Thursday, 6 April 2017
‘On your way home, will you stop off at the supermarket for some salad stuff?’ asked Mrs Jones.
My car was in for its annual service so I took the call on my mobile while sitting in the garage waiting area. ‘Yes, sure. What items do we need?’
‘Oh, the usual: lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and red onions.’
Two hours later I returned home and deposited the contents of my supermarket bag onto the kitchen worktop. Mrs Jones exhaled – audibly – and I detected a roll of the eyes followed by an implosion of her cheeks which, after 36 years together, I knew could mean only one thing: I’d cocked up, big time.
Failure to live up to a wife’s expectation typically means that a man is subjected to a circuitous form of interrogation that is intended to shame and humiliate.
‘Where’s the cucumber?’ she asked, while her foot tapped on the tiled floor, as if delivering a countdown to the moment of my execution.
‘There,’ I said, pointing to the large, cylindrical item in front of us.
‘What makes you think that’s a cucumber?’
‘Well, it looks like a cucumber; it’s dark green, shiny and … … phallic.’
‘It’s much bigger than any phallus I recognise,’ she said, now relishing the role of the strident prosecutor. ‘That is not a cucumber.’
‘What is it then?’
‘It’s a courgette.’
‘A courgette. A marrow-like vegetable, sometimes referred to as a zucchini.’
‘It looks like a cucumber, so how was I supposed to know?’
‘Maybe the sign over the box in the supermarket that read, COURGETTES, might have given you a clue.’
Mrs Jones, savouring the taste of blood, broadened her onslaught. The tomatoes were insufficiently ripe, the onions partly rotten, and the lettuce much too big and shabby. (I must admit the lettuce resembled the severed, semi-decomposed head of an obese gladiator. Although it could have been worse; I almost brought home a cabbage).
And to add to my pain, I now recall that I don’t like the taste of courgettes. Something tells me they will be served up with every meal for a week.
Thursday, 16 February 2017
Life can be difficult for older people. In particular, advancing years and technology can be a discomforting mix, as I recently discovered when trying to teach my 85-year-old father how to use a cash dispenser.
Throughout his life, my lovely dad has always drawn his money from the local post office and, if paying his bills by cash is not an option, he has always chosen to write a cheque. Credit and debit cards are alien to him. Alas, all the post offices in his locality have shut down so he is now compelled to rely on the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ cash machine to get his hands on his money. He asked if I would show him how to use it and I agreed to accompany him.
The first time, he watched as I carried out the procedure step by step, while providing a running commentary. On the second occasion – in an attempt to consolidate his learning – I suggested that he perform the whole operation himself, while I observed. We chose a quiet moment at the cashpoint located 200 metres from his home.
The process went something like this:
DAD: Am I holding my card the right way up?
ME: Yes, it’s the right way up.
DAD: Then why won’t it fit in the hole?
ME: Because you’re trying to shove it into the slot where the notes come out; you need to put it here, where it says ‘INSERT CARD HERE’.
Card inserted, the menu of options appears on the screen.
DAD: Do I put my 4-digit number in now?
ME: No, not yet. You first need to read the options and decide which one you want.
DAD: But I can’t read them – I need my specs. (Starts rummaging in his pockets in search of his reading glasses). OK – I can see it now. So do I want ‘CASH ONLY’ or ‘CASH WITH RECEIPT’?
ME: Well, do you want a receipt?
DAD: Oh yes – I always get a receipt. You can’t trust anybody these days; they’re all trying to rip you off. I need a receipt to …
ME: So press the ‘CASH WITH RECEIPT’ button then.
DAD: Where is it now … let’s see … (Finger hovering over the screen, as if carrying out a subtle piece of black magic)? Oh, what’s happened now?
ME: It’s timed you out. Take your card out and we’ll try again.
DAD: Just my luck to get an iffy machine!
Dad inserts card again.
DAD: Do I put my 4-digit number in now? It’s 672 …
ME: No, not yet. Push this button here to say you want cash with a receipt.
