There’s Worse Things In Life

Scene – Tuesday afternoon in an east Leeds coffee shop. A middle-aged man of erratic mind enjoys a catch up over a cappuccino with an uncle in his dotage. What follows are excerpts from the duo’s post-noon verbal exchange as they perch on stools in the company of local coffee aficionados and three baristas.

“No matter how bad things get in your life, Gary, some people will have far worse existential burdens to contend with.” advised the well-meaning elderly relative to his disenchanted looking nephew.

“I know, uncle Joe….. Sorry for being so grumpy, but I’ve just had a tough few months health wise. Consequently it’s starting to take its toll on my mood “ the middle-aged man responded disconsolately.

“I appreciate that, Gaz…… However, despite having a couple of life threatening episodes and other fraught personal issues this year at least you’re not called Aubrey Cheesecloth!” the idiosyncratic septuagenerian Joe submitted philosophically, seeking to comfort his fed-up younger relative.

“Do you know somebody called Aubrey Cheesecloth?” Gary countered inquisitively.

“No, but that’d be far worse than what you’re currently having to live with!” the man in his dotage mooted.

“With all due respect, uncle Joe, I’d reckon my heart attack in January and gastric haemorrhage in April are far worse life events than acquiring the moniker Aubrey Cheesecloth!” the fifty-something man was moved to point out.

“I’m not convinced….. You’re still with us aren’t you!…… Also, you’ve had a fairly decent life, unlike poor old Aubrey who’s been burdened with a dreadful name for decades!….. You should think yourself lucky!!” Joe unconvincingly argued.

“Aubrey Cheesecloth doesn’t even exist!!” the nephew blustered.

“I know, but I’m using him as a metaphor for all those poor people who’ve been burdened with monikers that puts a target on their back!” came the elderly relative’s riposte.

“I know you’re only trying to cheer me up, uncle Joe……However, I’d venture in a game of existential event Top Trumps, two life threatening illnesses would comfortably usurp receipt of a name veering from the mainstream.” Gary continued to fight his corner.

“I really think you need to calm down, Gaz!…… Smell the coffee and embrace the second/third life chance you’ve been gifted!” the old man opined, much to his nephew’s chagrin.


“Sorry if this sounds disrespectful, Joe, but I think you’re talking out of your arse!!….. Laying on an operating table having stents fitted after a life threatening event is infinitely more distressing than bearing a name like Aubrey Cheesecloth!!” the middle-aged man tetchy snapped at his older relation.

“Well personally I feel you’re being overly melodramatic….. Attention seeking for your minor misfortune, while Aubrey endures snide hurtful jibes through no fault of his own. He the mere victim of parental foresight shortfalls!” Joe confrontationally continued.

“Minor misfortune?!!…… I had a f***ing heart attack!!…… The blood flow to an area of my heart had stopped!!…… Do you even understand what a cardiac incident of this magnitude entails?!” Gary bit back in response to his uncle’s provocation.

“My point about you being culpable in having the attack still stands, though.” Joe continued to antagonise.

“Well my health issues weren’t my fault!” came the defensive ranted in retort.

“Are you so sure?….. Your lifestyle is a bit rackety…… You drink more than you should; you’re exercise regime is sporadic at best in middle-age…… Plus you’re a bit of a hot head which probably contributed to your health problems in some form!” the uncle further antagonised.

 “I’m not a hot head!!…. You silly old b*st*rd!….. And if you don’t stop winding me up I’ll kick you in the nuts!” Gary unwisely blustered, playing into the old man’s hands.

“Well your current behaviour indicates otherwise!” Joe countered with a grin, clearly enjoying the fact his nephew was reacting agitatedly to his mischievousness.

“Well your current behaviour indicates you don’t mind stressing me to such an extent I could suffer another heart attack.” the younger man blasted the elderly relative for his impishness, with his chest tightening

“You know I’m only teasing, Gaz!!!!!……. Gaz! Gary! Gaz, wake up!!!…… Are you ok, Gary?!…….. Excuse me, barista, can you dial for an ambulance, please?!”

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