On this lovely sunny spring day, I have all the calm serenity of an open-air antique fair in a cloudburst, all the joie-de-vivre of a lovelorn amoeba, and all the affection for my fellow-man of Tomás de Torquemada on a bad day in Sevilla when the Inquisition ran out of firelighters. I’m not happy! Bunnywise, I’m positively myxamatotic.
I’ve suddenly morphed from a respectable upright clean-living serious bookseller into a standing joke. While I love, even expect, to be laughed with, I do not, repeat not, like being laughed at! Especially when it’s not my fault, and even more especially when I’m in bloody agony.
So what brought this on?
I woke up yesterday morning with an attack of gout.
Go on, then, all you wannabee comedians – get it out of the way – have a good belly laugh. Call up regiments of red-faced ex-colonels. Do all the Grouse and Vintage Port jokes. However, the only grouse I’ve had lately are not of the edible persuasion, but entirely verbal, and invariably politically inspired. (McBroon and his New Muddle Army, Stasi Britain, Jackboot Jacqui, the wholesale abandonment of our traditions and culture, and all the other festering boils on the bum of a true Englishman) and I’ve barely been near a decanter of Taylor’s 1960 since it was at the “not a drop is sold till it’s almost cold” stage. I love good port, but sad to relate, it’s a love not reciprocated. And besides, if I do occasionally indulge, it’s not so much my foot that rebels, but my head.
So, apart from a chronic heart condition, type 2 diabetes, a small macular hole in my right retina, serious back problems caused by many years of heaving sodding great lumps of elderly furniture in and out of houses and vans , rheumatic knees, elbows and ankles, and all the other heartaches and natural shocks that septuagenarian flesh is heir to, I’ve now got bloody gout. Sod me - I only need piles, toothache and athlete’s foot for the full set!
Although in general, I feel quite good, for my age, in spite of the deliberately non-PC lifestyle I’ve followed avidly for the last 50-odd riotous years, smoking too much, drinking far too much (and far too often) , dining to an extent that would make Lucullus Lucius Lioinius look like Mahatma Gandhi, and indulging in as much similar bodily abuse I could think of wherever and whenever the opportunity arose. Which I made damn sure was as often as possible.
According to the Nazional-Health-Polizei, I have a life-expectancy of about minus thirty years. But what do they know? As they said about Churchill, when he died at 92 or whatever, “It was the cigars and the brandy that killed him, you know”.
Although I still feel about 18 in my head, I have to admit that the old bod is beginning to slow down a bit. I’ve had to give up on any ambition of playing up front for England alongside Wayne Rooney, running the London Marathon dressed as a penguin, or rowing across the Atlantic in a coracle. Especially all at the same time. But as somebody (Maurice Chevalier, I think - I can’t be arsed to look it up) once said when asked what it was like to get old – the alternative is worse.
So I shall grow old disgracefully, with a bit of luck.
Meanwhile I have this nasty tootsie-come-lately on the end of my right foot where my big toe used to be, about the size and shape (and colour, come to think) of a small haggis. And throbbing, visibly. I can’t get a shoe on, (I rarely wear socks, unless I’m going somewhere special, like a Buck House Garden Party or Bow Street Magistrates Court) and even the duvet weighing on my foot is unbearable. This littlepiggy went to pot.
And everybody, notably my nearest-and-not-so-dearest-all-of-a-sudden, is laughing at me.
Oh well – I’ve had the effect, I might as well enjoy the cause. Pass the Port, somebody.