Life is just one thing after another.  Sometimes you stand still, sometimes you move sideways, sometimes you go backwards and sometimes you move forward (we’ll skip the fact that you are always moving relentlessly forwards towards your grave!).

For most of yesterday I felt I was moving forwards; a delightful day playing croquet.  I managed to prevail against a far better player.  My opponent was a distinguished QC who only managed three hoops before I was victorious.  In croquet, unlike tennis, it isn’t done to yell and punch the air in triumph, or to fling your mallet into the crowd and sink to your knees.  Apart from the fact that there is no crowd and, if there was, flinging a mallet would be highly dangerous, the done thing is to conceal any elation and put on a show of modesty.  If, on the other hand,  you lose (it happens), the done thing is to take it on the chin, to remind yourself that it is only a game and that your self-esteem is not dependent on what you do, but who you are, etc.

Anyway, as we shook hands (that’s allowed, indeed expected) my opponent said, ‘Of course, you are a much younger man’ .  Whilst appreciating that he was desperately seeking consonance, I knew we were the same age (there had been a light-hearted discussion about birthdays and birth signs during lunch, during which my opponent’s wife had let slip his age).  Of course, I should have been empathetic and let the remark pass but I couldn’t resist telling him we were the same age.  He seemed genuinely astonished and said, ’Good heavens, I took you to be much younger’.

The happy combination of my unexpected victory and his assumption that he had been beaten by a younger man felt like a significant step forward.  However, whilst savouring the inner glow, I suck to the accepted etiquette and remained outwardly modest.

But, alas, in life steps forward are but temporary.

In the evening I went to my local Sainsbury’s to buy milk (skimmed) and supper.  I am in the habit of taking a canvas Waitrose bag to avoid being given Sainsbury’s bright orange plastic bags.  The canvas bag is green (appropriately!)  and has the word ‘Waitrose’ in white in tasteful machine stitching on both sides.  I reached the checkout and, eschewing the plastic bags, offered the young woman my Waitrose bag.  She took it and whist packing my goods says, ‘Have you had a good day?’  I thank her and say yes, has she?  She ignores my question, clearly realising that I’m only asking her because she asked me, and says, ‘I recognise you’.

Whilst realising this may Sainsbury’s latest customer service ploy, I have to admit that I’m pleased to be recognised.  The checkout woman is young and attractive; fancy her recognising an old codger like me.  Perhaps she thinks she has seen me on the tellie or has participated in a conference where I have been the key note speaker.  Why, she might even think I’m a famous surgeon that did her breast implants and/or saved her mother’s life.  Then, she says, ‘Well, I don’t recognise you, I recognise your bag.’

Utterly deflated I manage to mutter, ‘Well, it’s nice to be recognised for something’ and go off down the street giggling at the absurdity of it all.


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Life is one learning opportunity after another.