One of the joys of being a regular visitor – and occasional blogger – to this organ is the wide variety of interests and viewpoints among its correspondents.
These can range from the meaning of Life to matters of sporting minutiae, philosophy, great obscurity and then some of the more mundane issues that those of us beyond a certain age have to confront as we struggle to deal with pressures of the everyday collective 21st Century experience.
As a qualifying member of one of the listed ‘at special risk’ categories issued by our esteemed Government (old age) I can testify to the fact that for many of us the inconveniencies and strictures imposed by the national lockdown in March – contrary to the bleatings and bloody-minded reactions, never mind the apparent attendant ‘woke-induced’ mental health issues, of younger generations – were relatively easy to cope with for the simple reason that for the past two decades we’ve been living under them informally anyway.
As regular Rusters will know, my approach to being incarcerated was to find something to take on as a ‘project’ with which to occupy myself. For good or ill, I decided to become a full-time athlete.
As with most avenues of life, this journey into the relative unknown had its inherent plusses and minuses.
As a young man I’d been a keen but not particularly talented exponent of primarily, but not exclusively, ball-involved team sports partly because I loved the camaraderie and “all for one and one for all” mentality they generated.
This, together with the notion that “the whole could be greater than the sum of its parts”, allowed lesser players like myself the modest aspiration that even we could make a useful contribution to any collective success that came our way.
Having played with passion I gained a great deal of satisfaction and fun during my ‘best athletic years’ [dare I suggest 18 to 35?] and then gradually faded from the field of play as the pressures of career and domesticity – together with a retained appetite for food that in my playing years I used to burn off by activity but now no longer – took its inevitably heavy toll upon my fitness and waistline as I passed swiftly through the threshold of middle age and hurtled on towards senility.
After a gap of about a decade I then took up a gym membership, initially just for the hell of it and also perhaps to be able to mention at dinner parties that I had done so as if to demonstrate that I was actively battling the onset of advancing age and frailty.
Happily I then gradually became attuned once again to taking regular exercise. I like to think this was because I genuinely felt better for doing so (the medically-recognised endorphin rush?), e.g. rather than unedifying self-centred reasons such as middle-aged male vanity or similar.
Last year I wrote periodically from the front line of being an athlete in near-full training, albeit from the perspective of someone fast approaching the age of seventy who – with the best will in the world – was going to have to surmount the twin significant obstacles of ‘required physical fitness and stamina’ and also the ingrained and heavily-institutionalised age discrimination endemic within the UK’s leading sporting bodies if he was ever going to achieve his ambition of gaining selection for Team GB at a summer Olympics.
My quest was, perhaps inevitably, hampered by the bane of elite athletes around the globe – niggly injuries.
Mine included a long-ago ruptured Achilles tendon which I “tweaked again” almost exactly a year ago when, out on a walk, I foolishly decided to escalate my regime by attempting to jog the length of a newly-marked out rugby field I came across one afternoon.
Once my body’s reaction had taken hold, I had to hobble about threequarters of a mile home – spent a month hors de combat and feeling sorry for myself before visiting my GP – and then took another three months to get a scan on the offending tendon from which the diagnosis given was chronic inflammation and the prescribed treatment ‘rest’.
Today the issue is much better, thank you since you asked, but my Achilles still protests if over-exerted and can be both stiff first thing in the morning and later become uncomfortable towards the end of the day if it feels I’ve been taking liberties.
I think the correct and/or appropriate phrase is that I’m currently ‘managing’ the issue and will be for the foreseeable future.
Separately, my feet are a mess – one has had two nerves removed to deal with Morton’s neuromas, my toes are growing in a variety of directions and I’ve acquired some sort of corn or callous on the ball of one foot.
The podiatrist I was sent to see – responding to my opening query upon whipping off my shoes and socks to reveal my naked feet for her consideration (“And what can you do about these?”) – instantly and famously quipped “You’re old, you’ve clearly played a lot of sport, this is how life is going to be for you now … get used to it”.
Anyway, the above is all by way of introduction to my subject for today.
Yesterday about 2.30pm I went out for my routine “exercise period” (a walk around a circuit of a fraction over seven miles).
About 70% into my expedition I came to a local hamlet in which the road – and pavements – narrow through a zig-zag of corners on a slight incline.
As I made my way uphill and reached something of a pedestrian’s ‘blind corner’ against a ten foot high wall, it was only via my long-honed sporting instincts and lightning reactions that I avoided a head-on collision with a ‘mammil’ [dictionary definition: a fat middle-aged male cyclist dressed in inappropriately figure-hugging lycra] riding on the pavement at about 15mph and coming the other way.
Sign me up for the campaign to ban all cyclists from pavements, Scotty …