I have friends who claim to love running. They are clearly deranged.
I take so long in ‘getting ready’ to undertake my thirty minutes of torture that often, with a little foresight, I could have been back before I started. My overriding pre-run emotion is dread of what is to come. During the run I am smugly satisfied that my dread has been justly vindicated. Only during the post-run shower, in anticipation of the well-earned chocolate and red wine (it doesn’t do to lose weight too quickly at my age) do I feel any sense of achievement. There is certainly never any sense of enjoyment about it. At times I would sooner be water-boarded.
I have re-started work this week after furlough and consequently, after eight hours of miserable monotony (which encompasses ten thousand steps apparently) I return home to run before settling down for the much-truncated evening. What kind of a life is that? It is like being told that you are having quinoa for dinner, but not to worry, you won’t have time for seconds as you have to worm the cat. What kind of person dreams of couscous?
And why do I desperately feel the need to wee within minutes of leaving the house to run? It passes, but only because it cannot compete with the necessity to find oxygen from somewhere, nor the desire to separate my tongue from the roof of my mouth. I have no idea whether men have a pelvic floor, but if they do, I fear that mine must be subterranean.
Despite all of this, my main concern is not of collapse, but of encountering somebody I know. My route is an amorphous, constantly changing beast; adapting at a moment’s notice in order to avoid any kind of social interaction whilst gasping. When forced into a salutary smile, I am aware that it emerges like rigor. I can feel the whispered, ‘Should he really be doing that at his age?’ I would like to yell back, ‘No, he bloody well shouldn’t!’ but I don’t have the breath. Anybody who claims to glean any kind of enjoyment from this torment should be certified. It is not normal.
You may, by now, have begun to share my own amazement that I am still doing this. I am doing it simply because nobody (including me) thought that I would and until I have proved everybody wrong, I cannot possibly stop. Like a character in Eastenders I have weeks of misery in me yet – and I take absolutely no joy from saying so.
You know the way it is. You never want the loo, until you need the loo. You never really need to find the public conveniences until you are in the middle of a strange town centre with no obvious indication whatsoever of where they might be. You are never quite so desperate as when the key is stuck in the lock and the next-door neighbour has door-stepped you in order to complain about the state of your over-hanging hedge. It is difficult to explain to anyone who has never felt such unease, the instant discomfort you feel when you glimpse the motorway sign that says it is thirty miles to the next services. You were fine until that very second. It’s like being a child again – although the promise of a lolly does not make the feeling go away. It becomes a mental battle which, when your ammunition is as limited as my own, you are destined to lose. Distraction is probably the way to go – except that it is almost impossible to think about anything else when you are concentrating on listing the five hundred most obvious reasons why you do not need a wee.
Now, I don’t want you thinking that this little functional peccadillo dominates my life. It does not. In truth it is barely a feature, except when it is inconvenient for it to be so. I do not spend my whole life obsessing about toilets. I do not live in a widdle-centric bubble of my own making. It is an almost entirely mental thing. I want to use ‘the bathroom’ almost always when there is not one to be used. It emerges as a problem only very rarely and then only when it is entirely inopportune for it to do so. Give me a day on the beach playing ball with the kids and periodically sluicing the dribbled ice cream from them with sea water – no problem. Put me on a bus, stuck between stops – different story.
We have, I know, covered this ground before and I guess that you are now thinking, ‘Why is the soft old buffer discussing this again? Is his life so bereft of tales to tell that he has to fall back on his waterworks twice a year?’ Well, the answer is recycling; not of ideas, but of bottles. I am rigidly adherent to all the protocols. However I can contribute, I try to do so. The big ecological push at the moment is for reusable drinks bottles. As the current advice is (I believe) to drink at least thirty gallons of water a day and the current fashion is never to be seen without a water bottle in hand, then the ‘green’ thing to do is to stop buying single-use bottles of variously mineralised volcanic waters and to carry instead a sturdy receptacle that you can repeatedly refill at any other water rate payer’s expense. As I look down the High Street now, it appears that everybody is carrying such a flask in hand, bag or specially designed belt holster and – I know you are ahead of me: although small in number, mine is a discerning and educated readership – perhaps what I see is my fortune lying ahead of me. Perhaps this is my Dragons’ Den moment because I have just seen a vision of people of my age carrying an empty bottle everywhere they go, perhaps in a brown paper bag, in the certain knowledge that simply by carrying something that could – behind a convenient wall, tree or spouse – be used in an emergency, there will never be such an emergency. You know the way it is…
I don’t need you to remind me of my age, I have a bladder to do that for me – Stephen Fry