Now that I have become an old man (I’m in denial, but people keep offering me a seat on the underground so it must be true) some odd things have started to happen.  

Firstly, when I’m not doing anything, I fall asleep.  Not doing anything unfortunately includes some activities that are supposed to count as doing something.  Watching a film, going to the theatre, going to a concert are all, for me, sleep inducing activities.  Unfortunately, I go from being wide awake to being fast asleep without passing through an in-between stage.  Gone, just like that, with no opportunity to intervene!  It’s annoying because not only do I miss something I would have enjoyed if only I’d stayed awake, but, as my wife points out, it’s an absurd waste of money.  Sleeping through an opera at Glyndebourne is, for example, a very expensive way to get a nap.  

Activities are spread along a continuum from active to passive.  Staying awake at the active end of the continuum is no problem.  I have never fallen asleep while talking, eating, writing, painting, walking or swimming.  I haven’t even fallen asleep while playing croquet. However,  I might or might not fall asleep when undertaking activities in the middle of the continuum such as watching TV, reading a book, listening to a lecture.  Anything more passive, particularly if (a) I’m comfortably seated, (b) unable to get up, stretch and walk around, (c) the lights are turned down, and I’m a goner.      

Secondly, my eyebrows have started to grow at an alarming rate.  I have never actually watched in a mirror to see if I can catch them on the move but, assuming I could stay awake, I’m confident their growth must be discernible by the naked eye.  I went to a Turkish barber the other day and the hairs in my ears were burnt off with a flame.  I suggested my eyebrows could also be barbequed but the young man declined and trimmed them with clippers.  Only a week has passed and my eyebrows are already out of control.  By the way, the barber, a young man, Turkish and a Muslim, while sharpening a razor on a strap, asked me if I was a Christian.  This is not a question I’m often asked and, in the circumstances, I wondered how best to answer.  I told him I was born to Christian parents but had since become a nonbeliever.  He seemed content with this.   

Thirdly, I’m inclined to forget to do up my flies.  I like to think this is because my mind is on higher things but I have to admit that it’s only started to happen during the last year or so and, since my mind has always been on higher things, it must be to do with becoming forgetful.  Recently I was interviewed on camera about my life’s work and it was only afterwards that I discovered I’d gone through the whole thing with my flies open.  Fortunately the camera was trained on my head and shoulders so I think I got away with it. 

The interview lasted for 90 minutes.  The good news is that I stayed awake throughout.  The bad news is that viewers would undoubtedly have been distracted as they watched my eyebrows growing.   


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