He does all his own stunts, you know

This blog may have given the impression that I live surrounded by carrara marble (less expensive that I’d thought) and precious metals, bathe in Santovac 5 (not a practical or desirable bathing fluid, but reassuringly expensive) and have an extensive staff (below stairs) to cater to my every whim.  If so, you have been misled: I don’t have so much as a cleaner, let alone a stunt man.  Frankly, I’m not sure that in my quotidien existence I’d have enough use for a stunt double to make it worth hiring one on a full time basis: though this week one might have been handy.

Somewhere in the cloud, in an unfashionable corner of Facebook, there is a short video from Tuesday of the author performing a near-prefect back lever on gymnastic rings for a good two seconds.  The more tech-savvy among you may be able to track down this screen gem.  As the title of this post suggests, this is the actual author and has not been faked.  On this occasion, I was fully in control of my movements – or I was until the oxygen ran out (I cannot yet breathe in the full hold).

Later that evening, thanks to the malign efforts of a feline assailant, the author performed another acrobatic manoeuvre but this time without so much control.  As I was cycling up to the theatre, a ginger cat (its colour is not relevant, but is included to add substance to the account) decided to hurl itself under the front wheel of my bike.  If I am known for anything, it is for my lightening reflexes, and so I was able to stop the bike without hitting the animal assassin.  Despite liking to think of myself as a dangerous maverick, it would seem that I am still bound by Newton’s Laws of Motion.  So, while my bike stopped very quickly and efficiently, my own journey did not cease at quite the same time.  As a result, I sailed over my handlebars and landed in a crumpled heap on the road, somewhat entangled with my bike.  Sadly, there is no footage of this incident, but I like to imagine that my passage through the air was marked by its singular grace before my travels were brought to an abrupt end by the tarmac.

What happened next, says quite a lot about me – though does not necessarily show the author in the most favourable or logical light.  Having come to rest, I lay there for a moment or two cursing my assailant – who had vanished into the night by this stage (it failed to leave any insurance details or make any sort of apology, but I suppose that’s cats for you).  I then returned to my feet and checked for witnesses and whether I would need to attempt to “style-out” my unconventional dismount.  My isolation confirmed, my first concern was for damage to the bike.  This seemed ok and so I mounted it again and continued on my way.  This involved a degree of discomfort, but seemed to go alright until I came to park my bike at journey’s end.  At this point, I believe my body moved from embarrassment into shock and I felt quite unsteady on my feet.  Nonetheless, I made it to the foyer of the Nuffield Theatre looking only slightly like Banquo’s ghost.  At this stage, I went more fully into shock – which is an interesting experience, lots of tingling in the extremities, a reduced ability to form coherent sentences and feelings not unlike those that arise just before you faint.  Luckily, at this point I was surrounded by people who know me (and that I do not normally look like one of the undead) and had access to a chair: so I sat down.  Staff at the Nuffield manage to rustle up a glass of coca cola (which seems the modern, more rapidly conjured equivalent of hot, sweet tea) and so unusual did I feel that I actually drank it.  I soon started to feel much more normal (or at least like myself, which may not be the same thing) and it was only at this stage that I decided to ascertain the damage to my body (a rather long time after checking the state of the bike). There were cuts, grazes and contusions along with some minor bleeding on my legs and some discomfort from my hands which had presumably broken my fall.  Inspection of my cycle helmet, which was the only serious protection I’d provided to my body, indicated that it had not had been called upon to serve in the “incident”.

Most of the damage to the author was of a nature that he regularly inflicts upon himself by his inability to walk round objects, preferring to take the short cut through them, but the damage to my left hand and wrist was more severe.  As a result, I decided against cycling home and thought the bus would be a better option.  A friend decided that this was not appropriate either and, while was eventually convinced not to take me straight to casualty (without passing Go), insisted on driving me home and on regular text updates that I was still numbered among the living.  (*** Spoiler alert *** I survived)

I must say that if you are a Friend of the Nuffield Theatre you are not part of  a one-way friendship, or it certainly hasn’t been that way for me.  Being a “regular” definitely has its perks when it comes to arriving at a venue in a sub-par condition.

