Bendy fuss

I must apologise for the fact that this post will once again cover my goal of geriatric gymnasticism, but it is a major feature of my life and is rather on my mind at present (for reasons that will later be revealed).  In a desperate attempt to keep you reading, I am willing to enter into a solemn undertaking that no pictures of the author will be inflicted on readers of this post.  Following on from recent discussion on GofaDM, I recalled that the word “gymnastic” comes to us from the Greeks and refers to nudity.  I would like to assure readers that while gymnastics is less problematic than cycling for the naked chap, I still like to ensure that all loose items are properly secured before attempting anything serious.

Unexpectedly, one of those charged with helping me achieve my foolish, middle-aged ambition (well, one of them) recently said that my progress was inspiring to other clients.  I think (hope!) that she was joking: I do not feel ready to act as an inspiration to anyone – a terrible warning, yes; an inspiration, no.

The neophyte gymnast has to balance (well, duh) the need to be rigid with the need to be flexible (even bendy).  Whilst both requirements are progressing, I think I incline more naturally toward rigidity.  Yesterday morning, I came far closer to the splits than I had ever anticipated, though still not very close, which requires significant adduction of the legs (sadly, mine).  [BTW, isn’t “-duction”a marvellously flexible word fragment?  It can take so many prefixes: ab-, ad-, con-, de-, in-, pro-, re-, sub- and form a new word.]  As a consequence my adductors (and gluteals) have been remonstrating quite forcefully with the management since yesterday lunch-time.  The result is that my transitioning from standing to sitting (and vice versa), and indeed my bending down generally, has rather more in common with a pensioner than is desirable in a man the right (or on a traditional number line, the left) side of fifty.

I suppose this is a further reminder that whilst in my head I am still a student (though not a very mature one) to the rest of the world (and my body, in particular) I am decidedly middle-aged.  Given that people of my age are advised to check with their doctor before taking up needlepoint, my adoption of la vie gymnastique could appear cavalier.  In recognition of this fact, I recently acquired a new toy to check how my cardiovascular system felt about me hanging around upside down like a massive, if rather pale and inept, bat.  Actually, my toy only monitors my heart rate – by shining lights at my wrist – and reports back its findings to my phone.  However, this has reassured me that my heart rate at least remains within sensible bounds despite my lunacy.  We (well, mostly I) must just hope that my blood pressure is behaving itself too, but my head does go a lot less red these days so I have some hope that my body is adapting (or at least has stopped responding to every cry of “wolf!” it receives).

Talking of new toys, I have recently acquire a set of parallettes to boost my planche-related progress and advance my retirement plan: viz, to run away to the circus.

Parallettes - and bookshelves

Still life with parallettes and bookshelves

These have proved worryingly addictive – I feel the urge to use them whenever I traverse the hall.  Still, wannabe professional gymnasts seem to be training 40 hours a week by the time they are eleven, so I have a lot of catching up to do!


Doo-dah.  Serendipity, day.  No-one?  I’m wasted here…

As part of my continuing efforts to broaden the range of music to which one can strive while in the gym, this morning I went with The Bestiary of Flanders and Swann.  This can be slightly distracted, I will admit, as the desire to either join in or laugh can be quite strong for some of the songs.  Nevertheless, I felt it was a successful choice -in general, I think I am looking for distraction or sometimes a “still small voice of calm” rather then motivational lyrics or a strongly motivic beat when I am working-out.  If I had a home gym (which I don’t) would I then be able to work-in, I wonder?

Anyway, I had taken a grip of a bar and was about to invert my body prior to fully “skinning my cat” when Michael Flanders began to introduce the song The Bradypus (aka The Three-Toed Sloth).  The sloth spends much of its time inverted and Mr Flanders apologised for not singing the song whilst upside-down (I feel the wheelchair provides a decent excuse) and suggested the listener might like to make good the lack – and so, for the first time, I did and enjoyed the song as F&S intended (hanging upside down from a bar, well no convenient and more authentic branch was available).  Unlike the eponymous hero of the song, I am not able to remain in position for the entire song (3’15) as I lack the adaptions required to prevent my head filling with my body’s entire complement of blood (which I suspect may be detrimental to long-term existence).  Still, I enjoyed the additional authenticity for as long as I could and would recommend any reader who feels sufficiently confident to give it a go (Please note, GofaDM takes no responsibility for any loss or injury which may occur as a result of taking this advice).

I now find myself wondering whether there any other songs which provide lyrical (or introductory) parallels with the “work” of the gentleman gymnast…

Unexpected descriptions of the author

The title might equally have said “inaccurate” as you will see.  I try to live by the Delphic maxim to “Know Thyself” and as this blog has oft noted, I live both alone and with an idiot.  Like everyone else (I assume), I am occasionally dazzled by my own genius – but this feeling is quickly replaced as my default stupidity re-asserts control.

