Tag: middle age

thing 25: ‘swimming with the fishes’: sun, speedboat, snorkel

Yes, I know it means dead in Godfather-speak. But it’s what makes snorkelling different from swimming: that you can see you’re swimming with the fishes. So I’m going to call thing 25 that anyway.

Crete, early September. Still around 30 degrees; sea deliciously warm, sky a cloudless forget-me-not blue. We’re towards the end of a two-week stay and unfortunately, because of some health problems (which aren’t mine and must therefore remain private) quite a lot of it has been pretty bad—a debilitating medley of stress, heartbreak, fury, frustration, exhaustion, helplessness… It’s all gone on for years and most of the time I just get my phlegm on, so to speak, and “deal”, but lately I seem to be finding it harder to do so—or perhaps am less willing. Here I am in a lovely place, on holiday and in sore need of relaxation and refreshment. Instead I find myself howling tears of desperation in the middle of tourist-crowded street while people try to sell me lunch, leather goods and windchimes made of shells. More Mike Leigh than Francis Ford Coppola (and  (more…)

thing 24: ‘… and miles to go before I sleep’: St Bega’s way, part (ii)

It was one of those days Messrs Ordnance & Survey tend to put on the covers of their 1:25,000s: deep green hills, and water sparkling under a sky whose few meringues of cloud only emphasised the depth of the blue.

Usually, stopping for a squint at the map during a trudge across the rain-wreathed landscape, your cag hood rustling about your ears and your face screwed up against the wind, you regard these images with a sort of resentful disbelief. (I call this look ‘the (more…)

thing 23: ‘where the soul can think aloud’: a walk on the beach

Nobody brings anything small into a bar round here.

One of the lines which convinced me about Tom Waits; and I remain convinced, despite the discovery that the line was lifted more or less verbatim from Harvey. In the film, Elwood P Dowd also claims ‘I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years… and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it’. I went to the beach, this day, feeling that reality had definitely won out over me—more TS Eliot and a reality overdose than Jimmy Stewart and an escape from it. But maybe people rarely bring anything small to the sea, either. (more…)

thing 21: ‘… not what ships are built for’: abseiling, part (i)

“10.30 Andy climbing wall.” Not an entry I ever expected to see in my diary.

I’ve never wanted to climb, don’t think of myself as physically courageous, and am self-conscious and unconfident about learning new bodily skills. I am, to say the least, physically quite other than the long-fingered, lean, limber types I imagined would find a natural habitat at the climbing wall. W—as the Young People would say—TF? But there it was in my diary; and I’d chosen to put it there. Desperate times, and all that.

When I heard the sponsored abseil was on, I went into a kind of ingrowing hysteria (if there can be (more…)

thing 20: ‘welcome ye treasures which I now receive’: first swim of the year

For weeks now, being in the Cumbrian countryside has been like walking through a 70s Flake ad, only with no innuendo and barely enough chocolate. The meadows are extraordinary this year. I’ve never seen so many buttercups, such clover and poppies, never mind the numberless others I can’t name; and I can’t remember seeing a farmer, one man, mowing a meadow (sorry) for hay, so early. But on this hot Bank Holiday Monday the freshly-cut fields were corduroy-striped with (more…)