So, I had an unexpectedly early return home (without my bike) and decided to start icing my left hand with a freezer pack.  Yesterday morning, with my left hand/wrist still giving me gyp, I took myself to the Minor Injuries Unit at the nearby Royal South Hampshire.  On the basis of this trip, I would suggest that the NHS is now a provider of car parking with a small healthcare side business.  Signage to the various car parks was extremely clear, but that to any kind to medical facility substantially less so.  Still, having found the MIU and filling in an extensive form (not ideal with damaged hands), I was seen very quickly.  It seems unlikely that I have broken anything, I’ve just strained or sprained my wrist and I was told to continue with exactly the attempts at self-medication I was already using (on my recent performance when it comes to self-diagnosis, a career in the medical profession must be on the cards).

I have now moved on from the rigid freezer pack to the more malleable form of a bag of Waitrose Essential Peas and Beans (broad and french) to soothe my sprain (well, it was that or a pack of frozen broccoli, which I felt would be less conducive to a swift recovery).  Yes, this is dangerously middle class but I hope it is speeding my return to full function.  When required, I take painkillers – but mostly I can function without.  My left-hand is fine for typing and can play the piano and guitar a little, though fff and barre chords are currently ixnayed.  I’m right handed but make a surprising amount of use of my left (as I am now discovering), but I am slowly finding work-arounds.  Even remotely heavy lifting is currently out of the question (as are gymnastics) and buttons are surprisingly challenging: but life can broadly continue as usual while I heal.  I must admit that the lack of serious exercise is starting to get to me already, I’m trying to think of a workout that can be performed without use of my left-hand – but the options seem limited.  I may have to use a treadmill and actually run: urgh!

Pleasingly, my wrist has finally become somewhat swollen: there is little more dispiriting than being a brave little soldier when nobody knows you’re injured (another positive of this post).  I am also taking this is a sign that the process of recovery is underway…

Twerpsichore

As Melvyn Bragg, or more accurately, his guests have relatively recently revealed, the exact number and nature of the muses varied over the course of the Classical era.  However, given any list of the occupants of Mount Helicon, it seems hard to argue with the thesis that I have been least touched by the influence of Terpsichore.  Then again, I have never shared any of my Love Poetry with you (or anyone else for that matter) – so I could always be lying.  I’ll leave that thought with you while I gently pluck at my cithara and await the arrival of Erato.

As has been noted in this very organ before, I am not a natural dancer.  My attempts at dance are about as unnatural, affected and artifical as could be imagined.  However, 2016 has seen me adding increasing volumes of dance into my cultural mix: though only as a voyeur (so far).  My younger self would be horrified as he found dance entirely without merit – well, except for the unintentional laughter it often brought him (and can still bring me).  Current me has, in many ways, reversed into his current interest in dance.  My gateway drug, as it were, has been circus: an art form which continues to obsess me.  This last week did see me first fully successful essay of the back level, suspended from gymnastic rings.  I will admit I can only hold it for a couple of seconds – I can’t actually breathe at the same time and holding the position does burn through the contents of my lungs at an alarming rate – but it was pretty good for an old codger.

Quite often the acrobatics in circus include elements of what I take to be contemporary dance. Both of the excellent shows by Barely Methodical TroupeBromance and Kin – have certainly included dance which clearly carries the narrative, even to a clod like me.  Emboldened by seeing dance and enjoying it, even if mostly in terms of the physical feats involved (and trying to work out if and when I might be able to replicate them), I have been branching out into more overtly dance-based events.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Salisbury International Arts Festival in the summer sunshine and all three events I attended contained dance.  Blocks was a circus/dance combination staged around a set of gigantic Jenga blocks and so was playing to my existing interests.  You and I Know, by Candoco Dance Company, I literally stumbled across by accident when seeking cake (I never found cake and am still struggling with the trauma: Salisbury was a major disappointment in this regard on a Sunday afternoon).  This was pure dance, though using two disabled performers – one in a wheelchair and the other with only 1.5 arms – and was incredible.  These appetizers were both free, but for my third encounter with dance I actually parted with real money – and moved indoors.  May Contain Food by Protein was dance-based but also involved operatic singing and a small amount of nourishment for the audience.  It was nominally set in a high-class restaurant with the audience as the diners and dancers and singers as the staff.  It was quite the strangest piece of culture I’ve ever seen, but very interesting and entertaining (and the food – eccentrically described and consumed – was appreciated).  It seemed to please both young and old in the audience, so some forms of weird could be the way to go when it comes to increasing cultural engagement.

