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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Hard of hearing? It makes gossip more exciting

She was a hairdresser confidently claiming to be a cut above the rest... she being an accomplished pianist and all.

And she was claiming proudly to be cheerfully doing her bit for a community Christmas – pitching in to spread a little joy, so to speak – which is always to be commended in one so blonde.

“I’m doing a recital at the weekend,” she said. “For the old folks.”

Most were suitably impressed and happy to say so with generous gushes of praise. One – a chap picking up his wife from her festive highlights appointment – was less than enamoured.

“That’s nothing,” he chuntered. “I recycle every day. And I am an old folk.”

This is a befuddling time of the year. All that dashing about, trying to gift shop, food shop, plan, clean, trim trees, write cards until fingers and thumbs cramp into arthritic contortions in the post office queue for stamps. It’s very hard work.

It leaves us all – man and boy, woman and girl – with what was described in a Carlisle court this week as a “deficit in thinking skills”. A bit confused, in other words. A little dim. And sometimes a touch hard of hearing.

“Must tell you something before I forget,” my dad said excitedly on the phone at the weekend.

“A friend of yours was the speaker at my old boys’ dinner the other week... he sends his love.”

“That’s nice, Dad. Thanks.”

“Yes, and he told me your pal Alyson is really big in rugby these days. Did she tell you?”

“Aly? Are you sure?”

“That’s what he said.”

“With her knees? They’re five years older than she is. And Aly’s no spring chicken.”

“Big in the rugby club apparently. She’ll be captain next year. He said so.”

Wow. Well, that’s not news to be kept quiet. Not without checking out all the gory detail first.

The possibilities were endless. Aly and her knees – were they in League or Union? Was she into early baths? Sneaking tries and conversions with big beefy lads wearing eau de liniment?

So, I called Aly.

Fifteen minutes later – when she’d stopped laughing – she elucidated.

“Rotary. I’m big in the Rotary Club – president next year. But rugby sounds so much more exciting. I love your dad for glamorising my life.”

You have to blame the season for sending us all a little doo-lally. Nothing that would normally be given any weight of seriousness at any other time of the year should be afforded even passing significance at Christmastime.

It’s not the time for big decisions – nor any decision, in fact, beyond the size of your pigs in blankets and how many poinsettias you can kill off before Christmas Eve.

Neither is it a period when information of any description should be relied upon as – well, reliable. Too much stress makes the human brain translate the important into the insane.

Being part of a conversation about the need for affordable housing in rural areas around Carlisle was a case in point.

“Yes but just what do they mean by affordable? Affordable to whom?” One of our number wanted to know the impossible.

That’s the biggie. Everybody wants to know what is an acceptable cost of living. Nobody has the answer. But I had a go.

Affordable housing is only affordable if it is built next to and compared with the unaffordable. Affordability is relative.

But people living in unaffordables don’t want affordables nearby. Affordable lowers the value of unaffordables in an area and very quickly the unaffordable becomes affordable.

So the posh folks move out to somewhere more unaffordable because that’s what they’re used to – being separated by long distance from affordables. And affordables move in.

But then, in the end, even affordables don’t like it much because the area has gone down a lot since the unaffordables moved on.

Because actually nobody really likes living anywhere regarded by everybody else as affordable.

Nobody really got it. I’m not sure I got it, to tell the truth.

But I suspected there was a spot of logic in there somewhere. Then again, I might have been mistaken.

“Don’t ask me any more questions,” I pleaded. “At least not until well after Christmas, when – with any luck – befuddlement may have subsided and, like that chap in the hairdresser’s, I may once again know my recitalling from my recycling.

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