Day 5 – Reality Bites – Havant to Fishbourne

Lame Excuse

I sat and stared dismally at my red and rather swollen left foot.

“I don’t think I can walk today dear,” I said to Jane.

She strode over to take a look then she grabbed it and gave it a squeeze. I yelped. Jane stared at me with narrowed eyes,

then she gave me her medical opinion

” Just shut up and start walking.”

So I did.

I was more or less fine. In fact this episode illustrates “Benyon’s law of do it yourself medicine”. It says: Usually when you pull a muscle or something relatively minor, if you walk through it the pain will recede. It’s as simple as that.

Painted Ladies

Some years ago I told my daughters at dinner that any woman with tattoos was clearly a hooker. They jeered abuse at me and went shopping. That evening to my horror they reappeared covered in garish pictures all over their arms. They then told me they were only stick on wash off transfers.

In our wanderings round the UK over the past 4 years or so I am in the position of being able to assess the state of my countrymen. I have to say they are even larger and I reckon 25 per cent more tattooed than four years ago. And, no, I still don’t like it.

Taxi Assessment

Do you recall the abuse and scorn poured out on the hapless David Mellor, culture secretary in the Major government, after he had vented his spleen at a taxi driver a few months back? Yet when Boris Johnson told his taxi driver to “eff off and die but not in that order” everyone said “good for old Boris, attaboy!” , but what’s sauce for the Goose should be sauce for the Gander and, if it isn’t, then it should be. Mellor is an excellent cove – as I am told is Boris – and he was much defamed by the scurillous Max Clifford who is now languishing in the nick. Mellor deserved better from the media.

Reality Bites


Last August, I nearly sent a letter to the Telegraph asking if there was anyone alive in the UK whose grandfather was born before June 1840. My grandfather was 54 when my father was born, and my father 52 when I was born.


I was just about to send the letter off when I spotted a letter from an aged man living in Devon. He wrote that his grandfather had been born in 1797! That’s years before Napoleon even became consul! His grandfather was 70 when he sired his father, and his father was 68 when he was born. And there was no Viagra in those days either!


I’ll wait a little while before I send off my letter…


Mental Gymnastics

It’s all so arbitrary. One of my friend’s mothers is in her early 80s, and she is fast developing dementia. Although the queen is three years her senior, she – and of course thousands like her – are still going like bullets.


I wonder if there is a lucid moment when we can tell we are in the process of losing it? The moment of icy truth. Can we face it?


T.S. Eliot wrote in “Burnt Norton” that humankind “cannot bear very much reality”. If he is right, when facing the hideous reality of one-way street madness, we go into denial.


Some face it head on. I recall when the great and lamented Bernard Levin knew he was developing dementia, he is said to have shouted at his partner: “Go, just go… run for the hills and don’t come back. You have to leave me for I am going mad!”


Levin’s wonderfully lucid articles simply fell off a cliff, for either you are writing world-class articles or you aren’t! There’s no halfway house. One of my friends – now dead – was a High Court judge when he suffered a massive stroke in his early 60s. He recovered his mental capacity pretty well but he immediately retired. How can you be a judge when you hesitate to identify which day of the week it is? How do you reinvent yourself then? How do you stop turning your face to the wall?


Clement Freud once told me: “When you go into the kitchen and you cannot remember why you went there, don’t worry, for we all do that… but if you go into a kitchen and you cannot remember what a kitchen is for, then you know you have a problem!”


Actress Maureen Lipman believes that there are hardly any actors with dementia. She thinks this is because working and aged actors are continually undergoing mental gymnastics in learning lines and brooding how they are to embrace this or that role. The moral may be that if you want to keep your marbles in the right order, don’t retire – but if you have to, immediately start to learn Mandarin!


Get Rich Quick

We have Brazilian cleaners, quick, honest and efficient, and they speak not a single coherent word of English. We know they clean at least 20 houses each week and their car is far newer and smarter than ours. My car is (occasionally) cleaned by a group of Bulgarians who speak no English, and they do at least five cars a time for £15 pounds each. I am told by our accountant that one of her dog-walking clients earns £60k per year and another does forecourt car cleaning for about £50k per year.


OK, of course there is “poverty” in the UK, but with a bit of initiative anyone can make a decent living provided they are prepared to do cleaning work: you don’t even need to speak English, a few gestures will suffice.


And I’ll bet there are no British youngsters cleaning houses and cars in Rio or in Sofia.


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