I’m being consumed by oldness

I HAVE an ingrowing toenail.

This may seem an insignificant matter, but it feels like a milestone. A millstone, even.

Old people have ingrowing toenails. I am being consumed by oldness.

First the gods started stripping hairs from my head. That was so long ago I can barely remember when it started. Then they began shoving them up my nose (actually, down my nose would describe it better) and in my ears.

The long, wild and wiry ones they glued to my eyebrows.

I am under siege from inexorable decay. Forgetfulness, flesh and flatulence are all growing more apparent. Maybe it’s an ‘f’ thing. Now it’s feet.

There’s something final about your feet packing up. I know it’s only an ingrowing toenail, but it has thrown other ageing issues into sharp relief. I was trying to study it — the toenail — yesterday, but I couldn’t get close enough. I’m pretty sure that when I was six months old I could place my toes in my mouth. Now I have trouble getting them in my socks.

They’re too far away. And the day is fast approaching when I will only be able to view them from up here, if you see what I mean. But at the rate my stomach is increasing even the view from up here will be cut off and I’ll have to use a mirror.

And do you know how much an ingrowing toenail hurts? I feel as if I’m walking around with a pulsating beacon of flame inside my shoe. It’s a pity people can’t see it. A woman ran over it with a loaded trolley in the supermarket and I very nearly beat her senseless with a packet of wholemeal spaghetti.

I can just about get a pair of scissors to the damn thing, but I have been warned I shouldn’t mess with it.

My wife says I should go to a chiropodist. But I can’t!

I just can’t do it. I am terrified that once I allow a complete stranger access to my feet it will only be a short step (ha!) to blanket baths.

Nurses with cold hands will slosh flannels around my private parts with that complete lack of intimacy which tells you that, although you’re not dead, you have ceased to exist.

Feet are extraordinarily personal things. Much more so than hands, which we share with other people. Even our limbs and torsos are more public than our feet, which rarely get seen by anyone but our closest companions (unless you wear thongs, which I don’t) and certainly never get touched by anyone but us and, occasionally, them.

There is only one part of the anatomy (the male anatomy, anyway) that is more personal than feet but luckily it can’t suffer an ingrowing toenail.

I don’t know what the answer is. My wife says I should go to yoga classes so I can learn to bend in the middle again, thus making it possible once more to meet my feet face-to-face, so to speak.

She said I might even be able to get them in my mouth again.

She must be out of her mind! The last time I did it they were six months old. They’d never touched the ground and they were plump and pink as Cheerios. Now they’re… well. old, dammit. Imagine you owned a pair of shoes that you’d worn every day for the past 58 years.

Imagine shoving them in your mouth!