I have been back from France for a month, and any benefit from the holiday has evaporated. My body is bulbous and podgy, and the tan has faded and been replaced by a pallor more like the grey of whale meat than anything human. The eyes are dull and cloudy, the skin dry and blotchy, the jowls more pendulous than ever, the hair trapped in a recession that can never give way to the fresh brown roots of recovery. I am, as someone recently pointed out on the phone, no oil painting. Unless, perhaps, the artist is Edward Munch.
I awake listless and morose after an untroubled but unrefreshing night. A geriatrician who studied a computer simulation of my attempts to spring out of bed would put my age at far closer to 70 than 35. Everything creaks, the lower back aches and my posture is redolent of a senescent chimp. When I complain about this, my wife proves again what an insightful diagnostician she can be."It's the whisky and the fags," says Rebecca , sagely. "And besides, you're not getting any younger, are you?" "Ah Professor Hawking I presume?" I reply." Are you honestly..." A tube of Colgate clips my left ear, and I interpret this as a sign that the conversation is at an end.
Another dismal, slow motion opening to the day is weirdly mirrored when my Apple Mac takes five times longer than it should to start up. When she finds me shouting at the machine, Rebecca asks after the problem. I explain, and point out that my own health and that of the computer now eerily appear to be linked."Oh well," she says, for once deploying the good cop half of her routine,"it always starts up in the end, doesn't it? It works pretty well on the whole." She has a point, and I am strangely comforted.
My Apple Mac died suddenly this morning. It may, in fact, have gone in the night, because when I try to start it up, it simply flashes a question mark at me. According to a systems expert, it is very, very sick indeed, and quite beyond repair.
In the hope that some heat might improve my circulation and clear the dramatically blocked right nostril (the result of the significantly deviated septum for which I await surgery), I spend the morning at the Porchester baths in Bayswater. In the sauna, I chat with a nice old boy, a fellow Spurs fan who has been going to White Hart Lane since before the war. He asks if I've ever seen anything to match the Tottenham Double-winning side."But that was in 1961," I reply."Yes," he says."Wonderful, weren't they?"
Tonight, when we return from a rare outing, a taxi arrives to pick up the babysitter and I recognise the wheezy, County Kerry tones of a driver called John as the two walk up the path."Now isn't that the house where that journalist fella lives?" he asks."Yes," says Tanja, who is almost 26."Ah, I thought so, 'cos I've picked him up before to go to the airport," says John."So you'll be his daughter."
On the way to work, I am struck by unspeakable agony just below the solar plexus, and stagger into a phone box outside Shepherds Bush tube station."Doctor, you have to help me," I gasp when Sarah Jarvis, my personal physician, answers."What are the symptoms of an aortic aneurism?" She asks where the pain is, and when it began."Twenty minutes ago." "In that case, the obvious symptom of aortic aneurism would be death. Are you dead?" "I' m not sure. Probably not." A brief inquisition about last night's intake of alcoholic units ensues, and she diagnoses "alcoholic indigestion", adding that it may be time for a change of lifestyle."Your body can't cope like it used to," says the doctor. Heroically I suppress the urge to recite the next sentence along with her."After all," she goes on, alone,"you're not getting any younger, are you?"