Well, hopefully a bit of fun. They feature me (the miserable-looking creature below in a ladies helmet) and Columbanus.
What??? Read on, I’ll tell you later……
I’m Jo, a chap of 60. As you can see I have retained my
youthful, good looks haggard exterior. The rest of it is even more knackered! I have the odd self-induced health issue, dodgy arteries mainly, and these pages document my attempt to keep out of a hole in the ground. Most people ‘of an age’ have something to fret about. More importantly, if I, as a feeble-willed wreck, can have a go at something, I’m damn sure you can!
Humour is how we got through my wife’s tough times. Recently, it’s been my turn. Of course having a medical condition isn’t funny but making light of it can help. It helps us anyway. Although we never consciously did it, we created the smiles that now light up the dark. When we look back there is a salve to soothe some giant bruises in our past.
Jan (my Mrs) was in remission and decided to volunteer at The Christie Hospital in Manchester, where she herself had been treated. She went along and made tea and chatted to anyone wanted or needed to talk. One lady was waiting for her appointment so Jan made her a cup of tea. She came back a few minutes later to see the tea untouched. ‘Don’t you like it?’ She asked. The lady looked down and pointed. Jan had dropped a tissue in without noticing. It was now semi-dissolved so it looked like a Chernobyl puddle and had nasty-looking scum floating on top. They looked at each other and laughed. Then the lady was called for her chemotherapy. She walked off down the corridor with a big smile on her face.
Anyone who knows me understands I’m not good a doing serious. If you seek it out, most things in life have a daft element. In these pages that’s me. So, who are these warblings aimed at? Anyone really. I hope you take them for what they are, primarily a bit of fun. You can gloss over any bits you need to. In my sporty youth I was super-fit. Against the elite, maybe 8 out of 10. Now, much less so, 4 maybe. But I was 3 a couple of years ago. I hope to get to 5 or 6. A good mate is pysically worse off than me but we cheer each other up with banter. I don’t see his dark times and he doesn’t see mine, but rest assured, they lurk. My next-door neighbour has recently passed away. She was wheelchair-bound but somebody of wonderful spirit and an inspiration to many people. When she passed she left a light on so we can see where we’re going.
These pages will largely focus on my experiences with an e-bike. Electric, or more accurately, electricall assisted. I’ve seen more and more of them recently. They are in vogue. It’s very unlike me to get involved with anything fashionable, but in this case I’m making an exception. What really decided me was when I was walking up a lengthy hill a couple of months ago. I was struggling up a nasty steep bit when a cyclist zoomed past. Hell fire, I thought, he’s a fit lad. Another day I saw him shooting up the steep path by a canal lock so I asked him jokingly if his bike was electric. ‘Damn right,’ he said, ‘wouldn’t be without it. Marvellous piece of kit.’ So the seed was sown.
I already exercise quite a lot. I walk, house-renovate, garden, tie my own laces; whatever it takes to keep the old body moving. I particularly love to walk in the early morning. Just me and the early birds. I’m hoping to love cycling again after a lengthy lay-off.
Some people reading this may be a bit restricted physically, like me. My hope is that some of you may say, good effort, I’ll have a go too. Maybe not cycling or walking, but something. Bowls maybe, or yoga??
I’ve never been the most determined character. I didn’t push to get the most out of myself. Being honest, it’s because, physically, things came relatively easily. I could always catch or hit a ball and I was good enough to join teams without pushing myself too hard. Shameful really, not getting the most out of myself. I swanned along, cocky and indestructable.
Everything changed when I lost some of my physical capabilities. Suddenly the things that had come naturally, became a battle. Some things, running for example, I could simply no longer do. That was a shock.
I’ve had to re-build. This time around I’m having to push myself to reach a standard below where I used to be. That is difficult to come to terms with. Previously, nothing drove me on, I just did what came naturally. This time I have a devil on my back cracking the whip. That devil is fear.
I’m frightened of becoming totally immobile, or worse. So, I have a goal right there, it’s a big one. Try not to die! The thought that of it is pretty overwhelming. So what I did initially was to park it there and just do small things, while aiming for the goal in my subconscious. It began with working on the house I suppose. That’s pretty physical, lumping bricks and plasterboard about, but crucially I could do it in my own time. I didn’t have Jan tapping her watch, eyebrows raised, pointing out a deadline. Partly because I got her digging out the footings for the extension! I gradually built up the activity. In fact I was scared of getting the heart thumping too much to start with in case I blew a pipe off! So almost by default I started to get a bit fitter. Then the dog walking, a bit further, a bit faster, just by small increments but over a month there was an improvement. So, by not setting goals and just setting off I’d done OK. I didn’t beat myself up if I had a sore day and had to go a bit slower because the overall curve was up. I’m a bit ratty too I suppose. I see people smoking and want to tell them what idiots they are. Then I see runners, beautiful, lythe specimens in designer gear and headphones purring along without apparent effort. I hate them! Not them of course, myself, because I can’t do it.
I befriended a man recently, a fellow dog-walker I met out on the fields. He’s recovered well from a stroke but says he’s still a little down on where he used to be. That last 15% will never come back and he tells me he’s in mourning for his former self. It sounded peculiar but he explained he was grieving for a time when he was fully fit and carefree. ‘The psychological side of it is something I never considered while recovering,’ he told me. My wife had said exactly the same. Her battles took something from her that is gone for good. I now know what they mean. Something of who I used to be is gone. It’s not just gradually slowing down, which I’d expect, no, it’s more fundemental than that, it’s a new base level. I must come to terms with it and manage what I have.
Physical activity the doctor said, and a good diet (my choice is very low carb as I’m also T2 diabetic). The main problem is an arterial blockage where my aorta meets my iliacs (leg arteries) behind my belly button. That’s blocked he told me, not restricted. Smoking will have caused that, he said. So I have to force blood down south via supplementary blood vessels. These I have to create for myself by moving about. I imagine myself literally forcing the blood down there! Since I re-started I’ve surprised myself a bit. I now walk further than I imagined I would be able to. As you’ll see, the cycling has been a bit of a battle. At least until the arrival of COLUMBANUS – my electric bike.
Ha! Columbanus is the Patron Saint of motorcyclists. It’s true! Go on, look it up. Of course, I’m not a motorcyclist in the true sense of the word but I ride a cycle with a motor. Plus Columbanus sounds pretty close to numb anus, which sums it up pretty well.
I’ll work in some stuff about my walks too, some interesting things and some of the nice folk I meet. One fact, learned the other day and a surprise to me, involves Captain Webb, the first guy to swim the English channel. Seems he practiced in the lake around which I walk and ride. That’s it above, called Hollingworth Lake and The Channel is nearly 300 miles distant! Now there’s a thing.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re ailing or fit as a fiddle, you may be inspired to have a go at something fresh………..