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Home / Tim Dowling: Am I old enough to have my Covid vaccine? Absolutely

Tim Dowling: Am I old enough to have my Covid vaccine? Absolutely

Posted on Mar 20, 2021

I t’s not that I hoped I would squeak through life without needing to change the tyre on a wheelbarrow; it’s that I never suspected such a chore existed. Before it happened to me, I didn’t even know wheelbarrow tyres went flat.

“The wheelbarrow has a flat tyre,” my wife says on Friday morning, leaning into my office shed and pointing to where she left the wheelbarrow, fully laden, by the side of the house.

“What do you mean?” I say. “Did you take it on the roads?”

“I haven’t taken it anywhere,” she says.

I inflate the tyre with an old bicycle pump, but it goes flat again before I can pick up the handles.

“Do you think it needs a new inner tube?” I say, to no one. My wife, it transpires, has gone inside. “Is there even such a thing as a wheelbarrow tyre inner tube?”

It turns out there is: I am browsing a surprisingly wide selection of wheelbarrow inner tubes on my computer when my friend Pat rings.

“Have you had your vaccine yet?” he says.

“No,” I say. “Why, have you?”

“It’s weird being too young for something, isn’t it?” he says.

“I know,” I say. “Especially if you could see how I’m spending my morning.”

“It’s not that I’m worried,” says Pat. “Or that I would ever want to jump the queue.”

“No, of course not,” I say, ordering a wheelbarrow inner tube.

“But I keep hearing about people younger than me getting it,” he says.

“Yeah,” I say. “David Cameron got it, and he’s younger than me.”

“So, do we just wait to be invited, or what?” he says.

“I guess,” I say.

“Not that I’m worried,” he says.

“No,” I say.

The next day, my new inner tube arrives, furnishing me with a fresh problem: how do you remove the wheel from a wheelbarrow? In this case the answer seems to be: by taking the wheelbarrow to bits.

An hour later, I am sitting on the garden bench with my head in my hands, surrounded by wheelbarrow components, unable to contemplate step two. I wish I’d taken a picture of it when it was still a wheelbarrow. My phone rings. It’s Pat.

“Remember when I said we had to be invited?” he says.

“Yeah,” I say.

“Well, someone told me you can just book your vaccine on the website,” he says.

“They must have lowered the age since I last looked,” I say. I don’t say: which was late last night.

“So I’ve got mine next week,” he says.

“Really?” I say. “I have to go.”

My wife walks by while I’m sitting at a laptop in the kitchen.

“When do you want your vaccine?” I say. “I’ll book us in.”

“Are we allowed?” she says.

“As of today, we are,” I say. “They have Wednesday.”

“I’ve got a Zoom call on Wednesday,” she says. “Do Thursday.”

“Are you crazy?” I say. “I’m not waiting till Thursday. Cancel your call.”

“It’s important,” she says.

“Fine, I’ve done all I can for you,” I say.

“How’s the wheelbarrow?” she says.

“Reduced to its smallest constituents,” I say. “It’s basically atoms.”

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On a rainy Wednesday morning, I find myself at a community centre I never knew about. With my mask on, my glasses quickly steam up, which always seems to make me – perversely – a little deaf.

“Sorry?” I say.

“I just need your reference number,” says the man at the door. I hold the bit of paper up to my nose, but I still can’t read it.

After my temperature is taken I am ushered to a small, socially distanced waiting area full of silver-haired men, all of whom look like they would know how to change a tyre on a wheelbarrow. I’d quite like to corner one of them in order to describe my Saturday in some detail, but the whole operation is proceeding with brisk efficiency. Everyone is on the move. I feel nervous, a little thrilled, very relieved and extremely old.

A woman approaches me with a vaccine leaflet and presses a sticker on to my lapel. It says: I’VE HAD MY COVID VACCINATION.

“That’s for being a good boy,” she says.