Keeping my brain in shape? I’d rather hide in the shed

This'll be Neil in the spring. Or so he thinks... (Picture: Thinkstock)

This'll be Neil in the spring. Or so he thinks... (Picture: Thinkstock) - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We have to keep switching things around to keep our minds active, apparently.

Occasionally Mrs H will come out with something and I think, blimey, I'm glad you didn't say that when we were in public. What you're about to read would certainly have caused eyebrows to join forces in puzzlement if she had.

We were pottering around in the kitchen when, out of the blue, she fixed me with that determined look of hers and demanded: 'Which leg do you put in your trousers first?'

'Er… all right. What prompted that?' I asked. Why would she want to know the ins and outs of my dressing habits?

'Just tell me which one,' she persisted.


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Now, I bet you don't know which your leading leg is without going through the motions.

It's something I do every morning, I'm on autopilot and which leg I insert first in my trousers is not top of mind.

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'The right leg,' I replied having simulated putting on my trousers.

'Okay, next time put the left leg in first.'

Some of you may remember that years ago the cutlery drawer migrated to the other side of the Fortress kitchen. Mrs H said at the time it was good for things to be swapped around.

'It's a change to the norm,' she said. 'It makes you think and that keeps the brain active.'

But even to this day, I sometimes go to the old drawer.

Anyway, she reckons varying the simple act of which leg you thrust in your trousers first has a similar stimulating effect on the brain.

Well, you try it. I can tell you, leading with my left leg felt really strange. I was only able to get to the hitching stage having hopped round the bedroom like a kangaroo with one leg.

I realised that this has all come about because I whinged that following one of Mrs H's reorganising moments I was forced to play hunt the muesli. It had travelled in the opposite direction to that of the cutlery all those years ago and was in the opposite cupboard.

Mrs H insist she is doing me a favour. As I wind down in retirement this policy of regular change will, she says, keep my brain in trim.

Roll on spring. Things will be different then. It's a bit cold at the moment but once the daffs are in flower I'll get cracking on the shed; turn it into my own personal space, install a few creature comforts. And there'll be only one key holder. The head gardener will have to knock very quietly if she wants a trowel.

I'll have to emerge for food. Can't see Mrs H delivering a ham sandwich.

I will have somewhere to escape where I can relax with a cup of coffee and read the paper. I was having a brew the other day and that old feeling of guilt welled up. You see, old habits die hard. When I was at work, a hot drink was always readily available. No stopping for a break, I'd drink it while I was working. That's not so easy now. I mean, how can you enjoy a cup of medium roast when you're changing the duvet cover?

Knowing my penchant for a proper well-rounded cup of coffee, the family bought me a coffee maker when I retired. So, I need no bidding to down tools and get filtering. But the guilt comes because Mrs H rarely stops work at the same time as I do.

'Fancy a coffee?'

'Can't stop. Haven't got time. I'm in the middle of cleaning the loo.'

I reply testily: 'All right then. I'll wait.'

'Don't be so silly, if you want one have one. But don't mess up three work surfaces to do it. I don't know how you manage that!'

I maintain this is a result of her kitchen organisation. Coffee maker at one end of the kitchen, Coffee in one cupboard, mugs in another and teaspoons in… now which drawer are the teaspoons in?

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