A Foot on the Beach

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If I’ve learned anything during the large number of years I’ve now lived, it’s that travelling under your own steam [bike or feet] in the open air helps to alleviate all kinds of problems. This is much documented, of course; but since I began to exercise with any kind of regularity [post children-in my 30s] I can vouch for the benefits.

Once upon a time I ran. I ran almost every day, from my 30s until my mid-50s. When you run almost every day it starts to become essential and a cessation of the activity is a source of stress in itself. But here is the injustice of health and ageing. Some runners are very lucky and able to continue into extreme old age. Others, like myself and Husband have had to hang up their running shoes and admit defeat. Injury has forced us off the jogging trail and on to the hiking path-or perhaps, in summer, the cycle path.

When you have overcome the bitter disappointment of giving up running, walking can take over as the meditative, cathartic activity you enjoyed before. As a writer I can drift off into the plot and characters of my current project, ponder tricky domestic issues, compose, get ideas, think. 

What, then, if walking is not possible?

Since last May I’ve been inflicted with an annoying, painful inflammation of the membrane under my foot. This inflammation is known as plantar fasciitis and I have been subjected to repeated bouts since the running years, having had steroid jabs, ultrasound treatments and physio, worn jelly pads, worn condition-appropriate footwear, religiously kept up targeted exercises and been strapped up. This time the problem is particularly stubborn and slow to respond to the twice-weekly physio I’ve opted for.

So as part of the regime I’m on for recovery I must walk on sand. This,  according to Alice, the physio is particularly beneficial if I go barefoot. Barefoot? We are now, officially in winter!

I am nevertheless fortunate in that where we live we are spoilt for beach choice and I can select from varied stretches of beach; from sheltered harbourside bays to wide expanses of sand washed by waves. Coasts are beautiful in any weather condition. A walker has only to wrap up and don appropriate footwear to appreciate a beach. A variety of wildlife abounds, now and then a curious sight, such as this alien-like skeleton adorning the sand. [In reality a dead swan].

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At the start of the regime it goes swimmingly, my foot responding well to the massage style of walking on sand and I stick to the modest distance Alice has recommended. But a subsequent,  over-ambitious walk sets me back and the offending foot complains stiffly. Baby steps then, and I have to remember I’ve had this condition [this time] since May…

 

 

When You Know you are Out of Your Depth

Amongst the plethora of entertainment, leisure activities and sports events organised by our town, which besides being a place of residence, I should add, is also a seaside resort and  tourist magnet, is a ‘long swim’. I was treated to a preview of this phenomenon yesterday evening during a ‘shortish’ cycle.

I am an admirer of those who are adept at swimming; those who are as at home in the water as they are with their two feet planted on the land. I envy them. They can dive carelessly from boats into the Aegean whilst enjoying their day cruises in Turkey while I can only watch from the safety of the deck and pretend I’ve a water allergy. They can fling themselves wantonly into the waves and disappear into the froth as they submerge, reappearing without spluttering, coughing, shrieking in terror or vomiting up the seawater they’ve ingested. This expertise all looks cool and elegant. Even in a hotel swimming pool fellow guests complete slow, unhurried lengths from shallow to deep and back, flipping over to view something or undertaking that mysterious ‘treading water’ thing that I’ve never mastered.

It isn’t that I am unable to swim. I can. In my twenties I spent all of one winter learning in a class of adults, shivering in an Olympic sized pool, taught with great patience by swimming teachers who understood the panic experienced by those who have lived all the way to adulthood without having mastered the aquatic arts. I kicked, I glided, I even dived with enough encouragement. But the incontrovertible fact remains: I do not enjoy the water. I do not like to have my face submerged. I cannot throw caution to the wind and submit my stature to depths deeper than its height.

In circumstances where the temperature is so hot I need to cool off I may climb laboriously down a ladder into the shallow end of a swimming pool, providing there are no more than about two other adults there-[no children-children splash ]. I might hang there, clinging to the ladder for a few moments before climbing out. I might even undertake a cautious flap across the width at the shallow end, within reach of the side, executing my undignified, unorthodox version of breast stroke which involves numerous, panicky gyrations with my head stuck above the water. On reaching the other side I grab whatever ledge is there, make for the ladder and thence to the safety of the sun-bed.

Most people can swim these days, having learned at school or from holidays abroad. But I was raised in a small village by non-swimming parents. Our holidays were camping jaunts taken in farmers’ fields and a day at the seaside was an occasion involving buckets, spades, sandwiches, rolled up trousers and knotted handkerchiefs on heads.

There is one positive outcome of my land-lubbing childhood: it is that as soon as my own children could walk, and long before they started school, I ensured beyond any doubt that they learned to swim, so whatever sins of parenthood I may have wrought upon them they have no qualms about taking to the water.