As well as what we (OK, I) might call popular dance, I have also tried something a tad more classical.  Between Christmas and New Year, I accompanied my brother-in-law to provide  moral support for his first ever visit to the ballet.  This was to see Sleeping Beauty at Sadler’s Wells which I think was a fairly modern production: well, it invoved two conveyer belts and some puppetry and very little in the way of tutus.  I enjoyed it greatly and it was also a big hit with the accompanying ballet virgin: his fears proving groundless.  Inspired by this success, when I was in Cambridge recently I went to see Life by the BalletBoyz.  This was amazing, and at times very funny, and not a tutu in sight (just a lot of rabbits)  : though the Arts Theatre is a dreadful venue in which to watch dance as the sightlines are way too poor (something that has never been a problem with theatre which still works fine, but is almost fatal to dance).  If the circus won’t take me, I think maybe I’ll run away to join the ballet: it can’t all be cruel Russian matrons and bleeding feet (as the children’s TV of my youth suggested).  Realistically, this probably isn’t a great back-up plan for my retirement from the desk job: whilst the physical feats of ballet seem less extreme than at the circus, you do seem to be required to make them look entirely effortless and, worse for me, graceful.  The nearest I’ve come to grace in my life is thanking the Lord for the food I’m about to consume at a formal dinner, though I suspect a good word for the kitchen or waiting staff would probably have been more productive.

Still, I do fancy taking up some form of dance to take advantage of my improving flexibility.  Probably something not too dependent on rhythm or grace.  Do you think 50 is too late to take up break-dancing?

 

Being SkyActiv

Readers will recall my disappointment at Mazda’s use of the term SkyActiv to refer to a 14:1 compression ratio in a vehicle engine.  So, I have attempted to give some better meaning to SkyActiv through my own, drab, wretched existence.  OK, that is mostly a lie – but I am going to pin two recent events (with pictures) to this weak conceit, so please stick with me a little longer (or not, frankly I’ll never know whether you bailed at this point or not).

My attempts to master the back lever whilst hanging in the sky, supported only using a pair of gymnastic rings and my general henchness is progressing quite nicely.  Below those with a strong stomach (crucial if attempting the back lever) can see a photo of the current high water mark…

Just hanging around!

Just hanging around!

I will admit that having my legs straddled does make life a little easier, as it engages my glutes automatically, as does bending my legs, which moves the load a little nearer the effort (for those who can remember the workings of mechanical advantage from your school days).  I will further admit that whilst I was just about holding this position at the time the photograph was taken, I did collapse to the ground milliseconds later.

Some of you may be concerned about the absence of sky, what with me being indoors and the sky generally being a property of the outdoors.  In response, I would suggest that my location is unimportant for the feat being attempted, I could as easily be outside – though at this stage, could not readily be much further from the ground (as I need something to collapse safely onto).  I do also wonder whether the sky can perhaps “leak” indoors – through an open window or door, or even through an air-brick.  Further, if the ceiling was very high (1 km say) would you still deny there was sky indoors?  You see, this blog is not just me bragging – there is an actual philosophical component too!

Yesterday, I was in London – not (I wish to make clear) for an interview.  After not being interviewed, I had a brief stroll around the Greek galleries at the British Museum (checking out the stolen goods) using eyes, which inspired by Alistair Sooke’s excellent recent BBC4 documentary, were able to to see the art in a whole new way.  I was then taken to luncheon by a friend (at his employer’s expense – at which stage I should once again make clear that I had not been to an interview).  This took place in the Darwin Brasserie, which offers merely adequate food and fairly slow service, but can supply one killer advantage (in addition to the excellent company) for the luncher (an advantage which, luckily, makes it relevant to this post).  Below I include a photograph taken from my lunching chair whilst my companion was briefly away.

Lunch in the Sky!

Lunch in the Sky!

The brasserie is located in the Sky Garden on (or actually above) the 35th floor of the building popularly know as the “walkie-talkie” (or more prosaically as 20 Fenchurch Street).  It is not the most beautiful tall building in the world, but is far from the ugliest in London (or even its immediate vicinity) – and I believe has melted at least one car (which I view as a positive: a building with a super-power!).  As you can see, it offers quite stunning views of London and does have an actual garden (I was quite tempted to see if a position as gardener might be open, as I can’t imagine many weeds make it up there) – and even a balcony.  I was lucky to visit during a spell of quite beautiful (and poorly forecasted) weather with excellent visibility and the views more than compensated for any minor grumbles about the meal.  You can visit the Sky Garden without dining – and it is even free, though you do have to book in advance.  To reach the dizzying heights on offer, you will have to pass through airport style security scanning and there can be quite a queue for the lift (in both directions) but it really is well worth a visit.  On a clear day (as I was lucky enough to enjoy) you could spend hours looking out over the city, spotting the sights and watching the world go by so far below you.

