I need to dress. Where's my tea? Oh, yes. In the bathroom . . .
When I get back to the bathroom I notice that the cup of tea has metamorphosed into a bowl of cereal. Strange, I think. But my wits have not completely vanished. If the cereal is in the bathroom, then the tea must be in the kitchen. Well, the tea can wait. So I eat the cereal, standing in the bathroom.
Then I go into the bedroom to get dressed, but now I really, desperately need my morning cuppa. So back down to the kitchen where, wonder of wonders, a cup of tea awaits me. Icy cold. I stick it in the microwave oven, set the timer at one minute, and press the switch. Sparks start to fly. I hastily switch the microwave off and open the door. The cup has a metallic painted rim. I pour the tea into the sink and turn the kettle on.
By dint of concentration and perseverance, I force myself to remain in the kitchen until the tea is prepared, then I take it to the bedroom while I dress. My eye lights on the copy of the Radio Times that I took to bed last night, intending to watch some TV, but falling asleep before I could even find the page I wanted. I pick it up, sitting on the bed, and turn to today's programmes. Gosh, I'm in danger of missing Bargain Hunt. Where's the remote? If I go looking for it, I shall miss the start of the programme. What did we used to do before remotes? I press the button on the left-hand side of the TV. Remarkable! It comes on. Even stranger, it is set to BBC 1. I lean back on the pillow and prepare to enjoy the show.
This afternoon I woke up.
This is not an unusual occurrence. What is unusual is that I am lying on top of the bed, the bedroom television is on and is showing an episode of Murder She Wrote. That's very peculiar, because it is an afternoon programme.
I get out of bed. [Normally, after an afternoon doze, it's an armchair I get out of.] I have to have lunch before it's time for dinner. I'm fully dressed, but my chin feels somewhat bristly. Have I forgotten to shave? Well, I'll attend to that after lunch.
Down in the kitchen I open the refrigerator and take out an instant, microwaveable meal. On closing the fridge door I spot a post-it note reminding me to produce a book review for Nurturing Potential. I stand there paralysed by indecision. Do I eat my meal or write my review? The answer comes in a blinding flash. Time and motion. Wonderful. In the four minutes it takes the meal to heat up, I can switch the computer on and be ready to start working immediately I've finished eating. I put the meal into the microwave and go downstairs.
In the office I am faced by some unopened mail and an unopened parcel. The black screen of the computer is a silent accusation. I switch the computer on and open an envelope. As I suspected from its appearance, it is a gas bill. This strikes a chord and I look at the papers on the desk again. Of course. There is a card for the electricity meter. I pick it up and go into the garage where the meter is located. But I don't have a pen. I put the card down and go back to the office to find a pen.
A sudden pang of hunger reminds me that I have put my lunch into the microwave. It must surely be ready by now. The meter reading can wait. I go up to the kitchen and take the meal out of the microwave. It is strangely cold. The microwave must be broken. I put it in again, set the timer for four minutes, and switch on. The light goes on inside and the meal starts turning. How strange. It seems to be working again. Now, what can I do during the four minutes? Well, three minutes actually now. Let me think. Hmm. Right! I'll read the meter.
I start down the stairs and then stop. Where was I going? Suddenly the microwave pings, indicating the readiness of my meal. Oh well, first things first. I return to the kitchen, collect the meal, take it into the living room, sit myself by the TV and press the remote control. Nothing happens. This is very peculiar. I go to the TV and press the on-switch and it starts up on BBC 1. But I want Channel 4. I press the "4" on the remote, but nothing happens, so I return to the TV, looking at the row of buttons, when my eye is caught by a second remote control on top of the set. I pick it up and press "4". Wonderful. My programme is on.
I return to the sofa, and start eating my meal. It's funny how microwaved food never stays hot as long as food cooked conventionally. Nevertheless I am so hungry that I devour the meal and lie back contentedly to watch the programme.
This evening I woke up.
I had a sense of déjà vu. There was something I had to do. The TV is on. It appears to be the Channel 4 news, and this is strange, because it's a newscast that starts at 7.00 pm. I see the remnants of a microwaved meal on the occasional table. Time to have a cup of coffee, I think.
I get out of the sofa. Into the kitchen. Kettle on. Spoonful of instant coffee into a cup. Milk from the refrigerator.
On the fridge door a post-it note reminds me to produce a book review for Nurturing Potential. Funny. I thought I had already done that. Something nudges the edges of my memory. I rub my face and am surprised at the length of the bristles. My beard must be growing more quickly these days.
Indecision gnaws at my mind. I try mentally to list the things that must be done. There is the book review, an evening meal and . . . oh yes, a Robert de Nero movie on the TV that I've been looking forward to watching. I thought I had put a post-it note about the movie on the fridge door, but it seems to have vanished. Well, there's about 90 minutes to go before the movie. Just time to get started on the book review and heat up the remains of the beef stew that I made myself yesterday.
So, down to the office. But, in passing, I note that the garage door is open and the light is on. I switch the light off and close the door. In the office I notice some unopened letters and an unopened package. The computer monitor is blank. I pick up my unopened mail and inadvertently knock the computer mouse off the desk. I bend down to pick it up, bang my head on the pull-out keyboard leaf, and note that the computer has mysteriously come on by itself. My head is hurting too much to start working now; the mail needs opening; dinner needs preparing and eating. And there was something else I was going to do, but I've now forgotten it.
It's really getting very late. I switch off the computer, grab my mail, return to the kitchen, put the stew in the microwave and sit at the table waiting for the food to heat up. In the meantime I start opening the letters. A bank statement, a notice of mortgage increase from the building society, and a telephone bill. The microwave pings before I get around to opening the package.
I've just remembered the other thing. The movie. I take the package and my meal over to the sofa and put the TV on. Then I get a beer out of the fridge and settle down to a relaxing evening after a really strenuous and action-packed day.
I wake up.
My limbs are aching from the position in which I fell asleep watching TV. The movie is over. I saw maybe 20 minutes of it before falling asleep. The package is in my lap. I turn the TV off; turn the lights off; take the package with me, and go to bed.
What a day! The book review has not been started. The electric meter has not been read. The card for the meter reading lies forgotten somewhere in the garage. A dirty cereal bowl resides in the bathroom. I have a thundering headache and the beginnings of a bump on my scalp. I have forgotten to shave. My bedroom TV remote control is beside my living room sofa; my computer mouse is lurking somewhere beneath the desk, and I haven't opened my mysterious package.
Before going to bed I open the package. It contains another book for review.
Who dares suggest that the life of a geriatric retiree is dull or boring?
[Sep Meyer's review of Vera Peiffer's Regrowing Hair Naturally may be found in our Book Review Section - click here]
Sep Meyer is a graduate of the London School of Economics and, since his retirement from a commercial life, has been devoting his time to a totally non-commercial activity, writing unsaleable poetry and unmarketable drama