I’m in competition with myself and I’m losing.

August 24, 2023 – Roger Waters

What a strange summer! Not all that unusual for it to be marked by rain and chill. Although I remember childhood holidays in North Wales as invariably sunny, I am persuaded intellectually that wet hols were actually in the majority and long sunny ones relatively rare. This year, national moaning about the weather has been much more muted. The reason is not hard to find. The comparison has been with a burning Mediterranean, baking in almost unbelievable temperatures, with horrific fires and parched earth. I am not the only one to have found the usually depressing wet, windy and cool weather rather refreshing.

I was tempted to go on holiday for a week with some friends to a rather large cottage in Hampshire, and, despite the party containing some barristers, including myself, it was really enjoyable. Our games involved fine dining (we sensibly took a friend who is a fantastic cook) and mixing cocktails nightly made from recipes in someone’s little black book. Even the hangovers were borne stoically with rather splendid breakfasts. It felt a bit like university all over again as we put the world to rights and laughed ourselves silly. Best of all, we were a wide range of ages, so it did not descend into age-related moaning. In addition, two of the party were doctors so, old and young, we could each drag one of them into a corner for a quick consultation about that troubling cough (young smoker), bad back (middle-aged tennis player) and regularity (those of us over 60).

Health was on my mind. I have my annual medical coming up at the end of the holidays. I used to look forward to these. Chat with the quack, couple of prescription renewals, quick mention of some minor pimple spoiling my less than good looks. Nowadays I approach them with about the same degree of enthusiasm I had for taking my first ever car to the garage for its annual MOT. That look from the garage-man, a strange mixture of sympathy and inner pleasure which would take even a highly talented actor years to perfect. Then, the good news – ‘overall: paintwork and bodywork are fine…’ – with a big ‘but’ hovering unsaid in the oily atmosphere, followed by the bad news – ‘can’t pass it though, your brake linings have gone’ – bad, but surely within my meagre finances to repair, ending with worse – ‘and that was when we discovered your gearbox has got about ten miles left.’ By then, his look of satisfaction was greatly exceeding the sympathetic one.

My impending ordeal was first spotted by Luis Allen, a young barrister in his early days of commercial practice, who is a phenomenally bright young man in his 20s. You have to be nowadays even to be considered by his chambers. He is a better lawyer than I ever will be. He also has a refreshing joy in being alive and he literally swept into the kitchen while I was toying with some fresh fruit for breakfast. ‘Healthy living, William?’ he asked and carried on without waiting for my answer, ‘Brilliant. Byfield meets the modern world.’ Before I could make an acid comment about the fact that he was taking down the frying pan clearly to cook numerous rashers of bacon, he added: ‘What brought out the health gene? Nightmares after last night?’ ‘No,’ I replied, ‘I have to get my sugars down. Medical next week.’

At that moment Joanna and Karl Anscombe (the doctors) drifted in. ‘It isn’t an exam you know, William,’ said Joanna. ‘Last minute mugging up of the French Wars of Religion as they didn’t ask a question about it the year before.’ Karl then joined in. Medics are always pack animals. ‘The doctor needs to know the truth. As Joanna says, it’s not about passing or failing. It’s about your life.’ By now a nice friend of ours about ten years younger than I am was mooching around in the fridge. Alice is a superb cook as well as a very good judge. ‘Anyway,’ she said, ‘there’s another test that shows the three-month average so you can’t beat it.’ Luis’ boyfriend, Arno, a barrister in criminal work was last to join those breakfasting and gave me a sympathetic smile. ‘Barristers live like that, Karl,’ he said, ‘that’s what’s keeps us going, not doctors. It’s winning: the game, the rush, beating the odds.’ I grabbed a piece of Joanna’s warm toast covered ironically in French butter and Seville orange marmalade. ‘I’m going back to bed. Damn the cholesterol! My doctor told me last time that I needed more rest.’