To continue calling this blog ‘self-isolation’ is a misnomer.  I am no longer self-isolating and St Thomas’ Hospital have signed me off after my cataract operations.  So, I’m a free man, in charge of my own destiny, released into the wicked world.  These blogs (this is the 23rd one) no longer do what they say on the tin, so this is my last self-isolation blog: not my last blog, just my last self-isolation blog.

Yesterday, as many of you know (no secrets on Facebook − thank you everyone who sent good wishes), was my 83rd birthday.  Fancy living for so long!  I have no explanation, none of those longevity secrets to pass on.  I’d love to tell you that it’s all down to the tot of whisky I’ve had for breakfast for the last 40 years but, to be honest, I reckon it’s down to my father: he died in his 99th year.  So I’ve some way to go yet.  But never mind the quantity, it’s the quality that counts.  My aim is to die fit (a contradiction in terms?).

I share my birthday with a friend who is three years behind me, so I cheated yesterday and went to his party and pretended it was mine. Going to his house for a slap-up lunch was delightful and very convenient: nothing to prepare, no washing up.

My wife gave me three birthday presents: a Roget’s Thesaurus, a Rhyming Dictionary and two jars of vitamin D.  You might say that’s four presents but I’m counting the two jars of vitamin D as one, because, as my wife explained, there are only two because they were on special offer (the second one cost 1p).  The Thesaurus is to improve my vocabulary (alas, arriving too late to rescue this blog) and the rhyming dictionary is to improve my doggerels (again, arriving too late to rescue the doggerel I inflicted on my 80 year old friend).

Do you remember way back (just checked, it was eight blogs ago, Day 75) I told you I had written to the CEO of the Nationwide Building Society asking if he could solve the problem of hapless pigeons getting trapped in the fenced off area next to us?  Well, not only did I get an immediate response when I expected none, (I always find it’s a good idea to have low expectations that can easily be exceeded) but a couple of days ago three masked men arrived with ladders, netting and buckets and brooms.  They spent the day taking down the old, tattered and torn net, expertly fitting a new one and removing all traces of occupancy by pigeons (including some abandoned eggs). The whole area is now pristine!  I’d be tempted to move in except that the Nationwide’s air conditioning units make a whirring noise every now and again.

Anyway, perhaps you’ll understand why I have suddenly become a fan of the Nationwide Building Society.  The unsuspecting CEO is going to receive a hand painted thank you card.  I’ve never painted pigeons before, but I guess it’s now or never.

Secondly, do you remember (Day 66) that I told you I’d sliced up some tomatoes from the fridge and planted them?  Well, we now have 15 healthy plants, some with yellow flowers and some that have progressed to having clumps of tiny green things that are clearly destined to become tomatoes.  We have a good crop of potatoes too, grown from one that we didn’t fancy, cut in half and planted.

I’ve given up on W Somerset Maugham’s short stories.  I found them too samey − mostly colonial and too often ending with someone shooting themselves. Anyway, his paragraphs were too long for my liking, sometimes lasting two pages or more.  I’m now reading a posthumous collection of short stories by Helen Dunmore.  They are gorgeous, reflective, poetic, and mostly about inconsequential things. To be able to write so beautifully about nothing in particular is an amazing skill.

I must try harder.



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