I recently decided that it would be best to take out my young grandchildren separately so as not to spend most of the time pulling them down from railings and suchlike. The little girls being away, I spent three mornings with three boys.
The eldest, aged ten, took me by Tube to London Bridge and the Old Operating Theatre. It's up a very steep spiral staircase in St Thomas's Church, and there are a lot of dead plants and spidery herbs coiling round exhibits and rafters. We liked the operating table best, for it shows the marks of the saw used for amputations, and, though its surface is well scrubbed, the white surgical aprons hanging nearby are satisfactorily bloody.
Second outing was dedicated to the four-year-old and a visit to the zoo. Do you know that Pete Seeger song, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" That could now well apply to the zoo, for the elephants and the rhinos and some of the monkeys have been sent away to nicer environments. It's good that we care about animals, but strange that those with two legs--always supposing they haven't been blown off--don't seem to rate the same consideration.
I've been without a cigarette since 14 January of this awful year. My harsh criticism of 2004 has not entirely to do with my giving up nicotine, or so I kid myself. Forget Iraq and Israel--who can?--and concentrate instead on the hastening collapse of all the things that used to be set in stone. Home insurance, for one, meaning the guarantee of reimbursement in case of damage, or loss, of household furniture or goods.
I've been paying out some sum or other for 40 years in case the Thames overflowed, the IRA got cross with Camden Town or my ciggies set fire to the front room and destroyed the piano and the bookcase.
Five years ago, I woke up and found a hole had burned right through the top sheet and into the mattress, much like what happened to Lucky Jim. I never claimed. How could I? It was my fault and not an act of God.
And then, a week ago, my Nat West insurance company sent me a letter saying I was due for a rise in payments and asking me to sign the document provided.
I was, the form said, born in 1956--how nice of them to knock off 20 years--my house had been built in 1925, was semidetached and I lived with two people. Wrong, wrong, wrong. My house was jerry-built in 1866, one in a terrace erected some few years after the Crimean war, and I live alone.
When I decided to ring the appropriate number, a rude child said it didn't matter, as I had been taken over by the Bank of Scotland.
For those over 50, the past is often more exciting than the present, in that it can rear up like a frightened horse and cause one's memory to bolt. …