Mountains

I’m settling down well in my new home on the Pacific rain coast. The cold and wet weather and the green and lush topography remind me much of my beloved England – the England I’ll probably never see again.

I wonder what became of my old home there? Are its walls crumbling, and its windows broken? Are homeless hippies illegally squatting in it, and the house reeks with the marijuana they smoke? Or does it now belong to a modern young professional couple – he an investment banker, she a lawyer – who have done the house over so completely, I wouldn’t recognise it if I saw it?

The Pacific rain coast does have more of something that England has less of, which is mountains. There are lots of mountains here for me to hike up and down on. I need to do this, so to keep myself in top physical shape, which is important because I’m 118. Any let-up, and I know I would soon be a shrivelled bag of bones in a wheelchair, which would make me indistinguishable from most men of over 100.

Mountain-hiking, while exhausting, does have its pleasures, for I meet many desirable young women on the trails. Most of them smile at me and say “Hi”. I smile and say “Hi” back. I haven’t yet asked any back to my little house for an afternoon of love because, somehow, I’m not presently in the mood for love. This particular time of year – the approach to Christmas – may have something to do with it, for I get sad. I think of the Christmases at my old home in England with my wife *Gladys* and son *Albert*, both long dead. I suspect I made their lives unhappy, which led them to die earlier than I expected.

I could easily have married again after Gladys passed away, for I’ve always been a magnet for the ladies. But I soon became accustomed again to the single life. Also, any woman I might have married after Gladys, might well have wanted children. Having to go again through fatherhood was the last thing I wanted.

Truth to tell, I never did have the parental instinct so normal with manly men like me. And, truth to tell, I never did really love Gladys. I was somewhat fond of her, of course, but we had almost nothing in common. I found her – not to put too fine a point on it – boring, and she just may have found me boring. However, I married her because getting married was essential to moving up the ranks in the Army. I never would have become a General if I didn’t have a wife.

I’ve always liked being alone and have always wondered why. Quite recently I happened upon *this questionnaire* which purports to tell you if you’re Autistic. I have to say, I laughed when I saw this questionnaire, for I’ve always considered psychology merely a prop for the weak-kneed. But, just as a joke, I did the test, and the results showed I was mildly autistic. I laughed again, but nonetheless did the test again, and it again showed I was slightly autistic.

If indeed I’m slightly autistic, I would always have been so. It would explain much about me – that I’ve never felt close to anyone, that I like to be alone, and find any human company emotionally draining after just a short time, so that I have to get away and be by myself in order to feel truly myself again. I now realise I can only be truly myself when I’m alone.

But, throughout my long life – from when I was a boy at boarding school, to when I was a General in the Army who had the power of life and death in war over many thousands of men, and was on a first-name basis with many of the powerful men who have shaped the world over the last seventy years – I’ve presented myself to the world as a gregarious back-slapping devil-may-care man’s man, and believed I was really so.

Could it be, then, that this was just a role I played? If so, has my life been a sham?

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