It’s still early days yet, of course, but as an oldie I am gradually settling into this ‘self-isolation’ lark – that’s an attempt at a quip, by the way, this is obviously a very serious situation and one shouldn’t be flippant, but by the same token, for Pete’s sake(!), you’ve got to find the humour in things, don’t you?
On Monday I nipped into my local high street in order to visit my bank and do a couple of things and was shooed away as I arrived as they were shutting up shop for the day and invited instead to “come in tomorrow, we’re open from ten until three”.
So I did – at about 11.00am, hoping to miss the initial rush of people who’d be doing the same as me.
When I arrived I joined a queue of two (two mothers with small kids joined behind me shortly afterwards) because they were holding everyone at the front door and only allowing customers in one at a time.
I was then asked what I wished to do and mentioned both things I wished to attend to – and was ticked off because, if I have “online banking”, I could have done them from home.
I pointed out that, although I did have “online banking”, I never used it for two reasons:
I have never come to terms with the principle of “online banking”, being fearful that if I ever put my banking details up online, never mind President Xi Jinping of China already knowing everything about me because of the new Huawei phone I just bought, every criminal and hacker in the UK would also onto my hard-earned cash in an instant;
I have twice been set up online by a member of staff in the bank, but then failed miserably ever to “get into it” because (being 68) I can never remember my new passwords, passcodes, codewords or PIN numbers … just like I spend an average of ten minutes per day try to find where I last left my glasses so that I can continue doing whatever-it-was I was last doing before I nipped down the corridor for a ‘leak’, which again takes me about ten minutes per day to remember.
Eventually the staffer involved took pity on me (“Okay, just for you, and just this once”) and so – about fifteen minutes later – I was on my way back to my self-isolation pod, having been given an “oldies customer emergency helpline” to ring in case I ever needed to get into my “online banking account” again (“Okay, I know you’re not 70, but they might take pity on you” were the exact words).
As it happened, I did need to get into my bank account again – I’m waiting for some money to arrive in my bank account which have should already been there, but yet doesn’t appear to have arrived.
So I got my smartphone out – thereby alerting Xi Jinping again – and rang the “oldies helpline”.
I did manage to get a bit of advice from them, but also a general “helpline number” to call if I needed further assistance because, as yet, “being 68 but incapable of working out how to use online banking” isn’t one of Boris’s designated qualifying groups who get special dispensations (albeit we live in hope of hearing good news on this score from his daily broadcasts from Coronavirus HQ).
As it so happened, by this time the men from Virgin Media had arrived at my gaff to try and get my TV working again – it had “gone on the blink” on 23rd February last and never been been restored to life.
This failure was still outstanding, despite my umpteen unsuccessful calls to the Virgin Media helpline and threats to disembowel the chairman of their Board – this after first seeking to register with him my important and helpful customer feedback (i.e. that his customer services system was terminally useless) via their ever-cheerful automated message that “All our calls are recorded for training purposes”, ending my rant by excusing the operative listening to it (because it wasn’t directed at them personally) but asking them to pass it on to the organisation’s HQ anyway.
It was during this visit that my second noteworthy event of the day occurred.
A conference was called between my Virgin Media visitors and a member of the building’s board of management, further to visiting the roof of the building to check the state of the cable via which the television service entered my abode.
It was an extraordinary incident.
As I came last out of the building to join the summit on the steps therefore, completely inexplicably and without warning, I tripped.
It’s difficult to describe in full detail, being one of those circumstances in which perhaps what was actually no more than threequarters of a second … in the moment, and perhaps as a result of that ‘enhanced perception of danger combined with disbelief’ that elongates time into a slow-motion piece of personal video footage … felt like about twenty.
A metaphorical bystander on the pavement opposite would have seen it all thus.
At one moment there were three grown men – two in their late twenties or early thirties, one over 70 – standing on the five steps leading to the road, chatting.
The next, a man of about 68 (but looking perhaps three or four years younger!) came briskly out of the door behind them and suddenly launched himself about four feet into the air, arms and legs flailing as he progressed, first in an upwards parabola and then a descending curve towards the highway.
As if seeking to emulate world record holder and Olympic triple jump champion Jonathan Edwards, he then attempted to land on one foot on the last but one step, and then vault again into the air (in an effort to save himself from grievous injury) … but then inadvertently fell away to the left and landed in a heap on his left shoulder in the middle or the road.
A large group of concerned onlookers rushed to the scene, convinced that he might be dazed and/or badly hurt by his effort and thereafter a great fuss was made of him.
In fact – truth be told – I was completely unharmed. The body may have bits falling off it or sagging, but I am happy to report that your author’s sporting instincts remain undimmed, vital and as strong as if I were still but eighteen years of age.
The moment I reached the top of my progress through the air, the old “about to be tackled by two defenders simultaneously on the rugby pitch” had kicked in (as good as new) and I took the impact of the tarmac’d road to the manor born … dusted myself down … and joined the gathering as calm as Sir Francis Drake was as he sent his last bowl on Plymouth Green across the grass before setting off to repel the Spanish Armada.
We 68 year-olds have still got it!