Ritual is important whatever age you are. It’s a necessary shorthand to living well and getting things done. If every moment was entirely new, demanding that decisions be made before any action can be taken, life would be slowed down to almost stop. Major changes require serious thought, but that can only happen successfully when the ordinary is taken care of and almost automatically provides the pattern of normality. We have just come home from a touring holiday which was an entirely new experience in a country we had never visited before. But it was a guided tour, which provided a basic pattern to very eventful days, relieving us from the challenge of having to make plans of our own. Coming home was good. We were back to another but more familiar routine.

And yet, as you get older – at least in my experience –life can get very programmed indeed. I am not thinking of things that have to be done, like looking after each other and our home, being available perhaps for people and our family who may need us; but more, how I behave.

Having not so much else to do these days, I watch myself with increasing disaffection! I am so predictable – the things I say quite as much as the things I do. I recognise a whole vocabulary of responses to situations, which I trot out without thought.

For example, something awful in the news or a distressing event in our neighbourhood, and I hear myself saying ‘oh dear’. What does that mean?! I suppose the exclamation ‘oh’ is alright, but why ‘dear’? It’s a sort of prim decadent cry of someone living in the 1930’s, rather than a sensible response that belongs to today. I shall try to stop saying that one, but I have a whole litany of phrases like that which I hear myself coming out with, and I intend to monitor them more closely.

It can all be so boring to others as well as to yourself,these pat phrases or predictable comments.

The ground in our garden and allotment has been very dry and plants have struggled to come through in the last month. If I’ve said it once to anyone who will listen, I must have said it a hundred times. ‘oh’ (there it is again) ‘for some rain’. Well that one at least is laid to rest for a bit; it’s been raining for most of twenty four hours.

I want to live spontaneously and too much self-reflection prevents it. But I shall try to watch myself more closely in the future, become less programmed, and surprise myself a bit; and others too perhaps.