So, thirteen fives make 65.
Not a very interesting number, then. Propitious, only in the sense that reaching the age of 65 has elevated me to a new social status as one of the Oldies, the pensioners, the invisible army of grey nonentities who travel on buses and get mugged by phoney telephone company engineers. No longer able to deal with the energy company, the phone company, the Work and Pensions department – any kind of commercial contract or flatpack self-assembly furniture – without copious swearing and recourse to handy teenagers, I have joined the ranks of the Doomed ones at the top of that final slope, where you realise your brake pipes have been severed and the steering wheel’s come off in your hands.
I was immensely touched therefore by the generosity of so many people I am generally fairly beastly to: members of the choir whose inability to grasp basic chord theory clearly infuriates me, fellow thespians who don’t turn up to rehearsals on the flimsiest of excuses, so it’s the mother-in-law’s 57th birthday, so what? who trooped round to my little house, that I can’t sell, last night, bearing cards and little trinkets and packets of Turron and pots of homemade jam and bottles of wine, and filled my kitchen with excited voices that were not the usual tired and repetitious ones in my head.
I was eventually moved to comment, as my endlessly forgiving friends packed themselves as tightly as anchovies around the groaning table, having arrived in unanticipated numbers (it’s an El Niño year), that I might have bought the smallest house in town but it did have other rooms they could use. I wanted them to go in my little garden, with its pretty lights and things in pots and its burbling water feature (lites up at nite!), my new table and chairs set. But Autumn has been slowly creeping up on us in its allegorical kind of way, and brought with it a little chilly night. We huddled together for warmth.
My son arrived with a many-pocketed backpack, and in each pocket was a gift. He was sorry he couldn’t find birthday wrapping-paper as it’s all Christmas now. It was touching, inasmuch as my present to him on his 21st was £20 worth of download vouchers, so broke have I been lately. (Although I then demonstrated my meanness by using up the last of my credit to make myself a present of a long-planned digital keyboard. And I don’t even play. Not yet, anyway.) But he sweetly put his student loan on the line by buying for me: a coffee-maker that makes more than one cup at a time, packets of interesting single-estate coffee, some decent bottles of wine and a fresh copy of MS Office that I can try and load on his old laptop, that he has also kindly donated to me, with its garishly glowing special red-eyed Dragon gaming mouse and its Kabbalistic inscriptions carved into the lid.
His sister of course completely ignored the whole occasion. Which is fine, she gets it from me. I’ve never been known to remember anything important, or do anything unselfish or say anything tactful or encouraging in my entire life. I get that from my dad. He used to be charm itself for about the first half-hour. But she knows I care, she got some download vouchers too for her 25th just last month. In an Amazon giftbox, naturally.
Not long to go now.