Thursday, 17 May 2012

Beware the TAMP!

I used to be a patient man. In my younger days I showed remarkable tolerance for the vagaries of others, remaining serene while those around me would rise to these everyday irritations. But things are changing. That bounder called Age seems to be extracting tolerance from my temperament in the same way as it has been extracting melanin from my once ebony-black hair, rendering me a miserable git (with grey, straw-textured locks).

Take last week. On a visit to the local supermarket it was my misfortune to encounter an increasingly frequent modern day irritant: the think aloud model parent (or TAMP for short). Typically male, and accompanied by at least two precocious children, the TAMP broadcasts a running commentary of his thought processes as if to demonstrate to all those within earshot (and there are many) what a great parent he is.
“Can I have some sweets daddy?” the son asks, in a manner that anticipates (presumably from past experience) the opening of a dialogue.
          “Oh can we?” echoes the daughter.
 The TAMP halts his stride, puts hands on hips and in a loud voice proclaims, “Toby and Isabella, you ate a full packet of chocolate biscuits at your Aunt’s less than an hour ago, and mummy will be very cross if you don’t eat your tea tonight,” looking around as if searching for recognition for his worthy insistence on dietary constraints. Shaking his head to indicate (to any onlookers) his tolerance in continuing to debate the issue, he carries on, “There is way too much fat in those… they’re full of calories, and they will rot your teeth.”

As I escape (jaw-clenched and simmering) into the next aisle, the performance continues. Two minutes later, inadequately shielded by eight feet high shelving, I can just detect his rhetorical, “Your nana is seventy years old next Tuesday… should we get her a birthday card?”  I skip a gangway to exclude the possibility of further encounters. 

I suppose I should be encouraged that parents are routinely communicating with their offspring as equals, and that they take every opportunity to pass on their knowledge and wisdom. Similarly, the increasing prevalence of such patient and devoted guardians of the next generation can only augur well for the future. However, these qualities need not be performed in public places. Outside the home, good parents should be seen and not heard.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A moth in my mouth?

My senses are on the wane. (Or maybe it’s just my sense?). As that bounder called Age tightens its grubby grasp on my faculties, my perception of the world around me is inexorably becoming less distinct. My senses of touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight are all in decline.

On further reflection, maybe this statement of global deterioration in all five senses is not strictly true. At 53 years old, I am not aware that my sense of smell is any less than it was three decades ago. (But perhaps I’d be the last to know if it was; unknown to me, I might be routinely emitting body odour sufficiently caustic to remove gloss paint). And age has yet to destroy my taste-buds. If anything my sense of taste has improved with advancing years, as evidenced by my recently developed appreciation of Rioja and Caesar salad drizzled in olive oil.

But my other three senses seem to be going west at the speed of the Lone Ranger on an urgent mission to rescue Tonto. Although not yet having resorted to a hearing aid, I regularly ask Mrs Jones to turn up the volume on the television. And on the rare occasions I am obliged to enter into conversations with people from outside my immediate family, I increasingly have to focus on the shape of their mouths so as to lip-read some of the more ambiguous words (such fixed attention typically giving me an expression resembling a psychotic stare).

My sense of touch is dwindling. As my nerve-endings atrophy, I commonly feel numbness in the tips of my fingers and toes. The sensitivity of other, more intimate, parts of my anatomy has dulled and they now require more prolonged stimulation to achieve a reaction (but more about that in a future post!).      

It is, however, my eye-sight that is my greatest concern. Short-sighted, I have worn contact lenses for over twenty years. At each annual check-up, the optician informs me that my vision has deteriorated a bit further and proceeds to over-power one eye and under-power the other so as to enable me to read and drive while wearing my lenses; with each eye performing radically different tasks I fear that soon each will go its own way, leaving me with a squint of monstrous proportion.

Most disturbingly, over recent months I’ve started to see things that aren’t there. Not true hallucinations (the only time that’s ever happened was over 30 years ago while on holiday with my mates in southern Spain when, after a gruelling week of alcohol abuse and sleep deprivation, I “saw” the long-bearded figure of Old Father Time, armed with scythe and hour-glass, squatting at the foot of my bed) but my eyes playing tricks on me. Take last Friday, for example. I was in the bathroom, 10.30 p.m., preparing to go to bed (I know how to party!). After cleaning my teeth with my usual vigour, I slurped a mouthful of water, rinsed, gargled, and spat out into the white porcelain wash-basin. As I dabbed my mouth with a towel, I glanced down into the bowl and was instantly paralysed with horror and disgust. There, in fearsome contrast to the brilliant whiteness of the basin, were the chewed remains of a reddish-brown moth. With a wave of nausea rising within me, I hesitantly groped for a closer inspection, grasping the soggy winged beast between thumb and forefinger. It wasn’t a moth. It was the skin of a kidney bean. Three hours earlier I had eaten a generous portion of Mrs Jones’ home-made chilli con-carne and this blighter must have been stuck like cling-film to my molars throughout the whole of the evening. Nice!