Belfast Telegraph

My house has become an old wreck ... just like my body

Nuala McKeever

I love visitors. Can I just make that clear from the off? I have nothing against people coming to stay. Let's be honest, it's the only time I give the place a good clean, so for that reason alone, I welcome overnighters. But, (well you knew there had to be a but coming ...) what I don't relish, is the increasingly long list of things I have to tell guests about, in order for them to understand how my house works.

It used to be just a quick explanation of the shower. It's never been set right, so the temperature knob, which goes up to ten, needs to be kept around one. Any higher and you'll be going to Casualty, probably naked, with severe scalding burns. Not a great look when you're supposed to be attending a family birthday party.

For a while, the shower was the only 'eccentric' bit of kit in the house. But over the years, almost imperceptibly, new quirks have had to be added to the "Oh, I'd better just explain to you how this works" list.

Like, for example, the TV set which has to have the brightness adjusted manually every time it's switched on otherwise every programme looks as cheery as an Ingmar Bergman film.

And the freezer door that you have to open by clutching the side because the handle's come off, and oh, don't forget to close it firmly with your foot otherwise it sticks in the 'ajar' position and the whole thing gets frozen solid. And then there's the back door key that only works if you jiggle it a certain way and the curtain rail that has a gap so you have to be careful pulling the curtains or they come flying off, and don't forget the washing machine that has to be nudged with your knee after you turn it on, to make it actually run, and the hi-fi system that only works as a radio and the radio that's actually only there to hold up the radiator in the back room, and don't touch those dried flowers – they're hiding a stain on the wall that I've never got round to painting over and, and, and, and ...

Sometimes sending guests to a hotel would be easier. It'd certainly take less time to get them settled in.

But the house I can explain. I can even laugh it off. Ha, ha, ha, my funny old dwelling, it's kinda cute isn't it?!

But what do y'do when the same thing starts happening to your body?

I've started working with new people and suddenly I hear myself spelling out all the limitations of my once fine, well, moderately fine, physique. "Oh, I can't do the tip-toe exercise, I've got arthritis in my big toe". "Sorry, I can't eat that, it gives me wind." "No, can't wear contact lenses much anymore, I've got dry eyes." "Running? No way, bad foot." "Walking? Bad foot." "Wear high heels? Bad foot." "Stand all night at a gig? Not me, gippy knee." "Fairground ride? Vertigo." "Lunchtime game? Sorry, tennis elbow." "Group discussion? Only if everyone can speak up, I'm a bit deaf."

Holy moly, when did I turn into this old wreck?! And this is just with work colleagues. How the heck will I ever, ever consider getting intimate with a person of the other persuasion? (No, I don't mean a Protestant, I mean a man, silly). I can already imagine the first date conversation, "Eh, don't move those dried flowers, they're hiding a stomach I never got round to losing ..."

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