The Extreme Elasticity of the Pain Threshold – Couch to 5k week 6

Photo by Daniel Reche on

One thing that running does give you is the time you need to really torture yourself mentally.  To reprimand yourself for things you might have done – or might not have done; for the things you should have done, but didn’t; for saying the things that you surely could have found a better way of saying.  It also gives you more than ample time to consider what on earth you think you are doing with your life – and why, from the feel of things, you are making a determined attempt to shorten it?  Can it possibly be healthy for a man of your age to feel so very close to Death’s door?  Who’d have possibly guessed that that particular threshold was barely a kilometre from your own?  If Death was your neighbour, would you invite him round for tea?  Hope that he is a little more lenient with the man who let him have the last HobNob?  Or would you try to ignore him, keep your head down and hope that he doesn’t notice you?  How would you cope with his overhanging branches breaking the panels in your greenhouse roof, or the fact that bits of his fence keep falling on your begonias?  It’s not easy to strike the right balance with a man who spends the whole day sharpening his scythe, but never cuts the lawn…  Running is intended to put some distance between the two of you, but somehow, it just brings you closer.

I have now grown used to being overtaken by younger runners, usually in groups (What is, I wonder, the collective noun for a group of runners?  A Totter?  A Gasp?*) chatting lightly as they trip lightly by the heavy footed, wheezy old man checking his heart to make sure it is still going.  It does not worry me.  Other runners are usually polite.  They cross the road when they see me ahead and stoically refuse the opportunity to sing ‘Lip Up Fatty’ as they fly by.  Later in the run I may be overtaken by old ladies walking their dogs.  That bothers me.  Old ladies simply smile as they are reminded of their long-dead fathers and offer me their zimmer.  It is difficult to get cross with somebody who is sporting a blue rinse and walking a dog so small that it could possibly be bullied by a buffed-up vole – particularly when they are probably fitter than me – so I always do the same thing: I smile and, as much as breathlessness allows, pass the time of day in the friendliest way that I can muster, before I gather up my dignity and jog on.  I might not feel great, but at least I don’t feel like an arse.

Last week I felt as though I might be nearing the fullest extent of my pain and perseverance thresholds.  This week I appear to be exactly the same distance from them which, given the incremental rise in effort required in this programme, is I suppose, ok.  It doesn’t feel ok, but given that each successive day is currently accompanied by an extra twist on the rack, it’s probably as good as I can expect it to be. 

I am still running in a pair of trainers that I found at the back of the garden shed.  I can’t face going in to town to buy new ones.  The shops that sell trainers have staff and I can’t stand pity.  Besides, these are ok as long as I wear very thin socks and wrap my toes in Elastoplast.  When I was a boy, playing football in secondhand boots, my dad used to make me sit with the soles of my feet in surgical spirit to toughen them up.  Sometimes I watch the news and wish he’d done it to my soul…

*I have just looked it up and, disappointingly, it is ‘a Field’.  Exercise and lack of imagination do seem to go hand in hand sadly. 

The Haphazardly Poetical – Bury Me

Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

As a child I was fascinated with the stories of how the yew tree came to be associated with graveyards: the idea of people being buried with a handful of yew seeds as a nod towards resurrection appealed to my sense of morbid fascination. Then I read a book that suggested that through the ages people had been routinely buried whilst still alive. Now, I understand that the past held in its armoury some pretty brutal forms of discipline and punishment, and I’m fairly certain there were people around who would have been only too happy to employ such methods – many of them our very own monarchs for example – but those unfortunates who suffered such a fate must surely have been small in number. Besides, the book claimed that signs of live burial were still being found amongst those buried in the twentieth century, which led me to believe that the majority were probably innocently interred: presumed to be dead at the time of burial. Not a pretty thought, is it? But it also leads to the conclusion that a similar number also woke up as they entered the crematorium furnace – maybe less appetising yet.

For years it haunted me, but as the only solution I could think of involved me being kept above ground until there was absolutely no doubt of my demise, whereupon I would have to be taken off to meet my maker in a series of buckets, I suppressed it. More recently, I have thought of insisting that I be put in my box holding my mobile phone, but I know what the battery life is like. If I awoke with flames licking around my body, only to find that my phone battery had gone, I would be so mad! I fear that my geriatric organs have little value for transplant, certainly it would probably only be a cobbler that would care for my liver, so I do not have even the failsafe of having had my organs harvested pre-bonfire. I’m guessing that there’s little chance of waking up after that. Anyway, I think that was what was on my mind…

Bury Me
Bury me up in a tree
Where the warming sun can shine on me.
Not by its roots,
Or in its shade,
Nor in the silence that it’s made.

Bury me in the canopy
Where the morning birds can sing to me.
Not at its feet,
In darkened balm,
But ever held within its arms.

Lay me in that skyward place,
Held within its firm embrace.
A silhouette
On dappled skies;
Alone to face that long goodbye.

Bury me amongst the leaves
Encased within the living wreaths
Where, should I wake
At dawn’s first bid,
I won’t be under nailed-on lid.

Let me lie, under the sky,
Where I can feel the world pass by,
So, when my mortal
Days are through,
We’ll be together, me and yew.


