I joined a writing group when I recently moved to London, I had never thought of doing anything like this before. But Haringey Council had just started a variety of groups for literature, and I was looking for something to do. I had just finished my first class and after doing a bit of shopping was on my way home.
I head for the ‘Green Rooms’. A sort of cafe, a little gem of a place right next to my bus stop. Just right for a nice coffee if I have to wait.
The W3 bus passes me by— just too far for me to catch—my days of running for a bus are over. Anyway, when old people run, they don’t actually move any quicker, they move their legs up and down faster but to no avail. It is as if they are just running on the spot.
The W3 bus service is amazing, one comes every six minutes and occasionally two will arrive at the same time. I decide to wait for the next one and I sit on the thin red seat in the bus shelter. These are very hard and uncomfortable—not made for old men’s skinny bums. I am told they are like this to discourage rough sleepers— how anti-social we have become.
Inside the ’Green rooms’, I see this old man slumped on his seat, he looks very
familiar, thinking I must know him I give him a nod and a wave. He nods and waves back and I start to wonder where I have met him before.
After a few moments of synchronised waving and nodding, I realise I am waving at my own reflection in the Green Rooms window.
I quickly look around hoping that no one has seen my silly error. I straighten up and cross my legs like young men do— by lifting one foot on to the other knee.My foot is half-way up my shin, when the cramp sets in.
I jump to my feet—in a manner of speaking —trying to stamp some life into my now dead leg. I try that thing that I see footballers do when they have the cramp—taking very long strides and lifting my legs as high and as wide as I can—this is now in danger of becoming a ‘Monty Python’ sketch.
After ten minutes or so I gain control, then seeing my reflection in the window again, I pull my shoulders back and tuck my chin in—this only produces more chins than anyone should really have. I turn to see my side view; this is even more alarming. I am straining forward as if I am trying to read something on the other side of the road. My legs are bent forward at the knees, I manage to straighten them, but my jeans are set in their ways and they stay bent.
And what about my jeans, I read somewhere that men over forty should never wear jeans— I am eighty-six. Not only am I wearing jeans, they are ‘Levi’ 511’s and slim line too. They were an unintentional purchase—an easy mistake when you are looking through the long rack of cheap jeans at my tailor, TK-Max.
I move up to the window for a closer look, the sun makes my bald head shine like a beacon, showing up the warts on my forehead.
My eyebrows are now just two little tufts of grey hair with some long whiskers hanging down at random over my eyes—looking not unlike a couple of prawns. My mouth is turned down, I force a smile, only to reveal my receding gums and the glint of stainless-steel from my dentures.
As the W3 bus arrives, a little old lady hobbles from ‘The Green Rooms’.
I take her arm and help her on to the bus and into her seat.
“Thank-you very much” she said.
“I have just been told I need a new hip, and I popped in there for a little drink, but do you know, I have had a lovely few minutes, it’s such a friendly place”.
“We were all laughing at your little act, are you on the stage? And did you hear us all clapping at the end”?
If only we can see ourselves as others see us!