Tim Dowling: I wake up filled with dismay – it’s my birthday

It seems wrong to feel dismay when you’re lying on a sun lounger on a Tuesday afternoon, ignoring work calls. But on the morning of my birthday the sky is slate grey, a cold wind is blowing raindrops against the window, and I am very, very old. “That’s all I could find.” I try to recall what guests would normally expect from me: matching socks? The oldest one is in the kitchen, sticking one stamp after another on to a padded envelope with a quizzical look on his face. “I don’t think I’ve ever mailed anything before.” “Just make sure it fits through the pillar box slot,” I say. “I think we just used to give up.” At 7pm my two guests arrive to sit shivering in the garden until it’s dark enough to go home. The middle one has sent me a package from America, containing grooming accessories for my runaway lockdown beard. “It’s nearly over, that’s the main thing,” I say, squirting beard oil on to my face through an eye-dropper. I think it might be another birthday greeting, but it’s just a reminder from the language learning app I signed up to. At the beginning of lockdown they sent me messages that said, “You’re on fire!” After a while they said, “You’re in danger of losing your streak!” This one says: “These reminders don’t seem to be working.” Just before bedtime I go out to the garden to rearrange the bin liners on the mosaic table, weighing them down with bricks against a stiffening wind. Then I head upstairs to stare at myself in the mirror as I brush my teeth. You should have restricted yourself, I think, to a single lockdown goal: visibly ageing. I’m looking forward to this next phase – the bit where I attempt to sleep through whatever’s left.