PHIL CALVERT: I’m no longer the ‘Superman’ I was in my 20s

When you are 21, you have that sense of your own immortality and indestructibility. Life is long and there is plenty of time to do this and that. There is no urgency. It is a feeling that stays with you until you are comfortably into your 20s, but suddenly that 30th birthday looms and you become much more aware of the passage of the years.

I have always felt I was in my prime between the ages of 28 and 34, but undoubtedly from that time onwards I was entering into a steady spiral of decline. It started with strains and aches and pains picked up when I was playing football in the garden with the children. I was fine at the time but the next day I would really feel it and any bruises and injuries I sustained would linger for days.

Nevertheless, I like to think I kept myself pretty fit and have spent most of my working life on my feet all day, working usually at a fairly brisk pace, skipping breaks, often working long hours, over long periods without any time off. Around this I have worked in our garden, or walked the dogs or maybe gone out for a ride on my bicycle. Only the going down of the sun would make me call it a day.

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In recent years, however, I have been much more aware of the limitations of my body. It no longer likes to work at full pelt all day, every day. It wants me to take my foot off the throttle and take things a little easier. At break time it wants me to take a break, sit down for 10 minutes and have a cup of tea.

And when I come home from work, I feel no inclination to spend an hour or two in the garden before coming indoors for something to eat prior to decorating the entire first floor of the house. No, not any more. It is simply a case of lighting the fire, having a bite to eat before dozing off in the chair.

Wifey used to be pretty much the same. After coming home from work, she would clean the entire house while preparing our evening meal, before bathing the children, running off a new pair of curtains and baking some bread. If ever there was a domestic superwoman, she was it.

Maybe 10 years ago, however, she started to slow down a little, and would doze off after dinner. She still had her moments, and indeed still does, but there was a clear parting of the ways between her ambitions for the day and her ability to deliver. She wasn’t bothered any more about coming out for an early evening stroll up Pendle after work.

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Last week the poor lass fell ill with a nasty cough and cold (flu?) that has been about and she had to spend a couple of days in bed. Of course, I sailed through it without so much as a sneeze and enjoyed fussing around after her and keeping the household on an even keel showing I could cope with my own tasks at work before coming home to feed her and make sure she was comfortable.

That was last week! This week it was my turn. I felt like my strength had been sucked out of my arms and legs and my head pounded like my brain was coming loose, all very unpleasant. With things to do, I still went into work every day but early evening was much more challenging. With old Rory, simply being outside at work all day satiated his needs for exercise. Like me, over the years he had slowed down and become a sedate old chap, more than content to snore the evenings away.

Little Monty is not so easily satisfied. He trots around after me all day at Reedley but by 3 p.m. he protests his frustration and boredom by just sitting down in front of me and staring hopefully into my eyes. Being outside is not enough, he wants that big hard run at the end of the day to burn off that excess energy and he will not be denied.

Consequently, as a minimum he needs to be given an hour (two would be better) running along the canal bank at full pelt exulting in a display of supreme fitness and the exuberance of youth.....while I trundle along slowly, coughing and spluttering, in his wake, calling him back regularly to maximise the distance covered! This week, not feeling at all well and just longing for a hot bath and rest I feel sure I have been a source of disappointment to him.

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But it is all very good him wanting more, more, more. He is only just entering his prime and physically near his peak. He has speed, stamina, but above all youth on his side. He thinks he is indestructible and immortal and can keep going forever. I used to be like that. But there is life in this old dog yet.

When I shake off this cold and cough and get my strength back, with these lighter mornings, my bicycle is going to be brought out again before I go to work and I’ll give him a run for his money. He won’t know what’s hit him!

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