I have as recently as the last month been referred to as “young man” by someone who was not obvious mentally or optically deficient nor in imminent hopes of an express communication from Her Majesty.  I like to imagine this is down to my boyish good looks (well, I like to imagine that I could imagine that), but fear it may have more to do with my childish demeanour.

A while back, a friend – who knows me reasonably well – asked me the following question: “When did you realise you had an extraordinary mind?”.  I admit I struggled to furnish them with any sort of answer, though like to imagine that I blushed modestly (maybe even coquettishly).  If there is one thing a maths degree, the 27 years thereafter and writing this blog has taught me then it is that I have a very pedestrian mind.  At best, I have a half decent memory and have managed to maintain a curiosity about the world around me – which helps to keep the contents of my memory topped up with new pieces of useless information.

A few months ago, a chap approached me in the gym and asked me how I managed to be so “super-fit”.  I will admit that he was somewhat more stricken in both years and girth than I am (and seemed to have put his whites and reds into the same wash), however, I am a country mile from super-fit.  Trying to be a gymnast in my late 40s, I do sometimes watch real gymnasts who would merit this label – and my level of fitness is a very very long way away.  I suppose I am probably fitter than your average bear (of 48), and would certainly by willing to pilfer some dainties from an unguarded picker-nick basket (if the opportunity arose) – but that is as close as I get.

This very morn, when the mercury was still cowering under the duvet with its electric blanket on, I cycled across town to the gym.  I did this, as is my wont (unless it is very wet), in shorts – as this means one less item of clothing to put on and remove and means that I can forego the cycle clip (which can bite into my calves).  Whilst waiting at one of the many traffic lights that Southampton affords the traveller, a youth scampered across the road by me.  His gaze seemed drawn to my lallies – catching as they were the gloom of the morning sun obscured by cloud – and he called out “You are a lad” [his emphasis], grinning broadly before he continued to scamper across the road (in a manner which would have horrified Tufty) before entering the nearby Police Station.  He didn’t strike me as a PC or brief, so may perhaps have been a local scally – though one, I like to imagine, with a heart of gold.  I’ve never really thought of myself as a lad – even when I was age-appropriate to the epithet (and would a true lad use the word “epithet”?) – but this compliment (however misplaced), from one who should probably know, buoyed me up on a chilly morn.

So, if I were to believe others, I could start to see myself as a hyper-intelligent, lad-hunk.   They do say “See yourself as others see you” – but in this case I should probably pass.  Luckily, all the while that reflective surfaces and even a modicum of self-awareness remain available to me I shall continue to recognise myself as a middle-aged, clumsy idiot – which is a lot closer to the Delphic truth (and not a tripod seat in sight).

How it ends

I’m sure many readers have found themselves wondering when my inevitable demise will spare them from further ruminations on my life and times.  A few may even have considered hastening this happy day – which seems a tad extreme as (I assume) no-one is forced to read this drivel.  However, if there is anyone dressed entirely in orange being subjected to this as an alternative to water-boarding then I apologise unreservedly.

Well, I am sorry to report that despite my “career” in forecasting, I am unable to provide a date and time when the author will shuffle off his mortal coil.  I believe this blindness on the subject of one’s own future is not uncommon among those cursed with the power of prophecy – I seem to recall Cassandra was similarly afflicted, and like me, no-one believed her doom-laden visions of the future either.

I have for some time known the most likely cause of my death: bloody-mindedness (mine, though another’s may also be involved) which whilst it may not be inscribed on the certificate as the actual medical cause of my demise will certainly have been the “inciting incident”.  Today, I discovered how I will physically prepare for the end.

Attempting to be a gymnast at my advanced age does mean that from time-to-time attempted manoeuvres go a little awry on the first (or even nth) attempt.  When one’s body is falling through space to an inevitable collision with the ground, I believe the natural response is to assume the foetal position to protect one’s vitals.  I have discovered that I do not do this.  So highly trained am I that I keep my entire body perfectly straight and rigid – a look not unlike that of a fleshy bean-pole – and maintain this throughout the fall (well, you lose points for bending or folding in the wrong place).  I also tend to close my eyes – for, as we all know, what you can’t see can’t hurt you.  (Yes, I know you can’t see gravity even with your eyes open, but it isn’t the gravity that hurts but the impact with the ground occasioned by its operation.)  So, whatever else happens it is reassuring to know that as I rattle my clack, my core will be fully engaged.  My nearest-and-dearest should invest in a full-length coffin as at my point of departure I will be at my maximum length and, unless promptly folded, rigor mortis will maintain me at that size until inhumed (or inflamed).

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!