Summer has arrived in the UK and running has suddenly become a very hot business: it may last for days. I currently tend to skulk out early in the morning – that is earlier than usual early, not crack of dawn early: man is slave to the universe, I have no intention of getting my butt out of bed until the cosmos says it is ready for me – or early in the evening in order to miss the hottest part of the day. Both options are fraught for me. If I set out too early in the morning, I plunge headlong into hundreds of teenagers making their way to school. I do not hear laughter as I pass, but that is only because I turn the music up. There is nothing quite so irksome for an ageing man as incredulity: I can almost sense the little buggers nudging one another and mouthing, ‘Did you see that?’
If, however, I leave it until half an hour later when they are all safely locked away in their sock-smelling classrooms, I encounter the parents who, having taken the kids to school – or more likely having waited for them to get out of the house before taking breakfast in peace – then take the opportunity to walk the dog before settling down to the day’s ‘working from home’. The streets suddenly fill with dog walkers of all types:
- The fully suited who have to attend a Zoom meeting which the boss might just possibly be attending. He is a sly old bugger and will almost certainly ask them to do something that will reveal whether or not the men are wearing trousers. He does not do the same thing to the female staff as the restraining order remains in place.
- The semi-formally dressed, who wear shirt and tie, or smart business blouse over jogging pants and furry mules. They also have a Zoom meeting to attend, but they are confident that they can keep their legs under the desk and the wine glass out of sight.
- The informally dressed, who also have a Zoom meeting to attend, but who have stuck blue-tack over the laptop’s camera and an old crisp packet over the microphone. They will blame the rubbish internet connection for their intermittent involvement and will almost certainly be downstairs with a doughnut and ‘Loose Women’ whilst Derek from Finance is giving them the lowdown on last week’s figures.
- The even more informally dressed (pyjamas under a raincoat) who do not have a Zoom meeting to attend and plan to spend the morning ‘catching up on their emails’ eg watching surfing cats on Youtube.
So many dogs! I have no idea where all these dogs have come from, nor who dreams up all of the new breeds that are currently being paraded around. I spoke to someone who had a Toy Poodle mated with a Shih Tzu and wound up with a Toyihtzu, which, to the best of my knowledge, is a cheap Korean hatchback. I wonder what will become of all of these mutts when these people are able to start going on holiday again? Two weeks in a kennels whilst the owner changes his phone number and bank account details? As soon as the UK sorts out its Traffic Light Holiday Destination system (Red – you cannot travel to these countries: Amber – you cannot travel to these countries, but if you choose to ignore government ‘guidance’ and travel anyway, you must quarantine in Stalag conditions for two weeks on your return, for little more than twice the cost of your original holiday: Green – you can travel to these countries, but they won’t let you in) there will be many canine bargains to be had through the Classified Ads in The Exchange & Mart.
If, however, I choose to run in the early evening I find myself in the tiresome, lycra-clad company of the rest of the running world. The whole world is running. I do not mind; it is a free country, I just wish that they didn’t all look so much better than me whilst they were doing it. They are better equipped, they are ruddy-faced and fresh complexioned, they do not sweat like a horse in a duvet and they do not spend most of their time coughing up flies. I have grown immune to the humiliation of being overtaken by the old lady with the West Highland Terrier, but I still find myself automatically changing route every time I see an approaching runner, with the net effect that I spend an awful lot of time running round in circles, occasionally never leaving my own driveway. By the time I get home, showered and changed, the whole point of the run, e.g. to earn the right to eat cream cakes and drink whisky, becomes lost in the urgent need to moan, very loudly, about the fact that every Tom, Dick and Harriet is out there running these days. (I have been running for over a year now and I am a seasoned athlete: I can often put my own trainers on without being out of breath.) Eventually, aware that nobody is listening to me, I retire to bed in order to spend the whole night bemoaning the fact that it is far too hot to sleep. How long can this go on?*
Sleeping has suddenly become a very hot business…
*This is the UK: my prediction – summer will last until next Tuesday when it will collapse into biblical rainfall and a cold blast from The Urals…