Sunday, May 03, 2009

The tuck stops here (Part 2)

Remember back here in January when I said that I'd lose loads of weight this year? Well, I've utterly failed so far. The constant dizzying round of events, parties, meetings, writing and illustration work - on top of a 40 hour working week and having a family life - means that I've stayed completely the same weight since January. I have not lost (or gained, thankfully) a single pound. However, the time for procrastination is over and I have to get my lardy arse in gear, as they say around here. So, starting yesterday, I've adopted a fairly strict new regime of sensible eating and exercise. However, this will not involve gyms as I loathe the places with a passion I can barely conceal. Instead, it will mean digging my garden, long walks with the dogs and lots of natural exercise of the kind that humans evolved to take part in.

Brother Andrew and me circa 1967. Note skinny me.

I have nothing but bad memories of gymnasia. As a child I was blessed with size and speed - I was, for a time, the tallest and fastest kid in school due to an early growth spurt - and I won all manner of races, especially cross-country. I also took part in a lot of rugby as I was stocky and swift and I was a much sought-after hooker (stop it ...). But then all the other kids caught up with me and I soon became less than average. I had no problem with this; I'm not a competitive person by nature. Plus, I'd discovered art and music and writing and girls and every minute on the cricket pitch was a minute spent away from the things I truly loved. Even my medal-winning cross-country running went to pot when I discovered various ways to cheat. A favourite was to bisect the route (which involved running through the river Cober) and then to wait up in an old quarry shed, smoking fags and eating things purloined from 'honesty boxes'. People did a lot of honesty boxes back then. They'd put their surplus fruit, veg or flowers in a box at the front of their house and ask people to pay a token amount. And most people did. Even we did as school kids although, shamed as I am to admit it now, we sometimes didn't have any money so we munched on essentially stolen tomatoes, carrots, apples and on at least one occasion, a swede. Then, after stuffing and smoking ourselves daft for half an hour, we'd rejoin the race as it came past and would waddle over the finishing line (in a creditable but believeable 10th or 11th place) clutching our sides to massage the stitch that had developed.

Brother Simon (the photographer) and me circa 1977. Note skinny me. Excuse the hairstyle.

Once I turned Sixth Form and there was no mandatory sports, I gave it up as swiftly as possible. The one exception was swimming but I always saw that as more fun than competition anyway. And it was the one place where you could guarantee meeting girls that had almost no clothing on. But even that stopped when Helston swimming pool sank. Absolutely true. They built the thing at the bottom of the town on the old boggy flood plain where once the Cober met the sea. One day, the staff came in to work to find a big crack in the deep end and no water. The walls soon began to list dangerously as one side sank into the ground. They had to demolish it eventually and now it's a public park.

Once I'd joined the police, the misery of sports came back temporarily. Hendon was pretty physical at times. We had to jump over horses and bounce on trampolines and run around race tracks. We had to climb ropes, a truly useful skill for the street cop whose suspect makes their escape by kite. If you started slipping on the rope, the instructor would beat your arse with the end. In those pre-Health and Safety days, we climbed at least 15 feet above the hard floor of the sports centre without safety nets or bungees. We swam too. Hendon had an Olympic-sized pool and we spent many hours jumping into the water in pyjamas to rescue rubber-coated breeze blocks from the deep end. Those who couldn’t swim were labelled ‘wanky wonders’ for some reason and floundered around in the baby pool until they didn’t drown any more. It should remind you that this was 1980 and things like this simply don't happen any more. But it made me pretty miserable at the time, as did 'milling'. This was a controlled aggression exercise where we’d be paired up with the person closest to us in height and mass and thrown together into a boxing ring to slug it out. For two minutes, we were required to shuffle about, bop each other on the chin a few times and keep a lid on our anger. At the time, I couldn’t see the point of it. It’s only now – years after they stopped doing this at Hendon because it could be construed as bullying – that I see the worth of it. I've survived nearly 30 years as a cop without once ever losing my temper despite intense provocation at times. Sadly, I see cops losing it more regularly these days and I wonder if a bit of milling at the start might have helped them. It taught me restraint. And it also taught me not to catch an ex-army boxing champion on the nose with my glove. He retaliated more by instinct than intent, I’m sure. I wasn’t in a position to analyse the event. There was a bang, some darkness and then I woke up with a thumping head and the trainer shouting for me to be taken to the medical centre for a check-up. Talk about a glass jaw. One punch and I was unconscious. But at least I wasn’t angry.

Me in Bath last month. Note pin-head on huge body. This needs sorting.

Since then, I've joined a gym twice and in both cases all I ever seemed to meet were narcissistic neo-Nazies in gym vests who, for some reason, always thought I wasn't trying hard enough when I was slogging my not inconsiderable guts out and my heart was hammering like Vulcan's forge. So no more. It's long, long country walks for me. Maybe a bit of cycling too. And plenty of gardening. This year I have a whole raft of new fruit and vegetables to cultivate and I'm looking forward to eating them all later this year.

In moderation of course.


The Factory said...

Two things:

1. The only way I can tolerate the gym is by only going there to swim.

2. Stop drinking alcohol and you will lose loads. I know it feels like killing your young, but you'd be amazed how quickly you get used to it.

Winifred said...

Swimming is all I can face too. Apart from worrying about damaging my joints and falling off the treadmill like Ronnie Corbett, I can't hack the boom boom music which drowns out my iPod!

The free swimming for over 60s is brill! I'm having a good laugh with some really funny characters. There have to be some plusses for getting on a bit!

Tony E said...

After spending 10 months posted to Lambeth, where the 24 hour canteen was far too convenient, I ended up losing pounds from my wallet and gaining pounds around my waist.

I am now based at Hendon and the pounds are dropping off. No gym for me either, I keep the car in the garage for short trips and walk instead. I also adopted a far healthier eating regime.

In the month since I started, I have not weighed myself but my belt is one notch tighter.