New Age

I’m in a pub in Worcester.

Nearby, four old men.
They have sex lives.
Two, before the third arrives, moan of him.
They talk of friends’ funerals’
like you might mention
a disappointing football game.

The four dress individual:
one in sharp grey suit, ironed trousers with the crease,
another in khaki slacks, comfort-wear
then wooly jumper and leather boots,
finally the sad tramp.

They excitedly trade memories of old medicines: ECT, treatments for depression, the definition of emphysema. They compare treatments for epilepsy from the turn of the century

with now

I overhear that ‘grand mal seizures’ are ones that last longer than a minute.
The cost of local chiropodists:
“Twenty-five in the Spring Gardens”
“Twenty down there” [gesturing down the road toward the city centre].

One of them, the fourth, is frail and quiet and bitter. They poke at his poor hearing, his weak voice, his distant temperament.

I write down that “Dapi gli pho zine” (dapagliflozin) is a drug for diabetes.

When they cheers they say ‘All the Georgey Best’.

Why am I listening to the four old men. Do I have nothing else to do. It seems so. Why am I writing down what they say. Will it come in useful? Will I now know it when I see it? My grandmother has died. When I am old I will have silver hair and clear blue eyes. I will face my physical and mental degeneration with good humour, and count down the silent moments, and say my goodbyes. And when it comes I will be ready to go.

On Angela
“…arrangement where Angela was allowed her *chaps*. He’d go and have a drink, and by the time he got home the *friend* would have gone. One time he comes home and the car is still there. He goes around the block. Car still there. Well, this is a bit much, he thinks, I’m gunna go in and have what for. Well, he gets out and looks in the car and the guy’s there. He’s tried to get away. But he’s dead. And the joke is that that’s what Angela can do to a man.”

On an old flame
A: “…is she grey now?”
B: “No, but she’s into religion.”
A: “bit happy-clappy…”

On being cuckolded
B: “So have you always been the white man?”
C: “No, no, I’ve been…”
B: “Oh, so you’ve been a dog too, that’s good.”

On the fourth friend after he’d left
A: “He’s depressed.”
B: “Well he’s depressed.”
A: “He’s a little unkempt.”
C: “He needs a little touch.”

On signs that one is close to dying
A: “We’re not all…fit specimens..but it’s when the voice begins to go/”
C: “When you don’t have the energy.”
A: “The voice is a good tell-tale.”
B: “How’s my voice, John? …annoyingly, nauseatingly…?”
C: “Nauseatingly loud…”
B: “Nauseatingly loud…”
A: “It isn’t the annoying, nauseating tone of your voice but the content of your conversation…”
C: “No you’ll be around for a while.”
B: “I don’t know. There’s other ways.”

On courting
B: “We just like the feeling we’re still in the game…”
A: “We’re on the subs bench.”
C: “Ninety per cent of the time I’m not up for it.”
B: “I’ll always be in the game.”

Painting: Fishermen At Sea by J. M. W. Turner, 1796

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