The National Trust has given me notice that I will die on 31 January 2027.
That's quite surprising. But I'm thinking that they may have devised a Ten-year Programme to streamline the membership - winkling out those long-term members who haven't been making donations, such as myself. I dare say that their accountants have recommended a cull.
I'd better make some plans then, and get my affairs in even better order than they are now. Start a countdown. Tick off the days remaining. Try to do some important things before it's too late. Because just under ten years from now, their Mutant Ninja Death Squad will come a-knocking, and that will be the end of me! The NT will naturally want confirmation that I really am deceased, so that they can delete my name from some worklist. So the Death Squad will pursue me relentlessly until they corner me in a corner of a field that is Forever England, and then Make Sure. It's no good thinking of flight. Or hiding. They'll find me, and then my number will be up.
There's no mistake about this. Let me explain.
I'm a Life Member. I have been since 1996, although my connection with the Trust goes back even further to 1981. Well, I got a new plastic card in 2010, to replace the original. Here it is, minus the bottom section for my signature - naturally, you don't want to see that. The card has a tasteful mud-brown and slime-green colour scheme, which I don't mind. I can't understand why NT staff find it So Very Wrong And Confusing. By the way, the green bar is not a magnetic strip. It does nothing.
Even though it's only seven years old, that 2010 card is archaic and won't work with the NT's modern property-admission technology. This causes havoc at NT properties. Klaxons blare and sirens wail. The staff go into a state of collapse, look at me askance, and I dare say consider calling the police.
Capping even that, the new card-scanning machines being installed in the NT's country car parks from this spring won't recognise my 2010 card, and they will explode. Nasty.
I realised it was time to ask for a newer card. I did. It arrived yesterday. It looks like this:
Don't waste time on the bar-code. Apparently there's no personal information in it, although there might just be an explanation for the asterisk next to my name. What could it mean? 'She has never made a donation - give her a hard time' perhaps? But then the card also says that I'm inspiring, and that my whole life is an adventure. Maybe they have been reading this blog? Who knows. Nothing is clear. It's all fog on fog. In fact the card itself is fog-coloured.
The thing that really concerns me is the 'Exp: 31 January 27' under my name. The card is meant to be valid until I die. So if it ceases to be valid on 31st January 2027, they are predicting my departure from this world on that date. Hence my newly-perceived vulnerability to the NT's Mutant Ninja Death Squad.
The sensible part of me has said, 'Don't panic! There must be some silly clerical error. Ring them up and enquire!'
So I have. I spoke to a youngish-sounding man. I told him that my new Life Membership card had a termination date emblazoned on it, and I was not even 65 yet. I was too young to die so soon.
I think he saw what I was getting at, but you never know with today's young people. He asked me to hold, anyway, while he conferred with another colleague. After a minute or so he came back, and he told me that my new card shouldn't have had an expiry date on it. That was indeed an error. In fact the card was temporary, and I would be sent a proper card before the end of the year.
I see... All right, then.
Well, they fobbed me off, didn't they? I'll believe in that permanent, no termination-date card when I see it.
Till then I'd best regard myself as under sentence of death. There is at least one cheerful thing, one heart-warming nugget. I've visited so many NT properties since becoming a life member in 1996 that I must already have recouped the original cost of it at least once, and maybe twice. I'm deep into net profit. That's surely why they have put me on a hit list. The 'error' was letting me know about it.
No doubt some unfortunate guilty minion has been cast into a dungeon. One of the NT's castles, no doubt. My guess would be Bodiam Castle.