Free game! If you dare…

Never let it be said that retirement doesn’t bring an opportunity to learn new and exciting skills. The old adage of ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ is officially outdated and redundant, as this very week I am able to testify.

For all of you thinking that my age related disorders (ARD) and affectations now extend to pastimes of a more sedentary nature, today I can assure you that the newly learned game I am about to divulge to you, is a skill that can be achieved by all ages, if you have the mental acumen and desire to take your time, don’t rush, think it through, but instead exercise the whole gamut of abilities you have been blessed with throughout this life’s rich tapestry.

Today begins with the alarm raising me from my slumbers to which I had just succumbed having had one of the worst night’s sleeps ever – possibly due to overheating, even though the outside temperature was sub zero. Certainly the new old-school storage heaters we have just fitted are doing their job effectively, but even they were not on, as the ambient room temperature was of sufficient height to turn them all off. The log burner had been in full swing the previous evening, successfully warming the house throughout. Good for daytime mooching about, but less so when wrapped in a duvet better designed for arctic climates (4.5 Tog). 

I appreciate that one of the reasons for us moving to French France was for a warmer climate than the UK, but being this far inland and away from the effects of the Gulf Stream or surrounding watery shores that keep temperatures ambient, the result can often be hotter summers and colder winters – although the winters here tend to be short lived affairs. We flirted with a few snowflakes early last year, but nothing really to write about. Freezing rain and hard frosts are more de rigueur.

However, now that the alarm has successfully achieved its desired effect, I roll to the edge of the bed and swing my legs out. Having learnt that excessive movement can cause my back to spasm, keeping both knees together, I raise myself in one fluid motion to verticular standing and head orf in the direction of the bathroom to perform some perfunctory ablutions. 

Passing a stirring Ruby en route to the kitchen, I survey the aftermath of what was the night before, awaiting my attention in the sink, on the work surface and on the hob. It isn’t a pretty sight either. Why had I not cleaned up during the evening, before everything congealed into the mess that now confronts me? At what point did I think this was an acceptable state to leave the kitchen in?

With Charlotte in hot pursuit kitchenwards, I fill the kettle and make her a cuppa. Quickly stacking the dirty dishes in some sort of order, tea drunk, Ruby fed, we don several layers and set forth into the frozen tundra. (Well, down the driveway and then off for a 4000 step route march to give Ruby a chance to perform her habitual routines).

In the distance, a rangale of deer, noticing our imminent arrival upon their sleeping hollow, stand stock still, fixing their questioning gaze upon possible friend (or foe). Ruby being Ruby, foraging for nutty, fails to smell or spot them until she is very close. At which point, she freezes and stares. Spooked, the deer take off across the fields and, being the useless Schnauzer that she is, Ruby gives them such a head start she is never going to be able to say hello to them properly. She gives a good natured chase and bobbs up and down in the long grasses for a bit, trying to spot where they are, while a bouquet of pheasants take to flight, distracting Ruby from her quest. She saunters back to us as we continue on.

Returning home as the rising sun peeks above the distant hillside ridge, we marvel at the beautiful countryside surrounding us and at the changing seasons that bring new colour and life almost on a daily basis. Blue sky threatens another lovely day, but if I’m not much mistaken, chores await. As time waits for no man, least of all me, I know that the dishes will not wash themselves and as Charlotte works, I am up to my oxters in suds in no time at all!

This is where the aforementioned newfound skill is put to use. As a dishwasher is as far from a list of needs or wants as could possibly be, I thrust my hands into the task of turning a bombsite into a scene of cleanliness and order.

Question: Do I want to perform shifts of washing and wiping up, or do I want to wash up in one go?

Shiftwork never appealed much, so it will have to be the one hit wonder. And so, as the pile of dirty dishes decreases, the clean pile grows. As the dirty dishes are spread over a wider area than the draining board covers, the washed items begin to stack up.

Jenga washing-up stylee.

The mountain is not for moving. At least, this is where the skill and ability of this Jenga game excels. Starting from a bed of cutlery (albeit not the most stable of foundations) the washed-up pile grows like the infamous Tower of Babel. Reaching for the stars and firmament above, colander and saucepan, plates and bowls, all striving for verticular integrity. Clinging to one another as if the rivulets of water that are running from them will cause a cohesive binding film of surface tension support.

Not only does this game of stacking enable the proficient pot washing denizen to exhibit their ability of proportional minimalistic ratio, square-inch drip-dry surface area, to the volume of cleaned items, but also, following the stacking, there has to be the dismantling of the Tower of Terror! Such fun! 

Now, piece by moist piece, with barely a breath of wind passing over it, each item is carefully removed, dried and put away for future use, without the whole heap cascading earthwards in an horrendous cacophonous crash.

Having started from a base of calamitous cutlery, the zealous and assiduous performer of this new Jenga game will have the profoundly personal finishing rite of removing and drying each individual piece of cutlery without moving another item or making a sound in the process.

Who knew retirement could be so rewarding and challenging?

Carry on regardless!


P.S. “Maybe someone is best defined by how they affect the people around them…”

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