In a break from tradition I decided to go for a walk this morning. Yes I did, honest. Those who know me well know that I regard Shank’s Pony as the least appealing mode of transport – even less agreeable than flying. But it came to my attention that a) I have done little or no physical exercise since last summer (and even then you had to watch intently to spot anything going on); b) The Incumbent had taken the car to the gym; c) I needed to go to post a package; and d) the Post Office had no helipad nor runway for me to utilise.
Strapping on my Used-As New walking boots, I prepared myself for the hike ahead. A two mile round trip would have seemed nothing to a young fit Bomber as I once was, but over the past 36 years I’ve let myself go a bit. I can hear tittering at the back, but I can assure you that, even by my lowly standards, I am in bad shape. It is time to start back on the road to some sort of fitness. Little steps. Put down the biscuits, pick up the pace. Little steps.
“Blimey”, thought I as I left the house “that’s a bit nippy”. I’d made it to the end of the garden path and I was reconsidering my decision to wear just my Sainsbury’s Tu heavy sweater (coincidentally I am myself a heavy sweater, so I thought it an appropriate garment to don). My neighbour Lou was busy in his garden lugging around dirty great bags of topsoil. I was gonna offer him a hand, but I knew he’d refuse, and anyway he looked happy enough. At 82 he was certainly stronger and fitter than this excuse of a man watching him across the garden fence. That clinched it: I couldn’t turn back now just cos it was feeling a bit parky. What would my octogenarian friend think of me ? I pressed on. The sun was out and but for the biting northerly wind nibbling about at me vitals it could have been pronounced as a Bill Withers Day. I decided to get a move on.
My thinking was that if I got into my stride early, I’d get up a decent pace, get a little sweat on, thus combating the arctic breeze coming off the Thames estuary and the Essex Steppes beyond. I increased speed and, as I did so, the Eton rowing song starting swirling round my head for no apparent reason. I used the rhythm as my pacemaker. Which is a coincidence cos that’s what I felt I needed by the time I reached the top of the road- a pacemaker.
“Lovely Boating Weather…” I sang to myself under my breath- which became a bit boring rather quickly as that was the only line from the song I knew. “La da da DI, da daaa….” I continued. I soon resorted to using the words of a naughty rugby song which had the same tune but is too rude to reprint here. “One day while on a chuff-chuff…there was hardly room to stand...” and so on and so forth. But by the time I’d turned into the alleyway after some 500 yards of my journey I was suffering a worse fate than just forgetting the words of a song. My knee had started to play up. It was as if I hadn’t walked 500 yards for over a year. Which is a coincidence because…
Onward and downwards.
Pressing on through the pain, I crossed over the road at the end of the alley. This was the main route between Crayford and Dartford – a sort of San Diego Freeway without the sunshine. Or the traffic. Nevertheless I found myself having to inject a bit of a spurt on to get out of the way of an oncoming scrap metal dealer’s low-loader. This screeched to a halt ten yards after it passed me. “Oh Christ, what have I done ?” I thought. Six, count ’em, SIX, young lads got out of the cabin of the truck and were making double-quick time towards me. Surely the local Pikey Chapter hadn’t resorted to mugging cripples in broad daylight for whatever was in their brown paper parcels? Before I could creak down to my knees and plead for mercy, the gang turned off the path into a garden to relieve the inhabitants of a bike and a fridge which were standing in front of the house. I decided to let the lads and the current owners of the goods sort out between themselves the fate of the fridge and accompanying BMX (which I have to say looked rather too new and…erm…working to have been discarded). I hobbled on out of harms way as fast as my knee would carry me.
A few more corners turned and I was on the home straight, as far as the outward leg of the journey was concerned, anyway. One of my outward legs was suffering. Apart from the knee going on strike, the shin and calf of the same leg was cramping up (as opposed to camping-up, which I reserve for special occasions). As I’d achieved the goal of working up a sweat, I decided to take the pace down a little. The rest of the journey was taken at glacial pace, packet under my arm, I dragged my right peg slightly behind me, looking like a fourth-place runner-up in a Joseph Merrick look-a-like competition.
Eventually I reached the post office and took my position behind the line of old ladies and gents cashing in their pensions, sending letters to their son who’d fucked off to Canada 28 years ago or paying into the Christmas Club. The woman behind me suggested I take a seat as I looked awful. But I had my pride. Even if I only had one working leg. They shoot horses at Aintree for much less.
Suitably rested, I slowly and delicately made my way home, stopping off at a local shop to by a stick of French bread. In an attempt to stave off hunger, I broke the top off and began munching my way though it. I felt like that bloke at the start of The French Connection, except he had his bread before he was shot in the face. I felt like someone had already taken his Walther PPK to various parts of my body, picking off bits of me for fun.
I finally made it home, sweating audibly, chaffing dangerously, where I collapsed into the shower to rehydrate and lick my wounds. I’m thinking of investing in a bike. I wonder if those scrap dealers would sell me theirs?