I FIND as I grow older that I become increasingly baffled by everything. And bear in mind that I set up Base Camp relatively high up Mount Befuddlement in the first place.
Specifically, I am unclear on why people do things. It is not all people or all things, but it is an ever- growing number of both.
For example, I was perturbed this week by the twentyish woman with whom I shared a revolving door.
I saw the woman enter the door as it moved, stepping into one of the compartments. I stepped into mine. And she did not move. She just stood there, trapped, a look of confusion on her face. I was equally trapped and confused.
Why didn’t she move?
For 10 seconds, we looked at each other. Then I realised. She didn’t know you had to push the door to make it revolve. I gripped the handle and started to push. She looked at me as if I were a madman, but then as the door moved, it dawned on her and she was freed.
Somehow, she had managed to reach her early twenties without encountering a revolving door either in reality or in films. I found that utterly incomprehensible.
Even more baffling this week was the display I witnessed from my work-bound bus.
I saw through the window a pair of tables with accompanying chairs on the pavement outside the premises of a chain bakers.
I found it quite difficult to imagine who would want to sit six feet away from a busy road used by buses and articulated lorries, but I had a go. And here I am, imagining it . . .
CHARLES AND EDDIE SPOT A PAIR OF TABLES OUTSIDE A CHAIN BAKERS.
CHARLES: Oh, my stars and garters! A pavement cafe! Just as in Paris! Do you remember, Eddie?
EDDIE: No, That was Ramon.
CHARLES: Ah. Well let us sit and have an espresso and an exquisite pastry and watch the boulevardiers saunter by.
CHARLES SITS DOWN. AN OLD WOMAN PASSES, PULLING A TARTAN SHOPPING TROLLEY.
EDDIE ENTERS THE SHOP. HE RETURNS WITH THE FOOD.
EDDIE: They did not have any espressos, I have had to get Bovril.
CHARLES: And exquisite pastries, as those crafted by the master patissiers of Montmartre?
EDDIE: Jumbo sausage roll or cheese ’n’ onion pasty? They were the only things that were hot.
AN 86 BUS WHIPS PAST. ITS SLIPSTREAM TEARS THE PASTY FROM THE HANDS OF CHARLES STRAIGHT INTO THE FACE OF EDDIE.
EDDIE: I hate you.
But I am most often confused by young men, which is in itself strange as I used to be one.
Consider the hipster – and why not, as he is already thinking about himself 24 hours a day – and his laughable life. I have railed against him before, and I admit defeat on the battleground of red trousers. I will never surrender in the battle to retain “may I have?” instead of “can I get?” but I am doing that for all of us.
I saw a hipster recently walking through the city with a metal detector. I assume it was a metal detector; he might have been taking a floating disc for a walk – you never know with hipsters.
Imagine the readings this young man must have been getting in a street filled with cars, lamp-posts, cables, and copper pipes. Perhaps he had been fooled into thinking he was listening to some difficult but incredibly hip electronica.
Nevertheless, he was overshadowed by the young man I saw on the homeward-bound bus this week who had a shaven head and a complicated and extensive beard. I understand naturally bald men having beards, as some sort of proof that they can still stimulate the odd follicle, but this was ridiculous. He had chosen to look like a character from the game “Guess Who?” on purpose.
He compounded his ridiculousness by wearing a flat cap and short trousers. I will set aside the fact that a good test of whether a man under 65 is a psychopath is whether he can wear a hat without appearing self-conscious.
The issue here is that this was not a man who was cool and didn’t know it. This was a man who was cold and didn’t know why. This was a man who was the logical conclusion of the incomprehensible fashion for wearing T-shirts with gloves and tourniquet-style scarves. I think I hated him.
They say ignorance is bliss. If that’s true, why am I so angry?