So, despite the weak premise I think you will agree that I’ve made a much better fist of being SkyActiv than the boffins (or marketing types) at Mazda!

You’ll believe a man can fly!

Please by reassured that no lycra was harmed (or, indeed, worn) in the making of this post.

Recently, my working life has required me to take to the skies and visit foreign parts – and there will be at least one further such occasion later this month.  Given the failure of mother nature to provide me with my own pair of functional wings (or any other way to overcome the surly bonds of gravitational attraction), I am forced to use that modern mechanical contrivance: the aeroplane.

I am, at best, a nervous flyer.  I do realise that my life is far more likely to be brought to a premature conclusion on my journey to the airport than it is in the air, but being trapped in a packed, metal box high above the ground still makes me decidedly twitchy.  I have come to suspect that airlines – and/or their staff – share my anxiety about the whole process.  Faced with these fears, they have – as generations of fearful humans have before them – fallen back on observing a series of rituals.  These seem entirely arbitrary and vary somewhat from airline to airline, but are fiercely adhered to with all the fervent commitment of the religious fundamentalist.  I am particularly amused by the insistence by all UK-based airlines that in the event that we land on water, our life-jacket should be secured using a double-bow.  I feel this would be a fairly challenging call when relaxed and in a wide-open space, but will be well-nigh impossible when under significant stress in the very cramped confines of a modern aircraft.  I do wonder if it is an attempt to forestall panic, as the passengers will be far too busy trying to tie a double-bow to worry about the potential for their imminent, very damp demise.

I also wonder why, if it does not inflate, my yellow plastic oxygen mask is supplied with a limp, dangling plastic bag.  What purpose does it serve? Other than to extend the safety demonstration by an additional sentence.  Is the plastic bag, perhaps, lucky?  Or does it permit the passenger to indulge in a little auto-erotic asphyxiation as he (or she) plummets to their fiery doom?

As a nervous flyer, the first thing I do on reaching my seat – after my seat belt has been safely fastened (“like this”) – is to check out the safety card.  This identifies the location of the exits on the plane (in a way that the mime used by all cabin crews worldwide does not) and how they are operated – which I feel may become important information.  This card is free of words and instead relies on pictures and pictograms to convey its various messages.  Those are normally cryptic in the extreme – frankly I think I’d have more chance if the card were printed entirely in Chinese – but those used by FlyBe on my flight to Dublin last Thursday were in a league of their own.  So far as I could tell, in order to exit the Dash 8 aircraft one needs to do something with some nearby, geometrically patterned wallpaper – though I was unable to locate this wallpaper or determine what to do with it once found.  On the Embraer 190 which delivered me home, one pictogram showed the front and rear top surface of the plane burning merrily, but no nearby pictograms seemed in anyway to relate to this image.  Was this a serving suggestion?  Would Monsieur Mangetout recommend that the Embraer be eaten flambéed?  I am willing to make myself available to review flight safety cards (for my usual fee) in an attempt to make them a little more readily understood by a typical passenger (or failing that, by me).  I shall await the call from IATA.

I feel some of you may be feeling short-changed by the title, as the only flying covered so far has been the rather prosaic form which relies on a commercial airliner.  Fear not, this post has also been crafted to cover a more personal form of flying achieved by the author only yesterday.

The regular reader will know that I am aiming to represent TeamGB in Rio as a gymnast.  As part of the intensive training required, I am attempting to master the back lever.  This is challenging and a series of progressions are used to reach the objective.  This last week, a giant rubber-band was delivered to the good people at Brightside PT to assist in this process – and yesterday I had my first chance to try it out.  As well as helping me achieve the back lever, it also offers help towards a number of other ring-based activities which I hadn’t previously considered, but which now look to lie within the realms of possibility (or at least share a land-border with them).

With the aid of the rubber band, I was almost immediately able to manoeuvre myself into the correct position for the back-lever – albeit supported in the middle by the aforementioned band.  Cunningly – as you will see below – this band was chosen so that it can easily be removed by use of a green screen and so the user will appear to be performing unaided!

Is it a bird?  Is it a plane?

