A Trickle of Spring

Having spoken to an ex-lawyer in the pub, and in line with disclaimers carried on all TV and Radio output at the moment, I have decided to include the following warning: This item may contain jokes that some people do not find funny.

The Spring has sprung, the grass has ris,
I wonder where the birdies is.
Some people say the bird is on the wing, but that’s absurd
For I would say the wing was on the bird. (Traditional)

The air still carries the chill bite of winter, even while the sun shines down through the transient, undiluted diorama of crystal blue skies.  Birds squabble over the last few hips and berries of autumn past: males puff out painted chests whilst females – avifaunally plainer – spring clean homes of yore, or gather material with which to pitch new tents, cosy enough to raise a new generation.  One by one the new year’s flowers bloom: snowdrops, aconites, crocus, daffodils, dandelions, something sharp and spiky that lodges under the fingernail and refuses to be removed until it has had the opportunity to throb with an intensity only otherwise felt with the death of a star.  The world is suddenly abloom and there is nowhere to tread in the garden that is not ‘the wrong place’; nowhere to stand that is not on something only just emerged, or in something more recently – although insufficiently – buried.

Tiny pricks of green emerge in trees and bushes even as much bigger pricks emerge in white vans bearing aerosoled signage – D. O’Brien, Qualified tree surjon.  Hedges clipt.  All clipping’s removed and ecologically burned.  Dogs groomed – and start door-knocking and leafleting anyone who might not have seen them coming.  Now is the time to assure all of these peripatetic Samaritans that you do not need your gutters cleaning, your drive tarmacking, nor your valuables independently assessing.  Now is the time to resist the siren call of all of those who can do everything that you do not want doing, better than you cannot be bothered to do yourself.

Spring is the time when everything is on the rise (Oh, come on!) and atop the list of ‘rising things’ is the word ‘ladder’ (or, more precisely, in my case, the words ‘next-door’s ladder’, as I have studiously avoided any temptation to own my own for forty years and more now.)  Ladders are for reaching up and washing down, painting over, cleaning out and falling off.  Ladders have tiny steps only to facilitate ease of falling.  It is impossible to remain steady on these slender rungs without cramp setting in within thirty seconds.  I am master of the knock-kneed teeter, the over-stretched swipe and the grip of steel around something that should not be, but almost certainly is, moving.  Ladders are an inescapable fact of Spring and my only advice to anyone preparing to climb one in an amateur capacity is ‘don’t’: employ a professional; someone who is competent in ladder-usage and not so apt to find themselves doing it on their back from the ground with a twig up the nostril, a paint brush in the ear and a hole in the conservatory roof.  It is an unwritten Rule of Spring that wherever you land following an uncontrolled ladder descent will be in ‘full spike’.  Spring landings are never things of fragrant bud and luscious foliage, but are inevitably spiky and underpinned by cat shit.  Winter-softened flesh is easily breached.

There is an old country saying: ‘When the first cat of spring leaves a semi-digested mouse on your doorstep, it is time to remove your lawnmower from the shed and discover that plastic can actually rust – or at least look like it.’  Spring’s first cut is an unavoidable trial – you might as well get it over with whilst it is still possible to blame something else for the carnage you are about to wreak.  Step one is to open the shed door.  All shed doors exist simultaneously in both of the two possible states: a) Shrunken so far that mice, rats and, at times cats, can sneak through the gaps without touching either side and b) swollen to such an extent that it is impossible to open.  It is widely known that all shed doors exist only in the latter stage whenever you want to open them.  This is the point at which the door knob falls off.  Entrance is usually gained by forcing the door with a garden spade.  The garden spade is in the shed.  Do not worry, in this post-winter season you will be able to enter through the gap where the roof used to be before it made its way onto the floor of next-door’s ex-conservatory along with several desiccated panels of larchlap fencing and what might quite possibly once have been a stoat.

The rutted, sub-Passchendaele expanse of lawn will, by now, be covered in patches of frost-hardened corrugation and swamps of recently thawed gloop, and the winter-dried and rusted drive shaft of your ancient electric mower will ensure that the freshly trimmed lawn will resemble the very worst of your lockdown haircuts, but it doesn’t really matter because, as the mower will have blown every fuse in the neighbourhood and welded your consumer unit to the garage wall, nobody can see it after dark.  Although, of course, the cover of night is decreasing: daylight expands to cover a greater percentage of the grey and drizzled day.  March winds and April showers punctuate the meteorological lope towards summer.  Spring in the UK is a time when the clouds leave the sky and descend to earth, breaking just long enough to reveal the steely blue of tomorrow’s sky: to let the sunshine in; to allow the unexpected cold snap full access to buds and nethers.  Spring is the promise of tomorrow.  It is never to be trusted.  The icy-white blush of sun in an acid-clear sky is not a promise.  It is an aspiration.  It is what the world would like to be.  Each little snowdrop, crocus, aconite and daffodil is an illustration of what the world hopes to become – just as soon as the first trickle of spring finds its way to summer and the full panoply of opportunity to self-harm in the pursuit of the perfect garden is laid before me.

I can’t wait.

