As children we were told there were five senses. Now I gather there are others: such as balance and spatial awareness and knowing the Crusaders will win. But five will do me - touch, smell, hearing, taste, sight.
Where would we be without senses? Well, we wouldn't know where we'd be because it's only through the senses that we know anything of what's around us. If we couldn't touch, smell, hear, see or taste the world, there wouldn't be a world. We'd be more alone than we can imagine aloneness. We'd be trapped in our own sad psyches.
And without senses what would those psyches have to think about, what would they do from day to day? - not that they would be aware of days, or indeed of anything. It seems we are our senses. No senses, no us.
At the age of 6 I had a sense of smell that got me fan mail from dogs. It was especially attuned to cucumber. I hated cucumber with a seething passion and from 10 paces away I could detect its presence in a sandwich.
From 5 I could detect its former presence - meaning that my mother had removed it in the hope I'd be fooled. And from two paces, I could detect its presence by association - meaning my mother had touched a cucumber before making my sandwich. In all cases I ran from the room, screaming at the unbearability of the world.
But that was then and this is now. These days I don't just grow cucumbers and eat them I even salt them to intensify their cucumbrousness. Sic transit Gloria Monday - who's now called Friday afternoon.
It isn't just taste. Mike, who is my age, announced he was losing his hearing. He'd suspected it for a while but then he found a test on the internet that confirmed it.
The test consists of a dial like a car's speedometer. Press start and the computer emits a noise too high for anyone but dogs to hear. Gradually the pitch lowers and as it does so a needle moves around the speedometer. When the noise reaches a pitch that you can hear you press stop. The needle then indicates your hearing age. Mike's hearing age was, "go straight to your doctor".
"Ha and pfui," I said, "Only a fool gets his medical advice from the internet."
Back home it didn't take me long to find the hearing test. I pressed start. The needle went from bat to dog to infant to child to 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s. As it approached the 60s I paid very close attention.
The spud that ended my competitive eating career
Still silence. The needle went past 70-year-old road mender. Past 80-year-old gunnery officer. Then I heard the noise and pressed stop. "Go straight to your doctor," said the needle.
"Ha and pfui," I exclaimed and was about to add that only an idiot gets his medical advice from the internet when Dave came round with his puppy. Dave's 42. While I played with the puppy I invited Dave to take the hearing test. His hearing age turned out to be 42.
It isn't just taste and hearing. That evening I made a pie. I love pies. Every pie emerges from the oven as a mystery. To cut it into its crisp, rich, puffy pastry is to unwrap a present.
I have tried making pastry but it has turned out neither crisp nor rich nor puffy. So I buy my pastry now and it comes ready-rolled and I laid it over the pie and crimped it down and trimmed it round and stabbed it for the steam and eggwashed it for the colour and was about to put it in the oven when I thought I'd check how long to cook it for and at what temperature and I got the packaging from the waste bin and looked at it and turned it over and I guessed that those words there might be instructions but they were far too small.
So I put on my glasses and looked again. And then I took the packaging to the window and looked again. And then I cooked the pie at 180 for 40 minutes and it turned out fine but I had just been guessing. The print was far too small for anyone over 60 to read. Yet how many people under 60 buy pastry?
Ah well, it doesn't matter. And besides one sense is still as sharp as ever. As I took the pie from the oven using a tea towel as a mitt, the little finger on my left hand emerged through a fold and came to rest against the pie dish. I noticed within seconds. Pain, the last to go.