George Bowling 45

I bent down to pick a primrose. Couldn’t reach it – too much belly, I squatted down on my haunches and picked a little bunch of them. Lucky there was no one to see me. The leaves were kind of crinkly and shaped like rabbits’ ears. I stood up and put my bunch of primroses on the gatepost. Then on an impulse I slid my false teeth out of my mouth and had a look at them.

If I’d had a mirror I’d have looked at the whole of myself, though, as a matter of fact, I knew what I looked like already. A fat man of forty-five, in a grey herringbone suit a bit the worse for the wear and a bowler hat. Wife, two kids and a house in the suburbs written all over me. Red face and boiled blue eyes. I know, you don’t have to tell me. But the thing that struck me, as I gave my dental plate the once-over before slipping it back into my mouth, was that it doesn’t matter. Even false teeth don’t matter. I’m fat – yes. I look like a bookie’s unsuccessful brother – yes. No woman will ever go to bed with me again unless she’s paid to. I know all that. But I tell you I don’t care. I don’t want the women, I don’t even want to be young again. I only want to be alive. And I was alive that moment when I stood looking under the primroses and the red embers under the hedge. It’s a feeling inside you, a kind of peaceful feeling, and yet it’s like a flame.