Arguably there’s a metaphorical spectrum in terms of ageing and self-awareness along which all of us over a certain age – let’s set it at fifty for these purposes, after all that’s when the Saga organisation begins sending you unsolicited mail inviting you to consider the benefits of their special rates for oldies’ insurance and cruise holidays – are, from time to time, occasionally assessing themselves.
You know the sort of thing I’m talking about.
When your neck and shoulder are aching as you awake to the sound of the radio alarm and first contemplate getting up, your back is as stiff as a board and you sit on the end of your bed physically having to lasso each sock over your far-off big toe because otherwise you cannot reach that far and begin dressing.
When, with bleary eyes each morning, you survey your image in the mirror and some old geezer with bloodshot eyes, half a head of snow-white hair and a Sumo wrestler’s belly is somehow looking back at you instead of the dude who – until you were about 43 or 44 – was doing a passable impression of Gregory Peck in 1951 when he starred in Captain Horatio Hornblower RN if you stood sideways and posed with supposedly dreamy faraway eyes and did your best to hold your tummy in.
When you get to that sporting stage where – having had to give up playing the lightning-quick footballer speeding down the right wind leaving a trial of beaten defenders in his wake, then the rather more sedate play-making midfielder role spraying gasp-inducingly creative passes across the park, and more latterly the stolid centre back who takes the free kicks and strolls about in front of the goal keeper, getting rid of the ball sideways at the first sign of an approaching member of the opposing team – you decide that the time has come to hang up your boots for fear of embarrassing yourself (or worse, your kids).
When the days of walking into any joint in any part of the capital city confident that (via the combination of your devastating good looks and radiating charisma) every woman in the room is going to stop what she is doing and begin fantasising, despite the fact deep down she already knows she has no chance with you because you’re way above her league seem – illogically and unfairly – to have passed … only to have been replaced by what here I can only describe as ‘senior citizen total invisibility as far as the rest of the world is concerned’.
By these various means and yardsticks, we oldies are then left contemplating how to approach the slippery descent to dementia-ridden decrepitude.
For example, whether to change our diet and/or take up exercising frenetically in order to try and stave off the knacker’s yard, this either on the ‘use it or lose it’ basis and/or (very much second best) the dismissive comment “Well he (or she) isn’t looking too bad for his/her age …”
Or, alternatively, just to ‘live with it’ – this on the theory that after a certain age there’s practically zero one can do about advancing senility anyway so what’s the bloody point?
Better surely (the argument runs) to relax and accept the passage of time, ‘act one’s age’ and play the youthful-of-mind, cheery, slightly left-field, loose cannon, maverick grandfather/great uncle role which, whilst perhaps rendering you distinctly unpopular with your offspring, will gain you a lasting reputation as a legendary anti-hero among your grandkids.
At the beginning of August – after nine months of relatively inactivity and debauched living (involving eating whatever I felt like including weekly Indian takeaways, smoking tasteless cheroots, drinking double gin & tonics at 6.00pm every evening and then a double peaty malt whisky shot as a night-cap before retiring) – I began a new regime.
I gave up the cheroots and alcohol and resumed visiting my local gymnasium on a daily basis (insofar as my engagement schedule would allow this).
[Regular Rust readers may recall that that I deliberately gave up gym visits at the turn of the year because my health club had instigated a major refurbishment programme which was going to take up to five months to complete and (I can now report) is still not yet completed after nearly nine. Being a curmudgeonly old git I hate going to the gym when it is either generally crowded and/or filled with iPod-listening, posing narcissists which – since December – has been 90% of the time because large areas of the building are ‘off limits’ having their revamping work done and only about 25% of the normal gym kit (running and stepping machines, weight-training apparatus etc.) is available to use anyway. My negotiations with the management – as to how much of a ‘payment holiday’ and/or discount on my very expensive gym membership subscription I am due for because of the inconsiderate interruption to my quiet enjoyment of the facilities I pay through the nose for annually – have yet to begin.]
That’s the background to today’s announcement – as a direct result of an incident at the health club yesterday at about 5.30pm – that the old (well, young, fit and irresistible to women) Ingolby is back on the scene!
After what I must admit was a below-par session in the gym – I managed just 15 minutes on the stepping machine, followed by about half an hour of stretching on the floor, doing some sit-ups and some very basic weight-training before, having suffered a combination of an influx of middle-aged regulars and a lack of available machines on which to work, I decided to ‘give up’ for the day and go and have a sauna instead.
I then changed into my bathers and paddled back pool-side to the showers and sauna area, where two gentleman of Middle Eastern origin/appearance aged about forty, together with a lady whom I took to be a wife of one of them, were hanging about.
For the next quarter of an hour or so the four of us variously used the showers and either the sauna or the steam room. At one point, as I came out of the sauna after about eight minutes (all the heat I could take) and waited for one of the above-mentioned men to finish using the shower, as he emerged, he smiled at me and asked me if I wanted a shish-kebab.
[I don’t think I’d had a shish-kebab for about thirty-five years].
He asked me the same question.
“Are you a swimmer?” he asked, switching tack.
[I had no idea why he was asking this but decided to humour him.]
“Well, I wouldn’t describe myself as an expert, but I can at least swim …”
I expressed puzzlement.
“Shish-pack. You have a shish-pack …”
I laughed at him and replied modestly “No, I haven’t, I am an old man …”
“Yes, but you have a shish-pack” he insisted.
The guy was clearly deluded. I am currently at least a stone and a half overweight and in no way could the seven months pregnant look I currently carry around my waist be described as anything but a paunch.
[Plus – and this is another thing entirely – when I told him I was an old man, I noticed that the bastard had agreed with me!]
Never mind. After only a fortnight of half-hearted trips to the gym, I am already – well, almost – back to my former days of ‘Love God’ status.
I’m thinking of taking a trip to Trafalgar Square and back by Tube with my senior citizen’s Freedom Pass at lunchtime today …