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Of all the things I have done in my 48.5 years on this planet, this feels the most like flying – and it feels wonderful.  It is worth all the hard work and DOMS involved in preparing for the back lever, just for the amazing feeling of being airborne.  I’d highly recommend it to all readers – though they should perhaps seek medical advice (or check their life insurance is up-to-date) before attempting it (I, of course, take no responsibility for any distress – mental or physical – caused to readers from following any of the advice given in this blog).  Obviously, it will be even better without the support – but that is going to take a little more work.  I can’t believe how stony-faced the typical gymnast looks when performing such manoeuvres – after 24 hours it has still proved almost impossible to wipe the smile off my face.  I do worry that traditional gymnastics training either leaves one hopelessly jaded or is wasted on the young.  I shall endeavour to retain my child-like (in terms of mental age, at least) enthusiasm – even should I become a world famous gymnast (or failing that, a terrible lesson to you all).

Feeling my age

This is, of course, a very different proposition to acting my age.  I have largely avoided acting my age, and when I am called upon to portray an adult in a public setting then “acting” is very much the mot juste.  In this context, I am very much NOT a follower of Messrs Stanislavski and Strasberg – I go with the “just pretending” school.

One the whole, I do not feel my age – unless there has been a dreadful accounting error and I really am only 22 (or thereabouts).  Over the summer, a number of incidents illustrated the distance between my internal view of my age and actual chronology have been allowed to diverge over the years.  I have realised that when in the company of “proper” adults – generally, but not always, those of my age or greater – I feel rather like a child who has been allowed to stay up past his bedtime and as though I don’t really belong.    With those aged around 20 (±5), I feel as though I am among equals and act as though I am just one of the gang – which I presume they must find a little disconcerting (or just creepy), but probably endure as I’m quite good about buying the beer.  When availing myself of the cake at T H Roberts in Dolgellau, I felt far more at home with the very youthful staff then with the more stricken-in-years clientele – despite being much close in age to the latter.  I suspect there must be quite a backlog of updates to my self-image waiting to be installed in a cloud or buffer somewhere – and long may they remain there!

My pretence at continued youth is also being bolstered by my gymnastic exploits.  A little while ago I learned that one of the other clients of Brightside refers to me as “the gymnast” (as though this were my profession – which luckily, for my continued solvency, it is not) and today discovered that I am a major topic of conversation among their wider clientele (in my absence, fortunately).  It would appear that I am a marvel of the age (or at least, my age) – though to be honest, it is just practice and a bit of application on my part.  At the risk of frightening the horses (you will be seeing a lot of leg), here is a picture of me practising one of the progressions towards the elusive back lever.

Just hanging around

Just hanging around

The more perspicacious reader may have noted that my head seems very pink (née red).  In my defence, I would point out that I am upside-down and this is a hold – but I will admit that I do not recall seeing this same effect on real gymnasts.  Luckily, according to the Mortician’s Gazette, I see that some gymnastics is to be televised next week so I shall have an opportunity to check out the head-directed blood-flow of the participants.  I suppose it may be that hanging like a very distended bat is not a highly regarded activity in proper gymnastics…

So, why you may wonder should I be feeling my age?  Well, partly it comes down to hanging around with the young and recalling an incident from my adult past, only to discover it occurred before any of them were born.  This can really take the wind out of a chap’s sails.

However, the spark that ignited this post was going to see the film Pride a week or so back.  The film is excellent (if you haven’t seen it, you really should) and (mostly) set in 1984 – the year in which I took my A-levels and started university.  Yet, even to me it feels like a period piece and I was shocked to realise that I was basically an adult when it was set.  The vehicles, in particular, look to be from a bygone age.  It made my feel very old and to wonder if it is time for me to start buying Werther’s Originals, carpet slippers and a tartan rug.

NO!  I refuse to act my age!  I refuse to wear anything made of fleece!  I shall re-double my efforts to grow old disgracefully.  I feel in need of a new age-inappropriate hobby to take up (to add to the gymnastics).  What do people feel about seeing a man of 48½ on a skateboard?  (I promise to eschew the strangely sculpted facial hair and pony tail).  I’m also willing to entertain suggestions for other pursuits which would allow me to retain my juvenility – but, be warned, if I like the idea I may act upon it and you may later be exposed to photographic evidence thereof!

Skinning the cat

Before I am deluged with angry responses, probably written in violently hued ink and with appalling grammar, let me assure everyone that no cat was harmed in the making of this post (well, not by me – I have no idea what WordPress might get up to).  Felis catus may be a menace to our smaller indigenous wildlife, exacting a terrible death toll each year, but I really don’t think I could could kill one.  In fact, if I had to kill what I eat, I would be even more vegetarian than I (mostly) am already – except for fish: I reckon I could kill a fish (well, I reckon I have the stomach for it but cannot guarantee that I have the necessary physical skill).

