It was a cold morning today, garden and castle meadow were bedecked with rime, and the tops of the hills having disappeared into a grey mist, the great outdoors looked hardly inviting. But we were due for the post-op examination of Beloved's eye at the hospital in Shrewsbury, which meant that we were having our breakfast muesli rather earlier than usual. Benno was lying between kitchen table and Aga and, as he wasn't going to come with us, but was lucky enough to be able to stay at home with his dog sitter, we envied him.
Lifting his arthritic hind leg, he started to scratch the area by his right eye. Being rather concerned with eyes at the moment, Beloved said:
"Don't do that, you'll hurt your beautiful eye" and took hold of the leg.
"Leave him", I said, "he has more sense than to hurt his eye. More sense than you anyway." Beloved used to be a sun worshipper and some of his skin and eye problems are due to the effects of excessive exposure to sun.
"You don't have more sense than me, do you?" Beloved said to Benno. "You can't do your seven times table, but I can!"
Benno scratched again, paying us no attention at all.
Beloved moved in his chair and winced.
"Something wrong? I asked. "Have you found a new place that might cause us to consult the doctors?"
We are really extremely fond of each other and my question sounded a lot more sympathetic than it looks here.
'Hm", he said, "you may not believe this, but I had a rather sharp twinge of pain in my ankle."
"Riddled with arthritis, that's what you are," I said.
"Can you say 'riddled' in this sense?", Beloved asked. "Of course you can", I said, riddled as in meshed. "Holey, you know."
"Yes, riddled with holes. Or bullets, they'd make holes too. Or how about maggots, or germs," he pondered.
"Riddled with germs? No that doesn't work. Germs don't make riddles. Or holes."
"There aren't any holes in the Golden Syrup riddle either", Beloved said. "Do you know the Tate & Lyle label? The dead lion and the bees? It's a riddle in the Bible, from Samson ( in Judges 14: 14 - I looked it up) "Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness." (Answer: bees making a honeycomb in the carcass of a lion he had killed.)
Tate & Lyle have used that label since they first made the syrup".
"Well, fancy that. Hadn't we better get going?"
There is, of course, the Exeter Riddle Book, but as that is medieaval, it has rude bits. Look it up for yourself.
We weren't finished with riddles, although the final one was not really a riddle, more of a question: for the first time ever in real life, rather than on tv, we saw a slight young man, with greasy reddish-blond hair and a very pale complexion, as if he hadn't spent much time out of doors lately, being taken to "Outpatients' in the hospital in handcuffs. He was being led by a male guard and a female guard followed them. He looked weedy and spindly and unsavoury. I have to say, I felt rather sorry for him.
Matters on the eye front are unresolved. There have been developments which might be bad. The dry macular degeneration in one eye may have turned into the wet sort. We have another appointment for next Monday; speed is of the essence. Beloved may be a candidate for a new kind of treatment. That's a riddle only the doctors can answer.