Dad pushes said button.
DAD: Can I put my 4-digit number in now?
ME: Wait a moment. What does it say on the screen?
DAD: It says … (moves his face closer to the screen) … ‘DO …YOU…WANT…TO…CHECK…YOUR…BALANCE…BEFORE…WITHDRAWING … YOUR…CASH?’
ME: Well, do you?
DAD: Why would I want to do that? I wouldn’t be withdrawing money if I didn’t have it in my bank account. Me and your mother don’t spend money we haven’t got – unlike this younger generation who … …
ME: Then press this ‘NO’ button dad.
DAD: Oh, the damn thing’s timed me out again
By this point, a queue had formed behind us. Their facial expressions suggested that, after witnessing this odd couple hovering over the cash dispenser, many of them suspected I was guilty of elderly abuse, trying to rip off the old fella.
We let those waiting go before us and, about 20 minutes (and three further attempts) later, my old dad was able to withdraw his £250. He then proceeded to count it out – note by note – in the midst of passing shoppers. I think I will need to accompany him a few more times before he gets the hang of it.
Saturday, 7 January 2017
As we enter into a new year, I thought I’d share with you my personal highlights of the festive season, the most memorable moments of the last three weeks. In no particular order, they are:
1. Singing with my mother-in-lawSadly, my 81-year-old mother-in-law is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease; her memory span is no more than a few seconds, she’s lost her sparky temperament, and - even when surrounded by her family – she sits in silence with a blank expression. Well she does until she hears Dusty Springfield.
Late on Christmas Day, when all the feasting had ended, we played some songs from the 1960s on You-Tube. Watching mother-in-law belt out her rendition of Dusty’s ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ (word perfect, face glowing with delight) will be an image that will remain with me for ever.
2. Greeting cards from my elderly parentsBoth my parents are in their mid-80s and, while yet immune from the ravages of dementia, they do tend to be a tad confused and forgetful. Sending greeting cards is a case in point.
We received a delightful Christmas card, wishing us wonderful cheer, but there was nothing written in it – completely blank. A process of elimination, and detective work of a quality Sherlock Holmes would relish, was required to identify the source.
For Mrs Jones’ birthday (2nd January) their greetings card arrived two days late due to their decision to use a 2nd-class stamp – my lovely mother is as tight as a her compression stocking – the post code was wrong, and their birthday wishes were to their ‘daughter’ rather than ‘daughter-in-law’. Ah well, it’s the thought that counts.
Ryan opted to attend his football’s team’s annual fancy-dress pub crawl in the role of Alex, the
evil star from the cult film, A Clockwork Orange. Never one for half measures, the
resemblance with the Malcolm McDowell character was chilling, not least because he had informed me that he’d recently rerun the film six times to get into role. I was left to hope that,
during his tour of all the local drinking holes, he refrained from beating an old lady to death
with a giant phallus.
4. Arse grabbing
Shortly after midnight, in the midst of new-year revelry, the wife of my best friend grabbed
my right buttock. She can be forgiven for I was wearing my favourite slacks, the cut of which
shape my arse into an irresistible pout. The butt-clutching incident was made all the more
remarkable as the lady in question is typically reserved and self-conscious. Luckily, she was
so pissed at the time I’m sure she’ll retain no memory of her cheeky squeeze; I’ll choose the
right moment in 2017 to remind her of it!
5. A vivid dream
have visited. One night over the Christmas period I experienced the most vivid of dreams. I
will not go into detail. Suffice it to say that it involved me, Mrs Jones, two burly builders and
a hosepipe. Watering the garden will never feel quite the same.
6. Prettiest lady in the pub
opposite and thinking that she was, undoubtedly, the most attractive individual in the whole
pub. My second thought was that I’m so very fortunate, as the lady I was eyeing was none
other than Mrs Jones. And in addition to her beauty - inside and out - there is an additional
bonus: she can’t half hold her ale.
Best wishes for 2017 to you all.