A visit to the GP makes me feel old, but the promise of spring is a reminder that curling up on the sofa for six months has its pros
Ignore the blizzards and permafrost, the temperature is at last inching upwards and British summer time has officially begun, even if spring hasn’t actually sprung yet. For most of the winter I have been working at home, and what bliss it has been not to be playing “sardines” on the Northern line every morning. As a bonus, and undoubtedly because I haven’t been sneezed on, I’ve escaped without a single cold. Less of a bonus is a slight decrepitude beginning to assert itself about my person – that cosy corner of the sofa, with my laptop and the cat, has been so damn comfortable that I haven’t wanted to move and, let’s face it, the weather hasn’t been exactly encouraging. Consequently, I have arrived here in April a little rounder and a little more, ahem, middle-aged than I was last September. I’m not excessively worried about it; there are more important things to lose sleep over than a spot of avoirdupois and most of it will sort itself out come the sunshine anyway, but I feel the need to do some sort of damage assessment. There is little point in weighing up the pros and cons of floral prints, or how short is too short, if my entire vintage self looks as though it might benefit from a spell in dry dock having the hull scraped for barnacles.
There can’t be many of us in our sixth decade who don’t have to visit their GP regularly for one thing or another – in my case, it’s high blood pressure. I slightly resent this, in the same way I resented what I thought of as excessive parental supervision when I was 17. Still, wanting to show off a bit, I told my GP about the running. As you may know, my interpretation of “running” is quite loose and, while it is true that the running bits are now occasionally longer than the walking bits, it couldn’t yet be termed a “jog”. I find this disappointing, despite recent evidence that walking is just as good for you. “Oh well,” said my GP, “it’s always disappointing when you find you can’t do the things you used to …” Just take a moment to consider that: my first ever “you can’t do what you used to” warning from a member of the medical profession. And then it got worse because he told me to be careful of getting cold because when “one” is pushing 60 “one” loses body heat much faster than “one” used to. Rubbish! I’m 35 – have been for years.
In spite of this grievous blow, I can take comfort in the fact that I do still occasionally lap at least three people hobbling around the flower garden, and if it weren’t for my knees I would be bouncing around Greenwich Park like a gazelle. My knees are dancer’s knees and as far as they are concerned they have retired. Running downhill is not something I care to try because the retired knees are uncooperative. They squeak and click, protest and occasionally lock. They are not helpful knees. There’s a man in the park who spends an hour every morning (dressed head to toe in Lycra) running up and down a steep hill against a stopwatch. One day I will stick my foot out.
Two things that have benefited from my self-imposed hibernation have been my skin and hair. I have averaged 10 days at a stretch without any makeup, avoided the extremes of temperature associated with commuting and enthusiastic over-heating of office spaces, and improved my general health by eating smaller, more regular and better-balanced meals. My (now longer) hair sees the hairdresser and the hairdryer once a month and spends the rest of the time knotted into a bun. As a result it is shiny and soft and I’m quite proud of it. The only thing suffering is my poor, chapped nose from all those nose-drippy outings for exercise.
The thing is, you see, the more I hear about older women disappearing, the more I am determined not to, and being visible means having a degree of self-confidence which, having spent the past six months channelling my inner sloth in a daily uniform of jeans and jumpers, is slightly lacking at the moment. I don’t care about looking perfect, but I do care about looking the best I can.