Retirement, a world of irony and humour. Was it only two weeks ago when I visited my GP worried about my essential tremors? Remember? And he asked me if I had taken to falling over and I laughed and said no, that had not happened to me. How wrong I was, very wrong. In the last three days I’ve fallen over twice. Admittedly the first time I was taken out from behind by Archie with a tackle that would have made Billy Bremner proud. I am told he ran into me because he was chasing the ball and not looking where he was going. He hit me just behind the knee and the next thing I knew I was on the grass, thankfully, or it really would have hurt, and he was standing over me licking my face – his way of saying sorry. Millie was also standing over me with a worried look on her face practically asking me, what’s he done now, that brother of mine? It took me a while to get up but then it generally does even without the damage he had caused to my knee with his swingeing tackle from behind (now illegal in the professional game, pity it’s not been outlawed in the dog-walking / ball throwing arena).
So feeling a little bruised, but otherwise unharmed, I could comfort myself with the thought that I hadn’t really fallen, just collapsed in an inglorious heap having been flattened by my own dog. No such comfort however for the second of my falls. This was all my own doing. It happened on our most recent visit to the Derbyshire cottage with our plan of spending some time (before we sell the house / if we sell the house, who knows) revisiting our ‘old haunts’. In this case Monsal Dale. The dale has much to recommend it- it’s naturally beautiful and, as a bonus (although not everybody thought so when it was first built, John Ruskin deplored the ruining of the beauty of the dale with the building of the railway line in general and the viaduct in particular), one of those amazing feats of Victorian engineering, the viaduct over the dale (see above) at the point the line emerged from a 400 metre tunnel through the hillside (closed to the public until 2011 when it was repaired and lit). Ruskin hated the line so much that his reaction to the line was epitomised in a now-famous quote – ‘Now every fool in Buxton can be in Bakewell in an hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton’.
Being a big fan of Victorian engineering I was looking forward to visiting this place that I haven’t been to for probably 40 or so years (Mrs Summerhouse had one of her sister’s weekends in the hotel above the tunnel but of course I wasn’t invited to that, wouldn’t have gone if I had been). But to put this visit into context I need to go back to the Friday before and another Derbyshire Dales excursion. On that occasion, we took a short train journey with the pups to Matlock with the intention of walking back to where we had left the car at the station. Good plan but it went very wrong. The problem was that the sign below was only situated at one end of our walk back and not the end we were starting from. In case you can’t read it, it states – strictly no public admittance, this is not a public footpath etc and in case you didn’t understand that, there’s the sign of the cliff-side with an arrow pointing down. Had we seen this sign at the end of the ‘footpath’ we started from we certainly would not have attempted to ‘walk it’.
Actually ‘walk’ is a misnomer in this case, scrabble, climb, slip, fall off, would have been more appropriate. It was dangerous and at one point I thought I can’t make this, I’m not the man I used to be and even he would have struggled. Then I got this image of me being stretchered off the cliff by air ambulance with some-voice over saying, yes, there are always a few idiots who ignore the signs and then put us all to a lot of trouble not to mention the cost. I dragged myself onwards and eventually downwards and after two hours we were confronted by a very large fence, almost impossible to climb over, and the sign on the other side of it. How we laughed.
So a week later, knowing that the climb down (and then up of course) to the track bed, might be hazardous, I would need to proceed with caution. What I had not expected, was to fall over in the car park, 30 seconds after climbing out of the car to go to the toilet. Over-large shoes, uneven surface, poor balance, all three, I don’t know I just know that I fell over. I wasn’t hurt In fact my first thought was, please don’t let anybody have witnessed this. “You alright, mate?” I wipe away my tears of embarrassment and look up. There’s a group of 3 or 4 cyclists just setting off to do manly things while I sit in a heap on the surface of the carpark. No, I’m bloody well not alright, I think. Yes, fine, I say instead. They cycle past me with a look of pity on their collective faces as I’m trying to lever myself off the tarmac floor of the car park. This, I muse, is a bloody good start to our day’s revisiting old haunts. As I skipped over this same surface fifty or so years ago, I never thought I would end up feeling so close to it all these years later.
So there we have it. It’s clearly a story with a moral to it but what the hell is it? A friend who’s been in and out of hospital the last couple of months and who says they’re going to name a ward after him, said in his last text that the old cliché that health is wealth, is indeed true. Sir Billy Connolly says that Parkinson’s is ‘a pain in the arse’. Why have I started to pay more attention to these throw-away lines about health and old age, in the last few months? Is it because I’m starting to realise that time is not on our side? Watching Prunella Scales and husband Timothy West cope with her dementia on their challenging canal journey through India, last night on TV, certainly makes you think. Make the most of your retirement while you can. It’s not an original thought, they’re in their eighties and still going despite their difficulties. Maybe that’s what we need, a challenge other than running a gardening business (see future blog for an update on this aspect of our retirement). Watch this space. It’s retirement, Jim but not as I thought it would be.
To end on a happier note, me and the dogs at the top of the climb, looking knackered (me that is) and leaning against a wall so I don’t fall over again.