Not even a hint of a banana

Regular readers will be aware of the slightly eccentric route I have taken to navigate the mid-life crisis.  Not for me the easy answers offered by fast women or loose cars: oh no!  I have avoided the lure of the quick fix and have instead opted for the long, slow (and at times painful) plan of eventually running away to the circus, once I have managed to train my body to handle the rigours of life as an acrobat.

My escape to the big top is proceeding surprisingly quickly given my age, height, general clumsiness and the complete lack of any suitable preparation during the first 48 years of my time on this earth.  However, I suspect that I am racing against time’s winged chariot to some extent: whilst I grow fitter, stronger and more flexible, I am probably not immune from the deleterious effect of the passage of time on my ageing casing of all too human flesh and bone.

The front lever is pretty much there and I am making strong progress towards the back lever: I can already maintain a new manoeuvre I have christened the ‘flying squirrel’ for a few seconds and so all that is needed is for me to be able unfold my lower legs.  My biggest current challenge is to achieve the planche – which I am moving towards, albeit at a pace usually associated with things geological.  One advantage of the planche is that it requires no equipment beyond my own body, and so can be practised anytime, anyplace, anywhere (well, modesty and basic courtesy permitting).  Re-assuringly, the current phase is recognised as being the most difficult area of progress and at some stage matters should improve.  At present, the horizontal is only very briefly feasible when I am folded up, but long-term I should unfold and then remain thus indefinitely.  As one way to respond to the sense of urgency (or piquancy) lent my endeavours by the finite span of a human life, I have been seeking new ways to tackle the problem and accelerate my progress.  This week, this involved use of a bench to work on the rather tricky task of keeping my arms straight whilst holding my body aloft but horizontal.  There does exist a photographic image of this attempt, but it can never be released into the public domain.  Whilst the exercise itself is perfectly innocent, the image in question could easily be mis-interpreted to yield an entirely different (and frankly filthier) interpretation.  On the plus side, my arms are straight but the position is quite hard to hold and it is proving quite difficult to sort out what to do with my legs (not an uncommon issue in my life).  Apparently, matters are much more straightforward if one is already able to do the splits.  I never imagined that I would find myself in a position (ha ha!) where the ability to do the splits would be desirable and am still far from sure I can imagine a future in which this ability actually exists.  Still, my adductors et al are more flexible than they used to be, so perhaps one day…

Whilst on the subject of my inflexibility, I discovered recently that my shoulders are also holding me back.  I was under the foolish impression that they must be really flexible given the wide range of implausible positions I have been forcing them to assume: how wrong was I?  If I try and raise my straightened arms up and above my head, they stubbornly remain a long way from the vertical, let alone starting to descend down behind the (famous) back of my head.  Still, at least I can work on this with only a towel (preferable bath) as equipment and so have being do so in hotel rooms while away for work.  I think this may be slow going, but other parts of me have revealed unexpected mobility so I remain hopeful.  Once my shoulders can move a little more freely, the hand-stand, and all the other skills to which it lies as a vital precursor, should be mine for the (slow but steady) taking.

To provide inspiration for this continued foolishness, on Sunday I am off to the circus: only as a visitor for now, but one day I may be invited to stay…

4 thoughts on “Not even a hint of a banana

  1. matathew says:

    I do feel that the complex bodily positions which you describe so laboriously would be more readily comprehended by the layman and laywoman in pictorial form.

    You mention that the available “image” is unfit for general consumption, but would it be possible to airbrush or pixelate the offending portion?

  2. Stuart Ffoulkes says:

    It is not so much that any individual portion of the image is an issue, but somehow the sum of the clearly harmless parts produces a whole all too ripe for mis-interpretation. However, you make a good point and I shall consider what options for the visual illumination of my gymnastic acts lie within the very limited compass of my artistic skill. I would appeal to the relevant muse, but the Greeks were clearly not big fans of drawing (or even painting): I fear it was viewed as craft and, thus, somehow inferior and so muse-free. Perhaps I should appeal to the spirit of Leonardo (or another convenient turtle)?

  3. Mark says:

    I had to go and look up what the planche consisted of… Needless to say I’m impressed.

    I also found this YouTube video, I might be tempted to have a go when I can be certain no one is looking!

    • Stuart Ffoulkes says:

      To be fair, I can just about do the tuck planche (though I can’t hold it for long). The more extended positions will take a little longer. Using the parallettes does make life a tad easier – and I have a much bigger pair than our Russian friend in my tiny hall which I practise on as I wander round the flat. The absence of an audience definitely helps – though I can still embarrass myself in an empty room!

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