This may be a revised version of one of my Column 8 pieces, though it seems mostly to be as originally written.
Practice makes perfect. If you don't use it, you'll lose it. So they say.
Some time ago a member of our family purchased a set of exercise DVDs with the aim of building up her/his muscles. I'm not allowed to be more specific about which family member it was, but the DVDs gave a real boost in the physical department.
She/he disciplined him/herself, getting up at the crack of dawn every morning to chug through those demanding exercises - while the demonstrator chauntered through a flow of esteem-building speeches.
Various other members of the family gave the exercises a go - with varying degrees of success. Still, I don't think any set of DVDs has ever had more use in our house. Certainly the original purchaser got value for money.
While everyone else tackled the exercises, I didn't. I was still walking to work every morning: a sufficient, demanding-enough exercise, and pleasant. A good way to allow the early-morning-family-arousing-stresses to flit off like startled sparrows. I use to run most of the way, but my legs had begun to find pounding down the hills jarred the hips and knees.
Still, the walk was enough to keep me fit, I said.
If so, why did I find my knees creaked more when I knelt - and it was more difficult hoisting myself up again? (If I could rouse the body to such a level of enthusiasm as to want to get up again.)
Why did the floor seem further away when I bent to pick up bits of paper or safety pins? And why did it take three attempts to grasp them?
Why did I have to sit a little further back from the steering wheel than before, and find the pedals further away? Why did the plate on the meal table seem not quite where it used to be? (‘There's many a slip twixt cup and lip’ was finally starting to make sense.)
Why did I feel like a formerly deft and agile adolescent struggling with clumsy-making growth spurts?
Lack of exercise.
My family has been nagging - sorry, encouraging - me, for some time, to do some exercise. (There's particular concern that they can't see the telly if I'm standing just to one side of it.) So the other night I began the exercises, in company with a couple of other family members who'd done them before, and wanted to get back into them again.
I enjoyed the exercises which required me to lie on the floor, because at least I didn't have to keep my body vertical at the same time, but I wasn't too fussed about the exercises that seemed akin to some of the spine-dislocating, hip-unhinging and bone-crackling one of my children does in modern dancing.
I know these exercises will do me good. (I used to have a best friend who was always telling me things he suggested would do me good.) I know that if I play difficult music on the piano, and work at it, even if I can't play it up to speed, I'll have fingers that move when I want them to, instead of fingers that ice-skate across the keys because they can't be bothered to dig their nails in.
I know if I'd kept at that memory course that now sits gathering dust on the shelf, I'd be remembering all the names of the people I want to remember - including the name of my grandson which had gone completely from my mind when I woke last Saturday.
And I know if I write a blog post a day, (inspired or not), I'll produce new ones with half the sweat and strain they usually require.
But I don't like doing these exercises. They make me feel a hundred and fifty, they make me feel as though I'm no longer capable of any physical effort - and I am! I really am!! - they make me feel that if I have to hear that trainer's voice one more time burbling visualisation babble I'll smash his fancy face in.
Apparently Henry Ford didn't say history is bunk, he claimed exercise was. "If you're healthy," he said, "you don't need it. If you're sick, you shouldn't take it."
How (ouch! oooof!) true.