Saturday, 24 November 2007

As Broad As I Am Long..........................................

I see where a lady has been refused entry into New Zealand because she is overweight. Frankly, I do not think she is missing much. New Zealand has always seemed to me more a butter label than a country. Certainly nothing to lose weight over.

When I achieved 21 stones the family joined to force me on a radical diet. They echoed the doctor's advice that I would live longer, but I don't believe in death.

Huang Po wrote in the 9th century an explanation of Zen: “All sentient beings are nothing but the one mind beside which nothing exists…” My all time favourite human being, the 3rd century Taoist scholar Chuang Tu, who I have just discovered, put it even more simply: “Heaven and earth and I were born at the same time and all life and I are one.”

That is death kicked into touch. So long as there is a lovely planet I will be here to enjoy it - and always have.

No disrespect but The Buddha inclines to the stout and anyway the most I could hope to lose at my great age is around three stone. To achieve that I would have to give up everything that makes later life enjoyable: evening gin, fish and chips, roast potatoes on Sunday and butties. Especially butties. No more Pimms in the summer. No bread sauce with game or game chips with partridge, which should always be stuffed with pear and onion. It is not to be borne.

True, at my great weight I cannot enter marathons; long walks tire me. They also bore me, and really successful old age consists in keeping boredom at bay. I miss gardening, but we have a gardener, Hipkin, an old fashioned Fenman who gives me more pleasure even than gardening. It is a bit shaming that he is as old as I am, but what would you?

The problem seems to me to arise from faulty reasoning. The belief that we should measure the quality of our life by its length is surely questionable. Measuring quality by length is oxy-moronic. It is not a method you would use to quantify cloth, or meals, or, God forbid, Christmas.

A doctor once said to me that if he kept an animal alive in the state he keeps a patient he would be prosecuted by the RSPCA.
The longer we live the less we are able to. One by one our senses desert us until the horizon of our life is sitting in an old people's home, quietly wetting ourselves while we watch TV and try to remember where we have put our handkerchief.
Do not take my word for it. Take God’s.
Psalms 90:
The days of our years are threescore years and ten;
and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
yet is their strength labor and sorrow;
for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Or as Shakespeare would have it:
Threescore and ten I can remember well:
Within the volume of which time I have seen
Hours dreadful and things strange; but this sore night
Hath trifled former knowings.
Well my former knowings, like Macbeth’s, are bad enough, but what about Benign Posture Vertigo?
You may well ask.
BPV is doctor speak for falling over, which is something that flown with wine and impertinence I used to do on a regular basis. Do it now and it’s a two to one shot I will break a hip and, if I do, it’s four to one on the overnight declaration I will die.
I cannot even complain “It is my age“ without being accused of therapeutic nihilism, which I must combat by thinking positively, restoring functions (don’t ask) and keeping in touch with my neighbours, something I have avoided all my life. That, by the way, is – again in doctor speak –compressing morbidity and, to be truthful, I am better at expanding it. But we must look on the bright side.
According to my DNA, some time in the past 15,000 years my ancestors lived in Finland. I am very glad we moved. In Finland, I learned to my horror, PT is compulsory for pensioners.
I think we made the right decision moving here. According to the Daily Mail, 2,000 people are sharing £34.4 million from Social Security and the National Health because they are obese and there is another 50,000 alcoholics sharing £85 million to induce them not to work. They could have induced me any time in my life for a fraction of that and I have never charged them a penny, no matter how fat I got. Fat Free, you might say.
I do not know how many Finns are numbered among the 9,000 of us who live to be more than a hundred but I do not see the point of doing endless press ups in order to ensure you can spend longer in an Old People’s Home in a perpetual hunt for your glasses, telling any luckless visitor how much better things were in the Sixties and what a wild time one had. I couldn’t remember IN the Sixties what I was doing in the Sixties. In my dotage? No chance.

* * *

I have done some fancy eating in my time and I have the insignia to prove it. I am a Chevalier of the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, a gastronomic society which, according to the French conman who invested me, is the oldest of its kind in the world. For those who do not read French Menus, that means The Brotherhood of the Turning Spit Chain.
We were a merry crew of gourmets, chefs and hoteliers. We used to have monthly banquets in the restaurants owned by members, happily digging our graves with our teeth.

I particularly remember one in the Auberge de France, a small bistro in Manchester owned by a tiny man called Roland Genty, who during the war had done evil things to passing Germans whilst serving in the French Resistance. His restaurant was famous for its Quiche Lorraine, which, on the evening we went there for a Vin d’Honneur, he planned to produce in two servings. In that way the Quiche would arrive at our tables in the peak of mid season form.

The first serving went very well but those of us on the second table waited impatiently for ours to arrive. And waited…and waited…and waited.

At last Roland appeared at the kitchen door, visibly upset. “There ‘as been a tragedy,” he told us sorrowfully, “the waiter ‘as dropped the Quiche Lorraine so, naturellement, the Chef ‘as stabbed him.”


After living under an umbrella by the side of the Bridgewater canal for three years Mr Kenneth Thomas has died at the age of 73. Mr Thomas, who greeted passers-by with shouts of “Hello” or “Money – what does it all mean in the end?” was treated with suspicion by the local people. Prior to his years under the umbrella Mr Thomas lived in a rhododendron bush near Sale.

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