Oh hang on – yes I can…

The Running Man and the Hip

This post is not about being fashionable, it is about wearing out.  Something is going on with my hip with which I am not altogether comfortable.  I fear ironmongery is just around the corner.  I am currently teetering, arse just millimetres above the sharpened tip of the horn of a dilemma.  I cannot deny that my hip aches after I run, but it aches more when I don’t run.  Do I keep on running, bearing in mind that I just might be doing more harm than good, or do I stop running and just let the bloody thing seize up?  (Time to point out, this is a rhetorical question.  I am as stubborn as a very very stubborn thing.  I will continue to run as long as I am capable.  In my mind, keeping all of my failing joints moving can only be a good thing.  Sooner or later, something will stop me – probably an ill-judged bus – but until then, I jog on.)

I get no pain whatsoever from my hip whilst I am running.  It is one of the few smug joints that does not give me gyp during exercise.  It waits until three A.M. and then begins its toothache throb.  I am very stubborn about painkillers as well.  I do not take them.  I remember my grandma telling her doctor that she did not want to take painkillers because, if she did, she would have no way of knowing that the pain had stopped.  I kind of get that: you will almost certainly still be taking them when you don’t need to.  Occasionally my knees demand that they remain encased in supports throughout the day, but generally they are much more robust than they were six months ago.  My ankles are almost strong enough to support the rest of me unaided these days.  Also, I think that it might help all of my movable lower bits and bobs that there is quite a lot less of me for them to support now – and running is the only way, that I can actually think of, to maintain that.  I eat crap, I drink too much and in all other respects I am a total sloth; running is my only vice.

Also, I must report that spring is definitely just around the corner.  I ventured out today in nothing more than shorts (over leggings) and a T-shirt (over a sleeveless vest and under a long sleeved ‘T’).  I have shed the fleece joggers and the fluorescent jacket – although not yet the hat and gloves.  Snowdrops stand in clumps around the base of trees, peeking out from winter-long grass, trembling in the breeze; daffodil buds are pushing through the soil; all around me the birds are doing whatever it is that birds do in the spring.  Doubtless, somewhere, the bees are at it like knives.  Spring always seems to me to bring about the fastest transformation in the planet.  Suddenly everything that is not turning green, is mating.  The world renewed.  Except this year it all seems somehow wasted.  All of this wonder to witness and nobody to witness it, unless it is happening within whatever is perceived as a suitable distance from your front door step.

My run today took me over the swollen village beck, bereft of kids with nets; across the village sports field (technically known, in these covid times, as the village field); through the empty pub garden and finally the village churchyard – suddenly ablaze with the colour of dozens of new bouquets in vases – and although my heart sank at the emptiness of it all, my hip did not complain at all. 

In keeping with my pledge at the start of the year, I changed my avatar yesterday to a slightly more hairy Lockdown version of me and it made me think that it is time for a new photo to accompany the Running Man.  I think that I probably should make it clear, in order to forestall any threat of litigation, that the legs in the photo are not mine (that’s never going to happen) but they do, at least, appear to be running…

The next Running Man episode ‘The Running Man on Running’ is here.
The last Running Man episode, ‘The Running Man and the Weather’ is here.
The whole sorry saga started with ‘Couch to 5k’ here, whilst we were still coping with Lockdown 1.

The Spring Has Sprung, The Grass Has Ris*…

blue tape measuring on clear glass square weighing scale

… and the diet starts today. It’s the time of the year to try to starve this sad lump of a body into some kind of shape (strange phrase that – it’s already in some kind of shape: an amorphous sort of blobby one). Now, I’m not the most sophisticated of dieters. There are no fancy recipes, no points to count: generally I reduce my alcohol consumption to feature weekends only (the weekend, I should point out, starts on Friday, obviously) and I eat less chocolate (probably less of a challenge for me than eating more chocolate – after all, there are only so many hours in a day) and… well, I have to be honest, that’s about it really.

I’ve never really understood calorie counting. If you’re that bored, you could try counting the spikes in the Artex to similar effect. I have a simple principle really: trousers are getting tight, either a) lose a bit of weight or b) buy some new trousers and I cannot tell you how much I hate clothes shopping. So, my waist being somewhat more malleable than my waistband, it is the obvious place to start.

I’m not hugely overweight (pounds rather than stones) – I would say rotund rather than obese – and I’m relatively fit: I walk a reasonable distance each day and I cycle during the summer (as I cannot function in the cold). I can get my arse out of the chair without becoming too breathless. I played football until I was well into my 50’s – hence the on-going battle to get my knees to bend in the morning – but I don’t take any kind of formal exercise; no gyms or classes or anything else where I am forced to look my porky age whilst others do not. Meeting new people leaves me rigid with fear. I have no idea what meeting a new group of people all dressed in lycra might do to me. And, whilst we’re here, I really do not like public swimming pools. I’m a very weak swimmer and, while I’m perfectly happy to bob around in the shallow end with the grandkids, I would look a bit weird without them.

Now, it was my intention to tell you my starting weight, but I can’t. The battery has gone in the bathroom scales so, unless I can find some means of perching on the kitchen scales, the diet will have to be postponed until I get a new one: what would be the point of losing weight without knowing it? It’s all about verification isn’t it? Tomorrow I will buy a new battery and I will weigh myself before I start to diet so that I am aware of every single gram that I lose. And, in a week or two, when my trousers have become too loose, I will be faced with another dilemma: buy new trousers or eat more chocolate. If you want my advice, buy shares in Cadbury now.


*The spring has sprung, the grass has ris
I wonder where the birdy is
Some people say the bird is on the wing
But that’s absurd, for I would say the wing is on the bird.
(My mum’s favourite springtime quotation)