Even though we’ve moved, Johnny Boden still writes to me regularly – such a faithful pen-pal; you’ve got to admire the man’s determination to dress me in quirky colourful knitwear – but the other day, an ominous new development in junk mail slithered its way onto my doormat. A catalogue from a company called the House of Bruar. Please don’t hate me if Fairisle sweaters are your thing, but clearly somebody somewhere has decided I’m now of an age when more suitably tasteful clothes are called for. No more skinny jeans and sweatshirts that say ‘Warrior’. No more glittery t-shirts. No more animal-print blouses for me.
Maybe it’s some well-meaning ‘friend’ who has decided I should introduce some lambswool rib waistcoats and crewneck cardigans, and even some chinos with a little ‘finger-friendly stretch’ (sweet euphemism) into my wardrobe. Of course the sensible side of me knows that it’s just an automatic marketing thing. I have a feeling this is just the beginning of an increasingly depressing age-related flurry of catalogues featuring elasticated slacks, incontinence pads, walking frames, stair lifts, and funeral plans.
Maybe I’d better start investing in some quirky knitwear after all; once Johnny stops writing to me, I’ll know the end is truly nigh.
My sleep behaviour is getting even more frenzied (see post 30 October). Mr Young is looking very grey-faced and haggard in the mornings now. He’s taken to sleeping on his side, facing away from me, to avoid getting a black eye from a swinging fist, and is regularly jolted awake by my incoherent shouting.
I know perfectly well what last night’s dream was about, and why I was yelling at him; there was gravy all over the kitchen floor, and the wretched man was about to start ironing a white shirt, for goodness sake.
“Don’t do that! The cuff will get covered in gravy!” I shouted, but he wasn’t listening. So I dream-marched up to him and said it more forcefully. At this point I woke myself up as well and apologised, as we were both sitting up in bed and blinking sleepily at each other.
“It wouldn’t be so bad,” he says, next morning, “if you didn’t always go straight back to sleep and start snoring. But you do, whereas I just lie wide awake for half an hour afterwards.”
But what can I do? I mean, if he will start ironing when there’s gravy all over the floor, I’ve got to step in and take charge, haven’t I?
Grey hair. Lockdown grey hair, to be specific. I’m in the hey, I know, I’ll just grow it out and stop dyeing it, it’ll be great, I’ll embrace my silver/grey hair, I’ll age gracefully!
Some days it is great. But some days my skin, on a grey, overcast day, matches my hair and a very old woman squints back at me in the bathroom mirror and I wonder if the House of Bruar sell Fairisle balaclavas.
Today, as I’m in a dithering kind of am I a House of Bruar person or should I be a Boden Team Player mood?, I fish Johnny’s brochure out of the recycling bin and have a look through it. Bless him. In a desperate bid to attract my attention, he’s designed a dress especially for me. The Penny Dress. I can’t buy it, though. It’s everything I hate in a dress. The wrong shape, ¾ length sleeves, round neck, finishing just above the knee to showcase the sturdy joints that do a reliable enough job, but which I’ve hated ever since I was fourteen. Oh, Johnny. We’re never going to be laughing over Margaritas together, are we?
There are two things I’ve been doing regularly since Lockdown#1. Flossing daily and workouts. The sort of workouts where you put on leggings and bounce around in your sitting room, doing things like burpees and mountain climbers. I started doing these along with Lucy when her gym in Birmingham closed down and they did online workouts twice a day (twice a day! I know! I was sweating like a mad thing!), and now I am bouncing around along with an Essex girl called Courtney Black; I am on Team Courtney with thousands of twenty year olds, all doing our donkey kicks and suicide drills and sumo squats together. She doesn’t know, of course, that sometimes I am actually lying on the floor and panting when she congratulates me on finishing a workout, but it’s ok because that’s the beauty of doing it in your own home, with only Ruby watching nervously from behind the pouffe.
But it’s worked. My bingo wings don’t swing quite as freely in the breeze and my butt (as bottoms are apparently called these days) is definitely defying gravity slightly more. Maybe a lethargic six-pack is even thinking, well, why not? Let’s give it a go? somewhere under the middle-aged spread. And I certainly feel a lot fitter.
The only problem is that now I’ve started, I’ve realised I’m going to have to carry on. For ever. Like the flossing, it’s a habit I’ve got to keep up unless I want to have unhealthy teeth and gums/an unfit body. So am I still going to be flailing about my sitting room when I’m ancient, wrinkly and arthritic? Watched by an equally ancient small anxious dog? Poor old Mr Young. He’s going to have a stressful retirement.
The Christmas lights have started going up in Alconbury Weald, even though a lot of the Halloween decorations haven’t yet come down. It all got very competitive last year. In fact, it was brighter at night than during the day, with all the flashing snowmen (no, not like that. Filthy minds), sparkling reindeer, and life-size Santas lining the street. Quite a few houses set up projector displays so that snowflakes endlessly cascaded down the brickwork. Many residents have clearly invested in either domestic scaffolding or extra-long ladders so that they can scale the guttering to attach even more lights along the roof line.
Last year, our own house sat like a drab little peahen amongst all the finery, a single pathetic wreath on the front door.
I expect our neighbours think we spend our evenings sitting in the dark, huddled round a single lukewarm radiator, waiting for the ghost of Jacob Marley to arrive.
Either that or the festive edition of the House of Bruar catalogue.