Alzheimer’s Club

April 30th 2006In our local Volunteer Centre there’s a large room upstairs that’s used for activities such as Tai Chi and Pilates sessions and charity coffee mornings, that sort of thing. Add to that now, according to the sandwich board-type notice outside on the pavement that I noticed yesterday morning, an Alzheimer’s Club.

 ‘Alzheimer’s Club, 3pm Thursday’, announced the notice in bold letters. I was intrigued. If someone has Alzheimer’s how do they remember to go? I had to know, not least because I’m fast approaching the age when I might become a victim of Alzheimer’s myself, and forewarned is forearmed as they say.I went in and said to the pleasant-looking young lady receptionist behind the desk: “This club for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease? How do they remember to come?”

“We pick them up in a minibus,” the receptionist smiled.Problem solved then. Nothing to it. Ask a silly question. I was halfway through the door on my way out before I realised her answer threw up another question. I returned to the desk.

“Then why put a notice outside?”“Pardon?”

“Announcing a meeting of the Alzheimer’s Club? If you pick them up in a minibus why bother putting a notice outside?Her frown, added to her vacuous expression informed me that she obviously had no idea. But equally obviously she felt she had to defend the use of the notice. After a moment or two’s thought she smiled and announced: “Well it’s for people who haven’t got Alzheimer’s now but get it later. So’s they’ll know we have an Alzheimer’s Club here every Thursday at three.”

“No they won’t,” I said. Because when they get Alzheimer’s they’ll forget they’ve seen the notice, won’t they.” “That’s all right,” she said brightly, “we’ll pick them up in the minibus.”It was like the Goon Show re-visited.


The Trouble’s Fish

April 28th 2006

Writing about my wife and her difficulty with cooking yesterday reminded me of the odd story of The Trouble and the Fish.

This crawled out of the woodwork some time after we were married. We were talking one evening about when we were younger, in the days before we’d met, and The Trouble said at one point: “It was before I got my fish.”

Before she got her fish? What did she mean? She’d naturally taken me home to meet her parents when things started to get serious between us but I didn’t recall ever seeing any fish there, neither in a goldfish bowl or tropical fish tank nor in a pond in the garden. Nor had I ever heard her express any love of anything Piscean. Intrigued, I asked her what she meant.

It emerged that The Trouble was fifteen years old at the time, it was one Friday tea time, and she had started work the week previously.  The Friday before, as always on Fridays, the meal came from the chip shop. On the plates of her father and mother were fried fish, chips and peas. On the plates of The Trouble and her twelve-year-old sister were just chips and peas. However on the week in question things were slightly different. On the plates of her father and mother were, as usual, fish, chips and peas. Her sister’s plate showed no change either, being just chips and peas. But on The Trouble’s plate, along with the chips and peas, was a fish.

At first she thought she had been given the wrong plate by mistake. But no, when she looked at the plates of her parents she saw that both of them contained a fish. Had her sister also been given the benefit of a fish, The Trouble wondered? No, on looking she saw that her sister’s plate was as fishless as it had always been. Why the change? She had to know.

“Why have I got a fish?” she asked.

“Well you’re working now, you’re bringing in a wage packet,” said her mother.

I knew that the story was true, you couldn’t make up a story like that, but even so it was difficult for me to comprehend. For what happened could never have happened in my parent’s house. When we had fish we all had a fish, father, mother, me and my two sisters, and if fish wasn’t affordable that week we would all do without it.

The thing is nowadays The Trouble doesn’t like fish, whereas I love it. Mind you I had a fifteen year start on her to get used to its taste.


April 27th 2006

The days when most men would only enter a kitchen in order to have sex on the kitchen table, and even more men would need a map to find the kitchen in the first place, are long since gone. In this enlightened  new man age not only do men know where the kitchen is and what it is for other than novelty nookie but actually cook in it, and take great pleasure in doing so. Even bearing this in mind people are still surprised to learn that I do all the cooking chez Ravenscroft, and have been doing so since shortly after The Trouble and I married. They wouldn’t however be surprised had they ever been exposed to The Trouble’s cooking.

We’d moved into our first home after living the first two years of our married life with my parents, a common occurrence in those days. During this time my mother, God bless her, did all the cooking. The Trouble was cooking her first meal for us, a Sunday roast with all the trimmings. She’d said it would be on the table at one-o-clock prompt. The hour arrived, the roast with all the trimmings didn’t. One of the trimmings, the cabbage, wasn’t yet cooked, The Trouble explained. One-thirty came, and went, without the arrival of the victuals. “Cabbage not yet cooked,” said The Trouble, by now looking a little flustered. Two-o-clock, same story.

I put down my newspaper and ventured into the kitchen to take a closer look at this cabbage that need so much cooking. The Trouble, by now almost tearful, obviously feeling that she had let both me and herself down, pointed to a large pan on the stove. There was no lid on the pan. You couldn’t have got one on, for in the pan sat a very large, whole, cabbage. Now I don’t know how long it takes to cook a cabbage whole, only that it’s over an hour and a half, as that’s how long it had been cooking, and the centre of it was still quite hard.

I didn’t take over the cooking duties immediately; that happened the following Sunday when she roasted a chicken with its giblets still inside, still in the little plastic bag. I ‘m sure if I’d asked her to make me baked beans on toast she’s have put the beans in the toaster along with the bread.

I’ve often wondered, since The Trouble is adept at all other domestic tasks, if she boiled the cabbage whole and roasted the chicken and giblets on purpose, as proof that she was a totally inept cook, and in order to free herself of this duty. I’ll never know. But my money is on that she did.


April 26th 2006Despite earning my living as a comedy scriptwriter for a large part of my working life I can’t write jokes for the life of me. By jokes I mean stories that typically begin ‘There was an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman….’ An example – A blind man walked into a pub, picked up his guide dog by its lead and swung it round his head a few times. The landlord was outraged. He said ‘”Why did you do that?” The blind man said:” Well I only came in for a look round.”  That sort of thing.

I can’t do it, I only with I could.

My humour, such as it is, depends on character and situation, and owes much to observation. I can also do one-liners, such as ‘My wife was in labour for over two days before the doctors realised she still had her tights on’, lines like that.There are very rare exceptions to this general rule, when I do manage to come up with a joke, usually by accident. One such happened this morning. It isn’t a very good joke, so don’t hold your breath. Here goes then –

A man went to see the doctor. He said: “I feel terrible doctor. I’ve got a headache, my nose is stuffy, I’ve got an upset stomach and I’m running a temperature. And as well as that I’ve got this constant sound in my head, like a chanting sound, going ‘Round…round…round…round…. What do you think it is?’ The doctor said: “It’s a bug that’s going round.” That’s it. I warned you it wasn’t very good, didn’t I. However I did once come up with a really good joke when I was writing my novel A Good Walk Spoiled. If you like you can read it on this page –   You are invited to rate both my jokes on a scale of 1 to 10. I would award the first one a dodgy 4 and the second a solid 8.  But then I’m biased.