Life

Nuala McCann: Turns out that not every Joe in your inbox sells hearing aids

A surprise message in my inbox makes me think I’ve signed up to something and I can’t remember what I signed up to

THE message in my in-box is ominous. “Are you ready?” asks Joe. “We start tomorrow.”

Start what? A new religion? The tango? Tantric yoga... am I ready?

It feels like a senior moment. I've signed up to something and I can't remember what I signed up to.

I get that nervous tummy thing, as if I've done something I shouldn't, as if the full set of Encyclopaedia Britannica may yet plonk on the doorstep at any moment accompanied by an impossible bill.

We were well warned against posting away for “free coupon offers” as children. It stems from the time that a strange man knocked our front door and announced that he had come to fit a hearing aid on my fully functioning, non-a-bit-deaf brother.

Said brother had snipped out and filled in the coupon from a newspaper just for fun. After all, the hearing test was free. My mother was not laughing.

My mate Joe who has popped up in my inbox and wants to know if I'm ready has got me wondering. He sounds much too upbeat to be great fun. There's a whiff of the old schoolmarm gym mistress about him – the one who sent you out with the hockey sticks in force five gales on that blasted the all-weather pitch.

She was the one who said there was little time to slough the north Antrim mud off your legs after the trials of a hockey match. Given the limited showering facilities, she cheerily suggested that we shower in pairs with our friends.

We were 14. There was a competition for who could best fill an A cup. Shower naked with your mates? Never, ever, ever ever.

I have only ever done that willingly once – and that was in a big brute of a Soviet hotel in Poland that had the feel of a an old-fashioned asylum about it. The key to the bathrooms was held by a fierce. stout glowering woman who put the fear of God in us. There was no way my friend and I were going in there alone.

Even now, the thought of the showering arrangements in the male changing rooms at the gym leave me reaching for my extra large bath towel. Open showers? I like my own little shower curtain in my own little cubicle, thank you very much.

But it turns out that I was wrong about Joe in my inbox. He only wanted to sign me up for his juice challenge.

If you have never seen his documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, watch it. You may have an evangelical moment like I clearly did... and then let it go clean out of your head.

Following Joe means dusting off my old juicer and loading up on kale, raw cabbage, green apples, ginger. I am so not ready.

Joe may, on this occasion, disappear under the delete button.

Forgetting things occurs more frequently now –not just when I am half way up the stairs where I sit like an ageing Christopher Robin, dithering about what brought me there.

It happens when I catch myself mid-sentence, panic that I won't remember the punchline of a joke or cast a glance around the room and realise that they're just being polite and they have all heard that story so many times, they're racing you to the punchline... and suddenly you've forgotten it.

But isn't that what friends are for?

My worst habit leads to long sighs from those I love.

Mid-sentence I tend to veer off suddenly, to stop speaking and to disappear into the world in my head.

“Couldn't you just... finish your sentences,” they sigh, exasperated.

I had a boss who used to spook me by staring at me intensely as if he could bully me into submission. When I told him that I didn't like what he was doing, he argued that it was because he felt that, when he was talking to me, I wasn't really there, I was not truly listening.

There is a poem, that reads:

When I was going up the stairs

I met a man who wasn't there.

He wasn't there again today

I wish that man would go away.

Joe, the man in my email inbox, keeps reminding me to stock up on kale and broccoli and spinach. I don't wish that he'd go away. Juicing might just be salvation. Pass the spinach, let's channel our inner Popeye.

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