Pre-Walk Check-Up

Never Too Young to Die

It all began after the last walk.

I decided it would be prudent to see my doctor before contemplating any further marathon treks, so I booked in for a check-up. I had spotted a few symptoms that I will not detail in a family commentary; suffice it to say, they were enough to set me worrying. A cheerful soul recently quipped, “You’re never too young to die.” I suppose that since a good deal of my time is now spent traipsing round funerals and memorial services, I can hardly say I hadn’t been warned…

Dr Death

I thought it would be wise to do some homework before my appointment, so I Googled some of my symptoms. Have you ever done this? It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted – anyone venturing down this path had better be sitting comfortably and braced for bad news!

I was profoundly shocked to discover things looked grave. All the signs pointed towards Tourette’s syndrome and Parkinson’s, and I was clearly in the early stages of prostate and bowel cancer. The beginnings of a brain tumour were evident and I became convinced I had recently suffered a mild stroke. Blindness was a looming possibility and it was only too obvious that I was trotting gently up the lower foothills of dementia.

I also noted that I had almost certainly suffered from tick bite fever and mild malaria in the past. In fact, for each illness studied, it was clear that I had either already had it or was about to get it: all bar the clap, that is. (Jane will be pleased to hear that). Incidentally, I have no idea why I have been spared this particular affliction – it seems less than complete and rather unfair somehow.

After I recovered my poise, I dusted down my will. Letters were written to loved ones and duly sent to my solicitor for despatch after my just-around-the corner-death. I then set about planning my funeral in some detail.

When I saw the doctor, I declaimed the bad news and offered myself at Barts Medical School as a sort of one-stop exhibit. (All students would have to do to get their degree is determine what illnesses and diseases I didn’t have.)

The doctor’s rubber gloves snapped ominously and there was a faint squelch of lubricant. Lying back, I tried to think of England as the examination got underway. Suffice to say, I was spared nothing. The doctor peered into my ears and eyes, and tapped my knees; I was commanded to balance on one leg then hold out my hands for inspection. After my heart and chest had been listened to, I was then asked to name members of the cabinet, recite the alphabet and whistle a tune. And I thought I was the one threatened with dementia…

The doctor’s face looked stern as he prepared to deliver his diagnosis.

“How long do I have?” I asked tremulously.

“At your age you should know better than to drink wine and slugs of whisky in the same evening,” he replied brusquely. “May I advise you, too, that if you choose to consume beetroot, you should be prepared for some unusual symptoms. All in all, though, you are amazingly fit for your age. In future, please refrain from researching illnesses and symptoms on your computer, and stop wasting my time. Next patient!”

Dear reader, there’s no getting away from it – it seems I am in rude health, and quite fit enough to face the challenge of another walk.

Out With the Old

I have purchased a new car and it’s been a dreadful mistake. It may sound foolish, but I miss the old one terribly. However, it had completed 180,000 miles and generally I do need to get to where I’m aiming for – and, of course, we need a reliable car for the walks.

I failed to see that the new car had such complicated controls though – I have no idea how to turn the heater on and off, or the side lights for that matter. These days, it seems that a degree in electronics would come in handy just to navigate around a car’s basic functions.

Worst of all, though, I didn’t notice that the car had tinted windows until it was too late. My children jeered. “It’s a drug dealer’s car,” they whooped. “How much for some weed?”

The producer of the Woodstock Passion Play is a leading undertaker. In fact, last year he was honoured with the “Undertaker of the Year” award (I know, it’s beyond parody). He swooped on me as I arrived for rehearsal. “Can we hire you and your car? I will have a child walk in front of you with a top hat and a silver stick. We’ll make a fortune!”

I do miss my old car.

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