You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Basketballers would give up an arm to have soft hands, that ability to thunder to the hoop and then deftly plop the ball lightly home with the caress of an Irish podiatrist.
Soft hands was the first thing I noticed when bursting from the womb 64 years ago, running my eye over what weapons I had been given to fight this impossible enemy we call Life.
At least I will become an NBA basketballer, I thought to myself as the umbilical cord I had become quite attached to was cast off, at least I will have fame, a shiny red European car and lots of cash.
But Life takes many strange and cruel turns, and while a professional basketball career was assured, as indeed was that of a concert pianist and possibly one in professional golf after basketball - soft hands are crucial on the putting green - Life decided otherwise, omitting basketball's other staples of height, strength, speed, stamina, courage, peripheral vision, ice-cold temperament, and the ability to jump over a Toyota Corolla.
I became a devoted fan instead.
But, recently, Life has come out of the granny flat down the back of the garden and decided I would not only not be able to use soft hands for an illustrious sporting career but also that I would suffer still further in trying to perform simple everyday domestic duties.
I have become, for example, unable to open screw-tops, door handles, band aids, birthday presents, airline food, computer accessories and packets of all description.
Of course this may be osteoporosis, and indeed, I am gobbling up Fosomax like I would gobble up salted peanuts just in case (peanuts taste better), but the condition remains: every food visit to the kitchen has become a Hitchcockian nightmare.
Consider just one morning last week when I was asked to perform three common-as-muck kitchen tasks to assuage the raging hunger in my belly, and finished up destroying three different food items because I didn't have hard hands.
All I wanted was a cup of tea and some toast.
This is a thoroughly reasonable demand from a man who has paid his taxes all his life and never harmed a domestic pet.
So I needed to open a packet of Bell Kenya Bold tea bags, a tub of Country Soft margarine and a pyramid tube of Pams Mild American mustard. Hien? American mustard on toast for breakfast? Alas, yes. I eat hot dogs religiously when in America, purely for their mustard. On many occasions I have not touched the hot dog.
But this particular mustard was unopenable with soft hands: I shook, squeezed, up-ended and banged hard on the bench to no avail.
So I slashed the top off with a knife.
This will leave the mustard unprotected from bacterial fumes in the fridge, but at the end of the day, what food items aren't?
I have written here before how hard it is to open the Kenya Bold packets.
The man at the Bell Tea factory told me there was a trick to it, a trick I have yet to learn.
So I slashed the packet open with a knife and tore the rest apart like a wolf.
The margarine tub was a strange overly vertical one I had never seen before.
I went to the top right-hand corner to flick the top open with my index finger, but it held rigidly firm, like no margarine top had ever held rigidly firm before.
I didn't have all day so I slashed a large rectangular hole in the top with a knife.
''You had some trouble with the margarine?'' asked the son rhetorically.
''The top was jammed,'' I replied.
''There are quite a lot of plastic chips in the margarine,'' he said.
''How much plastic did you eat?''He was right. Dozens of little plastic chips.
But you get that.
And I didn't get a sore tummy.
But I do worry about my soft hands.
Functional Life is slipping slowly away.
And short of a hard hands transplant, I haven't the foggiest what to do.
• Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.