Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Wrinkly, crumbly, twirly

I've got to face it: they're coming true, these particular epithets.

Wrinkly? Well, I've only to look in the mirror (not that I'm particularly bothered, you understand, it runs in the family a bit). And now, a check-up at work confirms a generous fold or two elsewhere: one knows it perfectly well, of course, but what's sold as a 34-inch waist turns out, shamingly, to have been coping comfortably with the challenge of a rather more expansive circumference.

Crumbly? Not quite yet: but the tape measure was only one of the checks that day - and cholesterol, blood pressure and peak airflow have moved in the wrong direction over the last couple of years. I've always thought I was being careful about what I eat, but although this means not quite so drastic a change as for diamond geezer, I shall certainly have to take some more exercise. So tomorrow (ah, always tomorrow), it's back to the gym my service charge is paying so much towards. It's served me quite well in the past (I managed to get a good 20lb off over one period), it 's just a matter of building it back into the daily routine. Though I don't think I'll be taking it quite this far.

Twirly? That's what bus drivers call the canny holders of older people's travel permits (now called the Freedom Pass): they're not valid in the morning rush hour (or not until Ken has his way), so it's not uncommon to find someone affecting hopeful if unconvincing surprise: "Oh, am I too early?".

That's what I became today. And yes, though it feels far too early, and rather over-generous to those of us who are still earning a decent crust, I've paid my taxes for everyone else. If a bit of payback's offered, why not take it?

As rites of passage go, it's very low-key. No oaths of allegiance, no special ceremony (what could it consist of - ceremonial presentation of some thermal underwear and a promotional tin of Benger's?), just a queue at the Post Office (well, this is Britain), a form, some symbolic documents (wouldn't you just know that one's authenticity can depend on a bill?) and one of those axe-murderer photos from a machine.

It brought to mind distant memories of being taken by my mother to the disused chapel the Ministry of Food was using as a local office, to queue up for new ration books. (Guess what was still on the ration in the early 50s? That's right, all the things I'm going to have to ration for myself once more: butter, cream, cheese, meat, sugar and sweets).

And that's not the only throwback that's returning. This is my old identity card.

I suppose it's too much to hope Ms. Smith will accept it in lieu of the expensive shiny new ones they're insisting on wasting so much of our money on.

Well, it would be asking a lot to be taken for sixteen again.

All in all, it makes you think there's only one thing to be said:

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