Under the Weather


…So here we are, my cold and I, trapped at home together with just an expectant laptop for company: eyes riveted to back of skull; tongue superglued to roof of mouth; nose dripping like newly installed washing machine. Try to bring focus to eyes that are vibrating like a tumble dryer with a dog in it. Laptop screen looks like amateur graffiti scrawled across a naked jogger’s buttocks. Try to listen to radio but, unless they’re playing Ethel Merman again, ears appear to be malfunctioning in some way. All sound seems to be filtered through several bales of cotton wool. Somehow, passageway between ears and brain is blocked like a service station latrine. Judging by unusual sounds reaching auditory cortex, ears may be stuffed with self-inflating sheep. Fevered brain is doing somersaults. Even beleaguered bladder has climbed aboard the trampoline. Just a cold – I know – just a cold, but, my age, who knows where it might lead…

Must grit teeth and try to write. Not easy as hands are employed in constant search for tissue and, anyway, dental bridge-work not really up to gritting these days. Nose glows like electricity smart meter with kettle on. Tissue feels like sandpaper. Hang on, tissue is sandpaper – no wonder couldn’t rub blemish out of front door yesterday. Must have been using Kleenex.

Sweating. Am wearing only boxer shorts. Thermometer shows body temperature normal. Shows room temperature 120˚. Central heating thermostat is stuck. Equatorial temperature in lounge bringing flies out of hibernation, blistering paint on radiators, melting curtains. Attempt to adjust thermostat. Search for superglue to reaffix little temperature knob to front of thermostat. Easy. Little knob no longer falls off thermostat. Unfortunately, little knob no longer turns either. Stuck somewhere between Timbuktu and summertime Mercury. Turn off central heating at boiler before house bricks melt. Temperature in house immediately drops to by twenty degrees. Flies are frozen on the wing; left gliding around the room like miniature microlight aircraft.

Nose running like rusted garden tap does not. Resume frantic search for tissues. Tissue box is empty. Blow nose on box. Ears screech. No, cat screeches; have stood on cat. Cat attempts to sharpen claws on leg. Flail at cat with one leg whilst attempting to shake him off with other. Become immediately aware of advisability of having at least fifty percent of available legs (eg one) firmly anchored to floor. Pick self up. Cat now sharpening claws on head. Cat 90% more effective than anti-dandruff shampoo. Take half a paracetemol – never take full dose: have vision of liver dissolving like new grouting on bathroom wall. Anyway, cannot read tablet box instructions to discern correct dosage. Contact lenses feel like dinner plates when I have cold and vision is filtered through net curtains. Looking out at the world is like my grandma looking out at next-door neighbours on a Saturday night. Would wear glasses, but put them down somewhere before lunch and have not been able to find them since. Can smell them though. Somewhere hot, little plastic molecules are reorganizing domestic arrangements. Head towards thick black smoke billowing from kitchen grill. Spectacles now smouldering black walnut. As is forgotten Welsh Rarebit. Remove battery from smoke alarm and realise that screeching in ears has not abated.

Common cold is very minor complaint – even for man – so why do I feel like death? (Once had a vision of death whilst travelling on the bus. Death is not a skeleton dressed in black. Death does not have name written in fire. Death drives a bottle green Toyota. Death is a double-glazing salesman with halitosis. Death has your name in his contacts list. He was given it by Facebook. Death is called Nigel.) This is the most trivial of illnesses, yet it manages to rob me of half of my ability to see, hear, smell, taste and breathe. God knows what an un-common cold must be like. Wonder if the Queen is immune to the common cold. Surely she cannot catch something so vulgar. I bet the footmen have it for her…

One of life’s great imponderables: why does huge, snotty sneeze always correspond with complete failure to locate tissues? Why does frantic dash around the house with mucus a-dangling always lead to empty cardboard tube where kitchen roll used to be? Ditto toilet roll. Where’s the bloody cat when you need it? Am left wondering where all this mucus actually comes from and, perhaps more worryingly, where it all goes when it is no longer dribbling out of my nose. Will explain to wife what happened to curtains later…

Mind is wandering. Could be delirium. Could be Buttercup Syrup overdose. Must concentrate. Must write blog before dark as all lights fused by decimated grill. Also candles melted by central heating and batteries welded to torch by strange green goo. Desperately need to stop nose running. A good strong blow should do it… There is nothing in human existence quite like the sound inside your ears when you have blown your nose and external air pressure struggles to restore some kind of equilibrium inside your head. Unless you have sat on the cat…

Hold tissue with one hand and type with other. Something real and contemporary. Something deep and satirical. Hard to be satirical with something buzzing in ears. More likely to be wasps than ideas. Wonder how to tackle wasps in ear? Perhaps should dangle over-ripe plum to side of head. Perhaps should have a root about with cotton bud. Wonder what to do when routine broggle leaves tiny cotton ‘bud’ in waxy recess of ear, other than look at little budless stick in dismay. Hopefully will fall out overnight – otherwise will book two weeks off work to visit A&E.

Very dark now. Cannot type in dark – especially as super-efficient laptop battery ran out after six minutes on stand-by and keyboard on mobile phone does not respond to mittened hands. Should go to bed. Need to rest. Lay head on pillow and go straight to sleep… soon… eventually… Nose immediately fills with God-knows-what. Eyes no longer close without strange rasping sound. Shattered taste buds detect faintest hint of yesterday’s sock and tonsils grow to size of Blue Whale’s adenoids (if you don’t believe they have them, look it up – I did). Brain works loose in skull and trickles out through nose…