No, we return to one of the primary purposes of this blog: me showing off.  Many, if not all, of the non-essential activities in which I indulge (those towards the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) are performed with but one objective in mind: amusement (usually mine, but I’m willing to share).  Often, this amusement arises from the incongruity of me (of all people) performing the action in question – generally, in the hands (or with the bodies) of others, the actions would seem far more “in keeping” and so much less funny.

As recent readers will know, I am trying to retrain as a gymnast as I have heard that there are excellent job prospects in this field with very good associated working conditions.  There are at least two grounds for amusement here: (a) that I have started rather late in life on this career choice (I believe most budding gymnasts start before reaching double figures age-wise) and (b) my innate clumsiness which means I usually struggle to make it through doorframes intact.  Nevertheless, I am making surprisingly good progress – though don’t think I will be troubling the GB Olympic Committee for their trip to Brazil (maybe the next Commonwealth Games?).

The L-sit is a doddle, my pistol squats are getting pretty good, especially on the right leg (the left is very much my foot-of-clay in this context), I am perilously close to achieving the front lever and my dragon flag will soon challenge Bruce Lee (though he is operating with a slight handicap, being dead these many years – and death does restrict one’s mobility).  So, my latest challenge is the back lever. If you have seen someone perform a back lever, it looks frankly impossible – unless you are part-gibbon – but I chose to remain only seriously daunted.  The gurus at Brightside PT suggested that a way to approach the impossible would be to learn to skin the cat.  Now, if we go back 40 years, every 8 year old girl could do this in the playground without any difficulty – however, I am 48 and 6′ 3″ and this looked pretty daunting to me and I’m wasn’t very good at hanging sufficiently inverted to achieve the position (I worry about falling off or snapping my arms somewhere important – which I think is everywhere when it comes to arm-snapping).  So, in an attempt to conquer my fears and move ahead I did a little research on the internet and came across GymasticsWOD – which offered a route which didn’t look totally impossible.

So, this morning I took to the rings and attempted to follow Coach Paolo and move toward a flayed feline of my very own.  As you will all have guessed by now, I did it – almost immediately – and I can reverse the process.  After a few attempts, I can even control my speed through the manoeuvre and hold station at pretty much any point. I will admit that on my first few attempts the downward phase was fairly rapid and did leave me decidedly dizzy – but my inner ears seem to have learned to compensate quite quickly.  To me, as well as being amusing, this ability is little short of magical – if you told me even a couple of months ago that I’d be doing this, I would have laughed.  However, there does exist video evidence of me skinning the cat (though hopefully this will never become publicly available) – in fact, the first attempt at video failed and so a re-take was required.

Several hours later, I can still move all the important parts of my body – though my forearms are a little stiff – so I’m hoping this splendid situation survives the night.  There is a non-zero risk that my shoulders or upper back may be virtually immobile in the morning – but that will be a small price to pay.  The back lever looks to be within my grasp and I can then perhaps move on to the iron cross (I already have some of the basics here – but lack a high enough ceiling).  However, the end objective does remain the human flag so that I can molest every lamppost and street sign I pass – well, it was the target until I started researching images of the back lever to link to, and found you (or at least one person) can do it with only one arm!  This is, of course, one of the great things about starting gymnastics late in life – there is always something more difficult to aim at.  You also learn a whole new, and much less restful, meaning of the word kipping.  However, I shall leave that particular range of exercises until my return from festival frivolities in Edinburgh.

I have found that there is a potential downside to all this foolishness.  As a result of the training to perform such idiotic moves, I think I probably won last month’s gym challenge.  I didn’t mean to, it was just used as part of my training and (as it transpired) I was quite good at it.  I was 5% ahead of the nearest competition, but on Tuesday I moved to 55% ahead.  This may not seem a bad thing to you, but I have now been asked to form part of the team for a “tough mudder”.  As I believe I’ve made clear in this blog, I am not at all keen on getting my hands (which generally are exposed to the world) dirty, let alone my entire body.  It also seems to require running the best part of 12 miles – and I try to avoid running unless absolutely vital, e.g. when pursued by a bear.  I am capable of walking quickly and if more speed is needed I have three bicycles or use public transport.  So, unless we can replace the mud with some suitably warmed sparking mineral water and I’m allowed to use my bike – I shall try and resist the clamour for me to get tough and muddy.  Should I fail, you, dear readers, will be the first to know…