As we are wont to do from time to time, H and I have started a small health kick. It’s not a high kick. We’re not idiots; we don’t want to put our backs out. It’s more like the miniature kicks you use to move a school bag to another room when your arms are full of laundry and mail.
Our motivating forces are vanity and pain. We’re not getting any younger. One of us has just turned twenty-one for the second time. And while he doesn’t look much older than the uni student who used to drive a campervan to parties that he was the first time he was twenty-one, his sore back is telling a different story.
As for me, well, I recently read one of my stories live at a comedy club for the first time (you can listen to the podcast here, if you’re so inclined), and let’s just say the official photographs made me look further up the wrong end of the Bardot-Brando Continuum than I’m happy with, jowel and chinwise. And as Presidential Candidate Trump has shown us, bronzer is only going to trick people so far. So, it’s time for action.
To psychologically prepare, I purchased a new bit of sports kit: from the new M. C. Escher for Lorna Jane line, it’s a complicated layered singlet thing with mesh and a racerback and some other features to make me go faster and let other people know that I am a Serious Athalete. I bought it when I was in Melbourne with my friend Ellie, who has one and on whom it looks cool and straightforward. It is not straightforward. It is completely nonsensical. It has three fronts. To get it on correctly takes me fifteen minutes and at least one phone call to Ellie to have her explain it to me. By the time I have wrestled it on over my industrial-steel-reinforced, cantilevered sports bra, I am distinctly out of breath. I consider it my warm up.
Taking advantage of the proximity of Mum and Dad’s house – where we are dwelling like four Mrs Rochesters in the attic – to some amazing harbourside paths, we’ve been getting out for an hour a few times a week, doing a Couch-To-5-K jogging program. That’s a thing where an app on your phone tells you to walk for five minutes, then jog for a minute, walk for ninety seconds, jog for a minute. This is repeated seemingly hundreds of times, until your lungs explode and, like a lazy Jedi, you muster all your willpower to undo your shoelaces with your mind so you can stop and retie them without the shame of asking for a rest.
It’s reasonably manageable, though there does seem to be a weird phenomenon whereby the minute of jogging always seems to end at the precise moment you’ve come up alongside another walker, giving the impression that you have raced up to walk with them. This is unnerving for everyone. But this is the lower north shore, so there’s no option but to make polite small talk for ninety seconds about the architectural features of the mansions you are passing, until all of a sudden you sprint away at the behest of the bossy little lady voice coming from your phone.
It’s nice spending some good quality time with H, too, without anyone interrupting our conversation to tell me at top volume that his sister reckons the twins at his school are called Ollie and Ellie but really they are called Ellie and Ollie, aren’t they Mummy? Can you tell her that Ellie and Ollie are called Ellie and Ollie, not Ollie and Ellie? Because Ellie and Ollie are not Ollie and Ellie, of course they aren’t, that would be madness. They are Ellie and Ollie.
Our jogging conversations lead us on great tangents, because this is the time when we can really properly talk about the renovation. Thus I will go to any lengths to direct the conversation down any other topical tributary I can muster, so I don’t have to talk about the renovation, which makes me hyperventilate.
H will broach the topic gently, saying something like, “So well done on getting the bath ordered. Are the builders right with everything for a bit now? Shall we maybe discuss the handles of the kitchen cabinets? Just for ninety seconds?”
And I’ll say, “What would your nickname be if you were a career criminal?”
“Mr Horrendous,” he’ll answer, oddly without skipping a beat. “But seriously, the doorknobs?
“I’d probably be ‘The Pickup Artist’, because I always have to get the towels off the floor. Or maybe ‘Black Eyes’ because my mascara runs when I laugh ––
“RUN NOW” bellows my phone and with enormous relief I launch into a lumbering slow-speed shuffle, and H knows the time for talk is over for another minute and a half.
Starting yesterday, we’ve added the challenge of drinking no booze for a month. Last night we went to another comedy gig (taking huge advantage of living with built-in babysitters) and drank a lot of glasses of water instead of wine. It was very refreshing but I did spend the whole interval in the toilet queue. I don’t know that we actually came out on top, in a caloric sense, either, because we ate a vast amount of fudge that we normally wouldn’t have if we had been drinking.
Socially, this month is looking quiet, which is why we picked it for this harebrained experiment. We did forget we have a Trivia Night at May Blossom’s school coming up, which I’m not sure is designed to be attended sober, but we’ll have to see. We probably won’t even need the social crutch of alcohol by then because our small-talk fitness levels will be at an all-time high from our jogging sessions.