Over the years I've often wondered why I had to pay national insurance when I never seemed to get out what I put in. Not only was I having money deducted from my salary without being asked, in much the same way as the tax man always made sure he got his bit, but even on the extremely rare occasions when I needed to see a doctor the prescription charge was greater than the value of whatever tube of gunk I'd been palmed off with.
Suddenly it's a different story and I feel like I'm being paid back with interest. Whether it all kicked off when I had the bike crash and ended up in hospital with an exploded knee, or simply that I passed the magic 40 marker at which point my body decided it was bored of keeping itself working smoothly, I really don't know, but it's as if I've gone from a body that runs as reliably as a new Honda to one that demands as much attention as a classic Triumph.
For years the top of my bedside cabinet contained nothing more than a lamp, a book and my watch, but over the last couple of years these items have jostled for space against an onslaught of assorted pills and potions. Now I'm thinking of making a little neon sign to hang up bearing the legend "Dave's Apocathary", because the collection of stuff is becoming almost laughable.
There's anti-inflammatory cream for my knee along with a pile of assorted pain killers for intermittent use when the pain gets too much, there's steroids to fight off the nasty reaction I had to some 50-year-old decomposing pipe insulation that fell in my face at work, Bazuka to deal with a stubborn verruca on my heel, and anti-fungal to fight a small case of athlete's foot which literally adds insult to injury considering I've been unable to do anything remotely athletic for a year and a half.
All this goes hand in hand with the less visible signs that I'm no longer a sprightly 20 year old. Increasingly I'm finding that sitting down in a chair is invariably accompanied with an audible and involuntary "Aahhh", and getting up again requires a determined "Ooohh". I used to laugh to myself when my parents did this, and now it's my own son that takes the piss out of me for doing the same thing. The endless energy of youth has been replaced with the knowledge that if I stop doing something and take a break, I'll never get going again.
But it's OK because I can see this as being an adjustment period to ease the transition from young and healthy to old and knackered. Without it the many and varied issues surrounding old age would come as far too much of a shock to cope with, and it makes you reassess any plans you might have for the future.
For so long I've fantasized about moving to the seaside when I retire, preferably somewhere on the North Yorkshire coast like Whitby. More recently though, I've begun to wonder if it might end up being more important to move within shuffling distance of a decent pharmacy.
When old age eventually rears its ugly head I'm going to greet it with open arms, a bionic knee and probably a weak bladder. Old people seem to have the ability to have fun and enjoy a zest for life that can only be fuelled by waking up every morning with your first thought being "Yay, I'm still alive!".
And if I still have the ability to do practical projects, I'll be the only old fart in town with a V8 powered mobility scooter, striking terror into the hearts of the local Barry boys.