Twenty-twenty foresight

I’ve been doing far too many recipes recently, and not enough musing on life, and getting older. So, here’s something non-food-related…

Twenty-twenty foresight

When I was young I looked forward to being older, and gaining wisdom. I imagined myself in the future, side-stepping problems and overcoming all obstacles with a serene calm. I would know how things went wrong, so I could engineer ways to avoid catastrophe and disappointment. Life would be a smooth voyage of satisfaction and success.

Decades later I find myself suffering as many glitches as ever. Knowing what causes things to go wrong, and how they go wrong, doesn’t stop them from going wrong. You simply have longer to agonise over them. At your leisure you can watch situations slip into the same abysses for which they were always bound.

We moved into our first modern house in the November. With superb insulation, double-glazing throughout and modern gas central heating, we looked forward to our first Christmas. We were going to be so warm and toasty throughout the festivities.

All that glowing anticipation evaporated a couple of weeks before Christmas when our boiler broke down. After a few cold days, our system was expensively fixed and we were back in the warm glow of our first exciting Christmas in our new home. We took out a maintenance contract so that we wouldn’t be at risk of a ruined Christmas again.

The next year, as winter began to bite, the gas engineer turned up at our door and we welcomed him in. Just a quick check, we thought, and he’ll be on his way, leaving us with a nice warm home for our second Christmas there.

We led him to the boiler in the kitchen and left him to it.

First there was an urgent banging as he tried to remove the front of the boiler.

Bang, bang! BANG! BANG!

Then silence, as he worked out that the cover needed delicately removing and then gently twisting out through the housing.

Work commenced in earnest, and several minutes later, pop! The main fuse blew and we were plunged into darkness.

‘It weren’t me!’ claimed the gasman.

‘Trouble is,’ he said, a few minutes later ‘it’s an electrical fault, and I don’t know anything about electrics. I can’t get the boiler going again. I’ll have to get the supervisor to come. It’ll be a few days…’

We saw him out. Several very cold days later we welcomed the supervisor. He was a tall, cheerful, capable fellow with dark, curly hair. He had the system up and running in a short time, and was on his way.

A year later…

Bang, bang! BANG! BANG!

A few minutes work, then Pop! The main fuse blew and we were plunged into darkness.

‘It weren’t me!’ claimed the gasman.

‘Trouble is,’ he said, a few minutes later ‘it’s an electrical fault, and I don’t know anything about electrics. I can’t get the boiler going again. I’ll have to get the supervisor to come. It’ll be a few days…’

Again, the curly-haired supervisor came to our rescue, and restored heating for the big Christmas break.

Moving on a further year, we were telephoned by the Gas company to make our annual maintenance appointment.

‘Look’ I snipped, ‘instead of sending the first man who always breaks the system, can you send the supervisor first off? Cut out the middleman, so to speak?’

‘I’m sorry,’ crooned the administrator, ‘we have to follow procedure.’

Our welcome was somewhat jaded for the gasman this particular year. We directed him to the boiler and left him to it.

Bang, bang! BANG! BANG!

We eyed each other dolefully, and, with a deep sigh of exasperation, hubby wearily walked across the room, knelt down and zipped his head into his sports bag.

Hubby with his head zipped into sports bag, in exasperation

A picture of exasperation.

Pop! The main fuse blew.

The gasman popped his head round the door and cheerily stated ‘It weren’t me!’

‘Trouble is, I don’t know anything about electrics…’ His voice tailed off as he absorbed the strange tableau before him. There was a man kneeling on the floor with his head zipped into a sports bag, and the lady of the house looking like Whistler’s mother.

‘Erm… I’ll get the supervisor to come round. I’ll see myself out…’ he said, reversing out of the room. He quietly gathered his tools and slipped out of the house.

Another year passed and the boiler maintenance appointment was duly made. We had resigned ourselves to the usual fiasco.

At the knock, I wearily opened the door. My face broke into a smile as I saw a cheery face, topped with a head full of dark curly hair.

‘Hello! I don’t think our engineer has been round yet, has he? Must have been some mistake. Never mind, I’ll check your system while I’m here…’

That’s what makes life worth living, isn’t it? Twenty-twenty foresight isn’t always correct. Only most of the time.

Blood soup and canasta

Halloween was fun!

Pumpkin head

Maori-inspired pumpkin head

It was a boozy canasta evening with the neighbours, complete with Halloween accessories of many candles, plastic bats, a pumpkin head and a ghoulish menu:

Starter: Blood soup with bread bones

Main: Sausage and potato tray bake with tomato eyeballs

Dessert: Ensaimada with pumpkin jam

My pumpkin wasn’t staying alight. Not enough air could be drawn through the teeth to supply enough air, so I gouged out some rough bat shapes round the sides and back.

Bats carved in back of pumpkin head

Hubby's idea. Worked really well as back-projection (or perhaps that should be 'bat-projection')

We put it outside in the neighbours’ courtyard, against a white wall. The result was a leering face in front of a projection of bats onto the back wall. The wind blowing the candle made the bats flit to and fro. It was totally unintentional, but a real ‘wow’ (which I’m recording here so I remember to do it again in future!)

Blood soup with bread bones

The soup is beetroot and horseradish, really! White bread rolls modelled into bones, painted with egg wash to make them look dark, shiny and freshly exhumed.

Coffin dodging

There’s a pivot point in life when it dawns on you that nature is no longer on your side.

The vital, benevolent presence that allowed you to party all night and not feel too bad in the morning has mutated into the grim reaper. When did that happen?

I remember working all night to get a job done, or being kept awake by a teething child, and really not suffering too badly the next day. Now the reverse is true; stay up until midnight one night and I’m non-functional for two days.

All the little injuries and any surgery you’ve had come back to pain you afresh. It’s a concerted effort to grind you down and stamp you out.

It seems that all the favours mother nature gives in youth now have to be repaid in full, with interest.

As far as nature (and the government) is concerned, we are now surplus to requirements. You can almost hear nature (and the government) saying ‘Could you hurry up and die, please? You’ve had your kids/done your work, now you’re just taking up too many resources, so just piss off”.

I’m not going to warmly ramble on about the vast wisdom and patience of the ‘third agers’, a band of society to which I’m a new recruit. My argument is that we’re pretty useful just in hard, economic terms. We’re putting money into the economy (especially pubs and hostelries). We’re buying services and products, sometimes at an even greater rate than before. For example, I’ve just had my first new kitchen fitted.

Now I’ve spotted this vendetta by nature (and the government), I’m going to rear up in revolution. They’re not getting me out of here until I’ve sucked the goodness out of my pension fund. I believe you have to be 85 to get back what you put in, so, 90 years of age, here I come!

As for nature, I’ll get fit and start running…

Suddenly, I’ve come over all tired. Must be that late night I had last Thursday.