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The day I think I joined the ranks of silly old duffers

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 17, 2012

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Nowadays we call them "senior moments" – which is a kindly way of describing the wayward actions of people who used to be known as "silly old duffers".

I experienced my first real, glaring, senior moment the other day – and for some daft reason I'm going to tell you about it – probably because I'm a craven coward and hope secretly that readers will write in saying things like: "Tell Martin not to worry, that sort of thing happens to all of us…"

Look up senior moments on the internet and official health websites which discuss dementia often quote the moment people go to punch in a pin-number for their debit card and suddenly freeze. They can't remember a single digit despite the fact that they've used the pin countless times before.

Well, I've had plenty of incidents of that – and have always put them down to the fact that I am profoundly numerically-challenged, or thick-as-three-short-planks when it comes to numbers, to put it more plainly.

So I hadn't thought of pin-number-freeze-up syndrome as a sign of aging.

But now for my new, toe-curling development… Last weekend my son was at home and came for a walk with me in order to see the golden autumnal larch forests in our valley one last time. The owner has told me they're all about to get the chop thanks to the dreaded phytophthora ramorum disease.

On our way we saw a neighbour walking the other way with her two dogs – and our lurcher took the opportunity to go over and say a big hello, which in the doggie world translates as: get-his-leg-over.

I was about to say: "Hello Lyn" to the neighbour when I spied Monty's unacceptable behaviour – so halfway through the process of preparing to verbalise a greeting, something changed.

"Hello" turned into "Get off!" – which was meant to be followed by the name "Monty". But for some horribly embarrassing and inexplicable reason, it was the name "Lyn" that remained.

"Get off Lyn!" is what I shouted. You should have seen my son's face. The poor boy has never been so embarrassed in his life.

As for me… I was mortified – and could only laugh weakly and splutter something pathetic about getting old and sad.

Fortunately, Lyn works in the health service and is probably used to dealing with crazy old codgers, so she merely smiled and said: "Don't worry, we've all reached the age where we do that sort of thing."

For days the incident has been like a festering sore. I am a professional communicator – if there is one thing I can do well it is verbalise stuff, turn things into words, inter-link mouth and brain to come out with something that at least sounds half reasonable.

Now, suddenly, I have entered a new world where it is possible for mouth and brain to be way, way, out of tandem.

My excuse was – and is – that I was tired. But that doesn't really rub because I have been weary many times before without shouting at a friendly neighbour as if she were a loathsome slave on a Roman galleon.

The next day ITV Westcountry phoned and asked if I'd go on air to talk about ash dieback because – have I told you this already (if not, why not? I've told everyone else) – I was the first journalist and the WMN was the first newspaper to reveal the disease was about to hit the UK.

Now, normally being on TV or radio doesn't bother me in the least because I've done it so many times before – plus, I have huge confidence in my ability to verbalise stuff. Even if I don't have a clue about something I can make a pretty good stab at sounding as if I do.

It's known as bullshi... Well, you know what it's called.

But on this occasion there was I on the Quantocks in front of a camera talking remotely to presenter Ian Axton via one of those satellite links…

And all I'm really thinking is: "What if I'm halfway through an erudite sentence and I suddenly scream something like: Get off Ian!"

It didn't happen, but those of you who watched it might agree it was a bit of shambling performance.

So what to do? Get a good night's sleep, I think is the answer. Maybe tootle off upstairs with a mug of cocoa before News at Ten. My dancing days may be over – but hopefully I'll still be stringing sentences together for a few more years yet.

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