I'm having a tough few weeks, emotionally, because soon I'll be off on my first holiday for 10 years, and to me, abroad is another planet. I must leave my home, daughter and dog, and even more harrowing, buy a new swimming costume. Mine has rotted. I'm not expecting a fun outing, it's just one of those things one has to grit one's teeth and do. You keep calm, find some in your size, go into the changing room, take all your clothes off and try them on surrounded by giant mirrors. That's the bit I don't like. I never have. "You are uptight," some chap sneered at me in the 60s. But now I'm more down-loose, and old age is glaring back at me. I don't have to see it at home: I just avoid mirrors. But here, in the wrestling in a shop cubicle, I have to face it.
Years ago, Rosemary had harshly pointed out my curtains. We were driving along in the car on a sunny day, when she spotted them waving in the breeze from my upper arms. This is the trouble with being fairly thin, rather than Rubenesque, like Rosemary. I am now swathed everywhere in pale, mole-spattered curtains, which flow over the tight edges of Lycra, or are squashed into chest pancakes beneath it. Rosemary bought a costume last week, easily. "My body's not as bad as yours. I've got no curtains," she bragged again, "and at least I didn't have to look at my face." Which I suppose makes us quits. But we all have our particular areas of concern. Mavis, having a rather large bottom, found, a couple of decades ago, that the costume elastic cut her bum into two, creating four buttocks. I daren't ask how many she has now.
Fielding has changed from Speedos to baggy long things, with pockets, and now he can no longer scythe through the water. "Everything's about death at our age," says he drearily. "But I take the bugger-it approach. It's all you can do. Anyway, you're quite lucky to be going on hols aged 191." So I am.