A brain like a Baghdad post office

I HAVE labyrinthitis.

Coming from the word labyrinth it ought to mean I am good at mazes, but it doesn’t. It means I have trouble doing what comes easily to most two-year-olds: standing up and walking without running into things.

It’s either labyrinthitis, which is a virus attacking the inner ear, my doctor says, or I’ve had a stroke and the back of my brain – the bit that controls balance – looks like a Baghdad post office after the explosion.

No matter, the end result is that I spend my time bimbling round the house like the ball in a pinball machine, occasionally ricocheting off the walls and lurching into table lamps when someone presses the tilt button.

Oh God! I knew it would be like this — but I didn’t know it would be like it so soon.

I thought I’d see old age coming and throw myself off a cliff before it reached me. But I’ve been ambushed! Now I can’t walk straight enough to get to the cliff edge.

And by the time I’m desperate enough to take an overdose all my food will be delivered on a spoon by some well-meaning, middle-aged interfering biddy in a cardigan and I won’t even be in control of my own pills!

This is the bit they don’t tell you… it’s all very well to say boldly: “I’ll shoot myself before I let a stranger wipe my bum,” but when you wake up one morning and you can no longer reach your own backside you probably won’t remember how to pull the trigger either!

Someone out there is going to tell me to be more positive. Well… up yours! (You can say this to people when you’re no longer in control of your faculties, and they still have to think positively about you).

Positive thinking has become a modern mantra. It’s simply not done to countenance the prospect of failure. Boy, have I got news for you! Old age and death are only positive if your ambition is to be good at it.

And you will be. Once. You only get one go, and you’re going to achieve spectacular success.

In a way you could say the lucky ones actually are the ones whose brains explode like a Baghdad post office. At least then it’s all over quickly. You don’t have time to develop a bad attitude, or you’re so confused you can’t remember how to develop one.

The rest of us have to face the continuous erosion of our dignity, like having strangers help you cross roads, cut your toe nails, wipe up the dribble and, yes, your bum.

My wife says I am making a fuss about nothing, the virus will be gone in a week or two and I’ll go back to blaming my meandering gait on the drink.

“But what if it’s not labyrinthitis?” I said. “What if it is a stroke and half my brain is destroyed!”

She said: “But surely we’d notice the diff… mmmm…”