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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Age the Enemy

Growing Old
James Skinner

‘Alas one reaches the ‘countdown’ age!
According to statistics, I’ve got about 8 years to go before I ‘theoretically’ kick the bucket. My carcass continues to trudge along despite a few visits to the workshop. So far they have replaced one of my hip joints with a 300 year guaranteed titanium rod connected to a porcelain ball and socket; my knee has been ‘cleaned’ up because of an injury I sustained trying to leap onto a double-decker bus in London and I’ve recently undergone minor surgery to ‘remove’ liquid from one of my ‘intimate’ parts. Apart from that, with a daily blood pressure pill, some drops to reduce the tension on my optical nerve and ‘softening cream’ for my heel that feels like an overcooked steak I’m still alive and well.

© Olive Picker by Sam North

I keep fit by walking an average of 5 miles per day, feeding on fish, lean meat, vegetables and plenty of red wine; constantly read the local and international press to keep abreast with the daft world we live in, keep an eye on my dwindling pension, avoid antagonising my wife with my sarcastic comments and sit at the computer on a daily basis to write as much as I can for posterity. I had come to terms with myself after I reluctantly gave up, what I presumptuously considered was a full and rich life of activity both in work and leisure. But all this came to an abrupt halt when I looked into the mirror one day, after I had showered and was in the process of anointing myself with deodorant and anti-body smells and saw a sight I had never realised before. My head didn’t look as fluffy as usual! I got hold of a hand mirror and placed it above my head. A dreadful sign appeared. Hell; I was loosing my hair.

In the last few years, I found I could no longer shoot under par at golf, even after knocking off my handicap. I occasionally talked to myself, glared at screaming children in my apartment lift, constantly complained to my wife about the state of our city’s amenities; but this entire attitude I thought was acceptable and considered part of ageing. It’s well known that we geriatrics tend to do odd things like put the tea kettle instead of the milk back in the fridge, or empty the dishwasher that hasn’t yet started its cycle. Or better still, forget where we left our reading glasses, or wonder around the house in bedroom slippers when it’s gone midday looking for that modern amenity, the mobile phone that is ringing somewhere hidden in a closet. Alien monsters because we can’t read the text messages or dial the right numbers without upsetting the damn beast. Talking about modern life, there’s another sign of ageing.

Maybe some of you don’t realise it but many oldies have other oldie objects lying around the house that also begin to suffer from fatigue although they have lasted for years. Now-a-days you buy a laptop and after a few years, or even month’s use you chuck it away and buy a new one; same happens to washing machines and television sets, to give a few examples. Yet if you walk into the home of an elderly couple you’ll find a collection of museum pieces at the turn of every corner. My apartment is no exception.

Just take my old video and music cassettes housed in my libraries that I have scattered around the house, some nearly 30 years old; but you’ll find that they still work! Some have faded or lost a few decibels of sound, but I can still listen to Frank Sinatra originals or watch Gary Cooper shoot his way to an Oscar in ‘High Noon’. The CD’s and DVD’s don’t last that long! Once they go kaput that’s it! I can no longer watch Tom Cruise in the ‘The Firm’ because half way through he just freezes up! I have a 20 year old long distance radio portable I bought way back in 1986. It travelled with me all over Europe in my bygone days of employment. I have it by my side in the kitchen as I eat my toast and drink my morning tea, and can still listen to the BBC short wave or the local station discussing Spanish politics.

Trouble is the sound rheostat is faulty and it takes me minutes to try to control the volume without bringing the house down. My 33rpm record player is even older. I’ve got some real gems like all five Beethoven’s piano concertos played by Claudio Arrau; or how about the Neal Diamond classic ‘Hot August Night’ recorded in 1972.

But ageing took over. The machine has decided to run at just over 35rpm and Tony Bennett sounds like Shirley Bassey. My Christmas present was a new fridge. The old one died after 18 years of good service! When the undertakers came to pick it up they just grinned, ‘what more did you expect; to last forever?’ as they parted with a dead machine. The best was an old winter suit I put on to go to a Christmas dinner only to find as I searched through the pockets, bars receipt from Barajas, Madrid airport in pesetas and dated January 1994.

One can put up with both your old machine friends dying around you, or the odd incapacity of not being able to run for a bus, but to suddenly notice that you’re going bald was another matter. This really got to me.

I rushed to my dermatologist with the excuse that I thought I had athlete’s foot and after he took a scalpel and removed a sample of skin for a lab test, I asked him, ‘I think I’m losing my hair. Can you tell me why?’ He still had the ‘dagger’ in his hand but managed to slowly place it on the operating table before he looked at me and starting laughing. Would you believe it? A member of one of the most revered professions in the world just looked at me and laughed. ‘What’s so funny,’ I thought until I suddenly realised, ‘what a bloody stupid question to ask a quack.’ He turned my question around and became sympathetic, ‘why do YOU think that you should not lose your hair?’ Now we’re talking! I explained to him that nobody, repeat nobody in either branch of my ancestors was or ever went bald; and that I was always under the impression that, apart from a serious illness or the effects of chemotherapy, baldness was and always would be an inherited ailment. He conceded that in this modern day an age there could be any number of factors that could affect my scalp turning into a billiard ball. But all he could say to end the consulting session was that there was nothing I could do about it.

I began to have nightmares! Could it be these retched blood pressure pills or the hair shampoo I’ve been using for years? How about stress? The doctor said nothing about stress. But then I wasn’t stressed nor was I depressed, so I ruled that out right away. Good old Internet. I started searching for some answers including the side effects of medicines that I possibly had or could be taking that may cause baldness. I was completely dumbfounded with what I read. Anything and everything could be the reason for me losing my hair!’ I turned the PC off and reverted to my local newspaper. After a few seconds I stopped reading and pondered for a while. I finally came up with a New Years resolution concerning my plight. I will continue to scream blue murder at the visual proof of my ageing.

© James G. Skinner. February 2009.

The Consul and the Serpent Part 1
James Skinner
‘It’s been two years now since I resigned as Honorary British Consul in this north-western part of the Iberian Peninsula.

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