The signs of getting older are, em, actually… I’ve forgotten what they are again… ha, ha! Not that old gag again. Anyway. I can’t speak with authority on the signs of ageing, although I can make some comments about eyesight failing once you hit fifty (you fail the ‘jam jar test’: id est, you can’t squint hard enough to read the print on the label, and you can’t hold it far enough away because your arms aren’t long enough, but if they were, then the print would be too small to read anyway. And you thought Catch-22 was problematic.)
So if the sudden need for reading glasses is one clue, a second might be hair forgetting its place and growing where it never did before. I assume this an evolutionary survival thing: hey grandad, when you’re old and decrepit and we haven’t decided whether to feed you to the sabre-tooth tiger or not, you might need some growth on your ears and nose to help keep you warm. Or maybe after living for a bazillion years, God decided if He had hair down to His toes from every orifice, then by God (who else?), we would have to suffer too. Hard to say. Jury’s out. Given that men suffer this fate and women don’t, it’s safe to assume He is a She.
And the final clue? It’s the phase of your life when parts of your body make themselves known to you; parts that in fairness were just never topics of conversation before. Such as your bladder, your prostate, and maybe your spleen. They talk about the seven stages of grief. Well, less popular but equally relevant are the four stages of needing to pee at three in the morning.
You wake. It’s dark. Why am I awake? Is there a burglar?
No. There is no burglar, you can safely go back to…
Wait, you need to pee…
But do I? Maybe I can sit this one out…
Nope. You need to pee.
The stages of this grief, anger, denial and acceptance follow similar patterns for many men over the age of fifty. In my defence, I could stave off this nocturnal rambling for many years to come if I stopped drinking tea by about 7pm, rather than repeatedly popping the kettle on after midnight.
And so, let’s leave that for now. Younger folk reading this don’t need that level of horror in their delicate little minds. Just keep training. Train real hard, son, and maybe you won’t have to suffer such ignominy. (Spoiler: you will).
Last Sunday, Gary and I headed out on a route that I have done before many times, but normally on the bike. Not sure why I never thought to do it on foot, so to speak (maybe re-read your opening paragraphs? ed.). The route is Arthur’s Way, and it’s a point-to-point heritage trail of a modest 15k. The trailhead is about 500 metres from my house, and it heads through the grounds of the grandiose Castletown House, through Celbridge Village, and then on out towards the Grand Canal and finishes at Oughterard Cemetery.
The Arthur is of course Arthur Guinness of brewing fame. And I was the designer who put the signage together for the trail, so I have more than a passing interest in it. I have touched on this chapter of Irish history in previous posts, and I could make this blog post into yet another mammoth read, but perhaps we’ll do that another day.
We started out early in the morning, and made it to Castletown Demesne in time for the sunrise.
Sunrise duly photographed, we pressed on towards the canal. It was cold. Bone cold. And the roads were icy. We were glad to get off them and onto the towpath.
Next stop was Omer’s Lock outside the Cliff at Lyons. Again, another area steeped in history that deserves more time and space. The lock itself is supposed to be haunted, and it has its own story to tell, too, but that is one more of finance, planning and engineering than ghosts.
Left, then, at the next bridge, which is Ardclough, and up Boston Hill. Back on the slippy roads, and very gentle progress up towards our finish point.
We stopped here for a short break, though in truth, it was bitterly cold, and when you’re running in that kind of weather, the only way to stay warm is to stay moving. But Gary was delighted to have a quick tour around the cemetery, and we paid our respects at the grave slab of Arthur Guinness, and had the panoramic must-see views from the top of the old church.
Then we made our way home via a slight detour to take in the bike alternative section of the Way. It is the same distance, but oddly enough, it is deemed safer for bikes, but not safe for walkers. Ho-hum. Thirty kilometres and change all told, in just over three hours, and the legs are holding up fine.
I have managed a few shorter runs in our local park this week, and this fine beast was on hand to witness my feats of endurance. Though if you want real feats of endurance, then may I suggest you watch 14 Peaks. Staggering what you can do when you set your mind to it. And when I say ‘you’, I do of course add in the proviso that this is not something lesser mortals could achieve, even with a lifetime of training.
I also managed to squeeze in a live concert which I hope to be the first and last one I attend with a mask on. It was the Aussie Pink Floyd, and it was rather excellent.
And so we leave you with this mask mashup I put together during the week. It’s not that clever really, but it’s basically saying “look, previous generations not that long ago had to wear masks to stay alive in the most harrowing of circumstances, and you’re just being asked to pop a little paper one on to go to the shops. Get some fucking perspective!