I never ‘flew up’ from the Brownies into the Guides: I got the hump because someone got their writer’s badge before I did – not that I’d written anything, I just thought I deserved one – and flounced out of the movement. Nevertheless, ‘Be prepared’ is the motto I continue to live by.
There are some that would say that I carry this too far, and I’m forced to admit that they’re probably right. When driving, my passengers, for example, are not very happy with my habit of getting into the right (well, left-hand) lane on the motorway at least ten miles before my turn-off, just in case my exit is cut off when we get there. (And I reserve my deepest contempt and loathing for those who weave across all lanes until about 50 metres before their exit then carve you up at the last moment.) But the prospect of having to sail past my turning is just too awful to contemplate, so I’ll happily sit in in the fume-laden slipstream of an ancient Duel-style lorry for twenty minutes at a time. (Still, better behind than in front of a tail-gating monstrosity.)
Next to matters of etiquette: Mr Verity and I have a regular disagreement over when it’s most hospitable to offer your guests a drink. He favours letting them get in the door, get their coats off, and sit down comfortably before offering them anything. I’d be getting a bit nervous by that time, frankly, wondering whether I was in for a spot of Reggie Perrin-style entertaining, whereby the host announces that he is donating the cost of the meal to Oxfam and starts handing round the cheese sandwiches. Ideally, I’d like guests to text in their orders in advance, so that I can have them ready and waiting by the time they arrive.
Yes, we ‘Be prepared’ types are pretty tiresome to be around, and the need to be in a constant state of readiness generates some pretty unacceptable controlling behaviour. Pity the poor children just trying to live in their home once I have cleaned and tidied it for impending guests: they will not be allowed to sit down anywhere, have anything to eat – or pehaps even go to the loo.
I also start going downstairs in the bus at the red light before my stop (no point in being tipped head first into the bottom of a bus), and I get my pass and my keys out long before they’re needed. In fact, the imperative to be prepared dictates my choice of handbag: negotiating a rucksack would be just too time-consuming. It must be a shoulder bag with an internal pocket that I can reach into without breaking my stride.
Prematurely, I hope, I’m beginning to turn my thoughts to not leaving our house too full of junk to be sorted through on our demise, and have made some feeble attempts at decluttering by using up mini-soaps (as documented on these pages previously) and discarding a collection of cosmetic samples long past their use-by date. But there is a distinct danger that I will spend the last two years of my life sitting waiting for the Grim Reaper, ready-wrapped in my shroud…