Argh! The alarm is buzzing in my ear. How? Why? Lily's at school and I don't need to get up for at least another hour. Dammit. It's particularly irritating given that rats or squirrels or more like a herd of sheep were running up and down over my head at two in the morning. I stuck my head out of the window and couldn't see anything on the roof. There's no loft (given that my bedroom is the loft), so I can't get at the bit between the ceiling and the thatch, assuming that there is a bit between the ceiling and the thatch. All I know is they're in there somewhere, whatever they are.
I toss and turn in the dawn gloom, feeling a growing sense of panic and fear about ageing. And dying. Alone. My eyes are screwed up and there's a aching knot in the centre of my forehead. Those new glasses are useless! Even after swapping the varifocals for two separate pairs. The old ones didn't give me headaches. Hmmm. I'll have to take them back again. Which means we'll have to go to London at half-term.
I am in battle with myself. Half of me keeps nearly springing out of bed to Nordic walk up the downs. The other half keeps pulling up the duvet.
The phone! What? At this ungodly hour? Scramble downstairs.
'Eliza. It's Kate,' says a voice.
Kate. Kate. Can't be Kate the school nurse or she'd say it's Kate from the Manor. Kate. Kate from London? Kate from the village? Nothing's coming to me.
'Oh, hi,' I say casually. Kate. Kate the lay preacher from the next village? Aunt Kate married to Uncle Maurice? But she's dead, isn't she?
'Where shall we start?' says Kate.
Oh God! Kate from the second-hand boutique, wanting to go through the clothes I've left with her? Except she's called something else like Kim or Zoe. Kate from Tesco Insurance? But wouldn't she say, 'Is that Mrs Gray? It's Kate from Tesco Insurance'?
'OK,' says Kate. 'The rats.'
Ah! Kate my landlady with the newborn baby which accounts for this ungodly hour. Of course! I left a litany of minor complaints on her answerphone yesterday.
'Well, I don't know if they are rats,' I say.' They sound more like a herd of sheep.'
'Really,' says Kate in all earnestness. 'I'll get on to the council.'
We move on to the aga which is on the blink and the overgrown trees and the sticky door and the letter about the electoral register.
'Oh God!' I interject. 'I'd better go. Dusty's trying to come downstairs. She's got all four feet on the top step and doesn't know what to do next.'
'How old is she?' asks Kate.
'Twelve? It's a good age for a retriever. We had our terrier put down last week. He was only 11.'
Right. Get dressed for Nordic walk. I'm just putting on my neon green trainers when the phone goes again. Cass.
'I can't come to yoga,' she says. (Oh God! Yoga!) 'My electrician has let me down,' she continues. 'He seems to have gone away. For ever. So I've got an emergency electrician and basically the whole fuseboard has got to be moved so I can't not be here. Plus there's some plumbers coming to sort out the cylinder for the solar panels so I've got to talk them through my airing cupboard.'
How did that happen? How did a whole hour go by? I'll just do the monthly Hoover - that'll get the cardio bit of my Exercise Challenge over with, and then I'll be all set for the toning part with yoga!
Memo to self: Purple-sprouting broccoli best avoided the night before yoga.
We are lying on our backs, the soothing tones of our teacher lilting across the room. 'Raise your right leg up ... at right angles to your body.' Well, I get half way up when I know that this is Far Enough. Mustering every iota of pelvic floor and anal sphincter and tummy muscle that I have, I lower my leg slowly to the floor. I think it's only fair on the group to sit the rest of this one out.
The archer. Oh God. The skier, or whatever it's called in yogic terms. How do all the ancient denizens manage these crazy poses? And why don't I have any thigh muscles? Maybe it's a congenital defect?
The tree. 'Stand on your left leg, with your toes spread like the roots of a tree.... This is your foundation, firm and steady.... Raise your arms like the branches of a tree.... with the elbows at right angles and your hands pointing towards the ceiling.... Now place your right foot wherever's comfortable on your left leg...' Ha ha. The room is full of steady oak trees. I am a weeping willow, swaying in a Force 8 gale, occasionally losing branches and toppling over.
Well, you have to start somewhere, I think, as I roll up my beach mat. It looks so bad, though, doing all the exercises at half-cock. Especially when everyone else is twice your age. Well, at least a decade older, most of them. Some of them, anyway.
I spot Annie on the way out, not a hair out of place in her sleek grey bob, yoga mat rolled neatly under her arm.
'How's the job-hunting going?' she asks.
I tell her about the age-filtering.
'Age and time,' she declares. 'They're just man-made inventions. They don't exist. In other societies people get up with the light and go to bed when it's dark. Age means nothing. It's just a label we put onto people. "Oh you're four years old, you should be reading now." We all do it! I've done it myself! "Oh, you're 55, you're too old for this." All man-made.'
Exactly, I think, as I drive back home. Age discrimination laws should be like race discrimination laws. You shouldn't be allowed to ask someone's age, just as you can't ask their colour! It should be irrelevant! What's relevant is whether they're fit for the job!
Hmmm. That's the problem.