Tuesday 16 November 2010

Age slows us down as time speeds up

With age comes the sense that time is passing more quickly, and the certainty that routine tasks take ever longer to perform.

I got up to write this column at 6.30 yesterday and reached my desk two hours later, after a bath and a simple breakfast of porridge. Once the process would have taken 45 minutes, and even then my girlfriend used to chide me for being a terrible slowcoach.

On Saturday I took advantage of the splendid weather to take a favourite circular walk in the Breamish Valley. Ironically, I started recording the times taken to complete my walks because the authors’ estimates in my guidebooks always seemed so wildly generous. In 1997, it took me 3hr 10min. By 2006, this had increased to 3hr 40min. In 2010, it has become a 4hr 20min hike.

Soon it will be an all-day expedition, rendered impossible because I won’t be ready to leave the house until mid-afternoon.

Having a young child renders my deterioration all the more depressing, particularly since he is already starting to outperform me right across the board.

Charlie has sadly been a bit poorly of late, and his doctor prescribed an antibiotic to supplement the ubiquitous Calpol. The first time he approached us with an open bottle of medicine and a spoon, the Strict Blame Culture operating in the Hann household swung into action and I duly interrogated my wife on who had dispensed the last dose and failed to secure the cap properly.

By the third time it happened, I had been forced to concede that our one-year-old son can open supposedly childproof closures that often defeat his parents. Though why should this surprise us, when six months ago he had already comprehensively reprogrammed my wife’s mobile phone?

The penicillin proved an unnecessary precaution, since the shock news finally emerged some time after our consultation with the GP that Charlie is actually suffering from foot and mouth disease. I was on the Internet trying to track down a captive bolt gun and some old railway sleepers for the pyre when my wife arrived with a print-out from the NHS website listing the symptoms (with a large red tick in her own hand against each item) and the reassurance that, in humans, this is normally a mild viral infection.

The final successful diagnosis was reached through mothers’ gossip in the office. Which was at least cheaper than the staggering £369.73 that it cost me last week to be informed that my dog has an enlarged heart. “Stone me!” I gasped at the vet’s when his receptionist announced this total, causing a ripple of merriment around the waiting room, though I soon lost their sympathy by pointing out that I could have had the dog put down, bought a new puppy, paid for it to be microchipped and vaccinated, and still had change for a good night out.

I don’t even know whether the diagnosis is correct. I was shown what was supposedly an X-ray of my dog’s chest, but it could just as easily have been a black and white Luftwaffe aerial photo of French defences along the Maginot Line.

The good news is that the alleged problem can be treated with drugs. And the one helpful tip to be gained from this column is that it is never a brilliant idea to embark on a four hour drive with a dog that has recently swallowed a diuretic pill unless you want to find yourself doing 70mph on the M62 wondering where that noise like running water can be coming from.

I think the long walk on Saturday did him good. It certainly energised this sufferer from an enlarged stomach. And at the pace I can manage these days, could there be a better companion than a valetudinarian Border terrier or an ailing toddler?

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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