We all suffer from foibles or tics or, if you wish to be pc, oddities pertinent only to us: mine is an obsession with age. It’s not my fault. My mother had it – at her funeral there was a gasp of surprise from the congregation when it was read out that she was 89 rather than the admitted 83!
Naturally, modern living does not subscribe to that – at least no longer. When I first registered for a Barclay Card … yes, all right, it was a very long time ago … I altered my age from a xxx1 to a xxx5. It took forever to sort out when everyone began demanding proof of age, I nearly landed up in clink.
I wrote about it several times: This is from Age and the Antique Sideboard which lampoons just that:
Buzzed by the very nosy bee
Age and the Antique Sideboard – 2017
Isn’t it wonderful, you might say, to be surrounded by school kids who are so eager to learn and so full of curiosity?
Well, you might, until you remember what happened to the cat.
I am good at my job, my sessions are fun, noisy, and very entertaining, and I leave the classroom to enthusiastic applause wearing a smile on my face. Except for the few occasions when I’m not … wearing a smile on my face. Or, if I am, my smile is neither wholehearted and natural, nor without strain.
Why? I hear you ask.
Because very early on in my career, I learned that schoolchildren are hung up on age. (So am I)
They are also very bright.
They also hunt in packs … like ravening wolves.
Has anyone a question, their teacher calls out.
I wait …
‘How old are you?’
Sidestep from me: Big smile. ‘Very old.’
‘How long have you been writing?
Alarm bells sound and tension sets in: ‘About fourteen years.’
A moment later: ‘Did you always want to be a writer?’
Big sigh of relief: ‘No, I wanted to be a tap dancer.’
Laughter accompanied by second sigh of relief.
‘How many books have you written?’
‘How long does it take to write a book?’
(Huge sigh of relief as I step back onto terra firma.) ‘About four months. If I begin in October I am usually putting the finishing touches by February.’
‘Which is your favourite book?’
Diverted, my pulse begins to slow. I can see safety looming.
Then … they go for the jugular.
‘How old were you when you wrote your first book?’
At lunchtime, they are waiting for me in the corridor. I now know what a buffalo or bison feels like when it is singled out from the herd and surrounded by predators.
Their leader shouts triumphantly: ‘We worked it out. One of your slides says New York 1973. That’s over forty years ago!’
At that precise moment the words toe-rag and killing enter my mind!