It’s official. I’ve crossed a line. Stepped into a twilight zone which may last mere moments-long but may also stretch way off into some distant demented good night.
Given the choice, I’ll go for the burning and raving at close of day, raging long and hard against the dying of the light.
So damn Mr Google and his algorithm. Damn those online ads, pestering me with my mortality.
The elasticated pants I could deal with. By which I mean ignore. And the pads. The ones they’d have you believe you might discreetly wear whilst dressed as a carnival drag queen in green, all high legs and fish nets, unforgiving sequins and satin. As if. But that aside, even thirty-year olds like a looser waistband once in a while. I know I did. Even they might pee with laughter.
The retirement homes and the Wills and the funeral plans? Ditto.
But come on guys!
‘Make up tips for old ladies’?
But here’s the thing: it’s down to me. I’ve given it away. Every Facebook ad I’ve commissioned. Every Facebook post, idle Like, Ha-Ha or Mr-Angry-face, dammit. Every last impulse buy on Amazon. Every insurance application, online subscription and customer survey. Every click, every random Google search (so much of it, recently, in pursuit of answers about the various health issues of my almost ninety-year-old father-in-law – by implication weighted on the side of older age).
All of it.
There’s an old lady in need of make-up tips in the house. And her name, it would seem, is me.
An hour a week keeps dementia at bay
Heartening then that just an hour’s exercise per week, over the course of a year (which I can safely say I achieve with knobs on), will not just put the brakes on my mental decline, it will reverse it! Ha-Ha! Smiley face. Who’s laughing now Google?
And the good news is that yoga, Pilates, walking and skiing (of course) all count. Even the static bike in the corner of the living room which I regularly pedal through my TV catch-ups and which, therefore, has so far avoided becoming a clothes horse. Even that counts.
‘Processing speed and executive function are among the first to go when you’re ageing,’ says Joyce Gomes-Osman, of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, the chief author of the review into the effects of exercise on the ageing brain.
‘This is evidence that you can literally turn back the clock on ageing by maintaining a regular exercise regime.’
This is indeed good news and, although it’s unclear when it actually began to go backwards, I can see signs of reversal already.
The younger me always loved a good cryptic crossword but never The Times. Too intimidating. I once knew a chap who devised the things and he was extremely clever. Went to Oxford and everything.
But now I can look forward to completing The Times Jumbo crossword, my regular Saturday challenge, with greater speed and panache. Who knows, I might even – finally – win the prize? For I do indeed send them off, so proud am I when every available square is filled – and not just with random gobbledegook.
(I had a pal once – I’ll call him Barry – who thought it amusing to fill in the blanks with nonsense whilst my back was turned, thus spoiling the entire crossword experience. Can I just say, categorically, I was NOT amused.)
It’s the third page I turn to, home from our Saturday morning shop. (Hugo Rifkind’s TV review being first, checking out what’s happening in Emmerdale in the week ahead second, since you ask).
And I love it. The whole wonderfully obsessive compulsive ritual of it.
Carefully folding back the pristine page so as not to obscure the clues, ranged on the left as they are, dangerously close to the staples. (A staple tear could ruin everything).
Choosing the best pen for the job: an easy writer, not prone to bleeding or splodging, which must be the same colour throughout the task (which may span several days) and not in danger of running dry.
Scanning the hundred or so clues for the long, multiple-word answers (often the easiest to crack, but not always) and the obvious anagrams (ditto).
Oh the joy of making that first entry. The pain when I realise I’ve made an error halfway through and must overwrite it, my efforts spoiled. (And, yes, I know I could use a pencil, one with a neat little rubber on the end, but somehow… somehow, it doesn’t feel the same).
The mental punching of air when I know, just know, what the answer is but I don’t understand how, or recognise the word, and then there it is, in the dictionary! Yesss!
The guilt and shame when I discovered that you can Google any crossword clue ever devised – probably within moments of publication – and the answer is there online. So those last awkward clues, the ones my ageing brain just won’t untangle (a contributory factor perhaps, to all those ‘old lady’ wrinkles) unfold like magic on the screen.
Maybe I should just cut out the middle woman and Google the lot, wrap it up in the time it takes to say ‘Cup of tea, please’ to the Gremlin (busy unpacking the shopping), then have it delivered to my side and empty the cup. But that would be cheating, wouldn’t it?
Doubtless this is why I’ve never won The Times Universal Atlas of the World, the Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus and the Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary. The Times post box must be stuffed with perfectly-formed entries, devised entirely by Google and posted long in advance of my more laboured, hard-won efforts.
I already have similar weighty tomes on my bookshelves but it’s the principle of the thing, isn’t it? I want to win. Fair and square. Through my own creaking brain power.
And now, apparently, I can. All I need do is keep pedalling.
So much for unsubscribing…
My inbox may be a little lighter now, thanks to a frenzy of unsubscribing, but the phone scamming persists.
This week I was reliably informed that my ‘recent accident has been signed off and funds allocated’, if I would only click on the link for ‘us’ (whoever ‘us’ might be) ‘to put 2766.88 in your Bank Now’ (the inappropriate caps are all theirs).
They don’t specify whether this is in fact sterling, dollars, Nigerian naira or chocolate stocking-fillers but, really… do I look like I was born yesterday?
Clearly those make up tips for old ladies are doing their job.