Last week, I was standing at the counter of my local café, just about to pay the bill for my breakfast, when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
I turned round to see Si, a friend who’s a famous TV pundit, about to sit down at a table.
“Hi Peter, sorry I can’t talk,” he said, taking out his laptop.
“What do you mean you can’t talk? I can’t talk first! I’m leaving! I was leaving before you even arrived!”
That evening, I was having a meal in the West End with a friend, when he asked: “Have you got sat-nav?”
“No,” I said.
“It’s great. I’ve got it. It’s in my flat.”
“You’ve got sat-nav in your flat? So that’s what getting old is like, is it? ‘In five feet, turn left into the bathroom, veer right in 10 feet and you’ll arrive at your destination… the bedroom… Error! Beep! Beep! Do a u-turn: you’ve just walked into the cupboard.’ If that’s what getting old is going to be like, I think I’ll go for the two-Filipino-carers option.”
“Very funny,” he said. “I’m younger than you, remember.” “If you say so,” I said.
I mentioned that my daughter had just passed her driving test first time, a month after turning 18.
He said: “I passed first time, too, but I took it a week after my 17th birthday — and I only had one lesson.”
“Incredible!” I said. “But you do know that when you’re 70, you have to take the test again?”
“You’re wrong,” he said. “You don’t have to take it again.”
My friend always thinks he knows everything, whatever it is, he’s been there, he’s seen it, he’s done it.
I said: “It says it on the back of your licence, by the expiry date. Show me your licence.” He showed it to me.
“Ha! Gotcha! I knew it! I am younger than you! October 19 2016 expiry date. So if you took your test one week after your 17th birthday, you’ll be 70 then. Which means you are three months older than me!”
He silently stared into his green salad. He left it untossed. Finally he said: “I passed first time. Nobody else we knew did that.”
I suddenly remembered Cyril, a friend from my early 20s. Whenever one of us did something, Cyril had always done it first.
“I saw this fantastic new film last night.” Cyril: “I’ve seen it! I’ve seen it!”
“But it only came out yesterday! How can you have seen it, Cyril?” “The premiere! I was at the premiere!”
Or — “I’ve just read about this terrific new French bistro.” Cyril: “I’ve been there! I’ve been there!”
“But it’s only been open one day!” “The party! I was at the opening party. I was at the owner’s table!”
In July 1969, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, we were all amazed that Cyril didn’t say: “The moon? I’ve been there! Dark, cold, very cold. I didn’t like it.”
The last time I saw Cyril was over 30 years ago. I’d bumped into him standing at the back of an Eric Clapton concert. “Hello, Cyril,” I said. “He’s so boring, I’m leaving.”
“I’ve left already,” he said.