The Summer of a Dormouse: A Year of Growing Old Disgracefully by Sir John Mortimer
One day John Mortimer is checking a reference in his "Complete Shakespeare" when the page falls open in the middle of "Henry VI, Part II" and his eye catches hold of two lines: "This evil here shall be my substitute; For that John Mortimer which now is dead..." Though the room goes suddenly cold, Shakespeare's acter is of course another person in another place, and "this" John Mortimer -novelist, playwright, erstwhile barrister and scourge of both Tories and New Labour - happily lives on through another gloriously full year which involves working with Franco Zeffirelli ("Darling, I rely on you ...I ask you to save my life!"), raising the Lottery-matching money needed to rebuild the Royal Court Theatre, chairing the committee that will advise on the momentous decision as to who or what will go on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square, and lunching with old lags and captains of industry in Wormwood Scrubs. Yet there is no holding back the tide of physical afflictions that come at Sir John through the year. His father takes most of the blame - from him he inherited bronchial asthma, glaucoma and a tendency for his retinas to become detached - but sex and flowers share the responsibility too. Between them they account for a couple of falls that necessitate the occasional use of a wheelchair (quite handy, actually, at airpoirts, though a bit of a trial at cocktail parties) and strategies of almost military proportions to cross a room. The falls also make the putting on of socks an impossible task, unalleviated by the strange machine invented for that purpose that suddenly arrives in the post from New Zealand. Public and private, poignant and frank, but above all wonderfuly funny, "The Summer of a Dormouse" is vivid testimony to the pleasures and pains of old age.