Could Do Better

This morning, on the way to work, I had the most affirming and uplifting encounter I’ve had in months.  I virtually skipped down the hill to the office.  But I’m not supposed to write about that.  I’m supposed to be writing something about  children or parenting.  My kids’ book Cats on the Run is coming out shortly, you see, and I’m supposed to be directing all attention to that.  All blog-posts are now to be part of a ‘comfortably tenacious’ marketing-campaign persuading you to pre-order copies of Cats on the Run for anyone you’ve ever heard of who is eight-to-ten years old and can read.  And take one for yourself.  But what do I know about kids?  Agh, I’m not supposed to reveal that to the book-buying public!  What I mean is, that will have to wait because I’m so keen to share with you what happened on the way to work.

My friend X is an impressive bloke.  Not only is he a demon skier, a good laugh and an impressive athlete, he’s also a judge.  Yes, a judge.  A proper one, with a wig and a wingsuit and everything.   But most impressive of all, X is a Really Nice Guy.  This last achievement, by the way, is the greatest in my opinion.  Being an RNG is not easy in this crazy mixed-up world and those of you who manage it are, I think, under-rated.  I always remember at my over-achieving Uncle David’s funeral how everyone praised him to the heavens.  Not because he’d climbed the Foreign Office ladder so high that they made him a Lord, but more because of what a lovely fella he was.  That’s something, don’t you think, to be remembered for  how nice you were more than anything else?  I imagine X will be remembered the same way (although I hope his funeral is a long way off) even though by then, no doubt, his achievements will be no less extraordinary.

So what did X and I have an open heart-to-heart about over coffee in the law-courts café this morning?  How he couldn’t help feeling he should have achieved more in life.  How media and society seemed to conspire to remind him he should be richer, slimmer, faster, more successful, more important.  This is a man who chose the law so he could help people.  He spends days fretting over what is best for a young offender, whether to send him away to give him a lesson, or give him a second chance hoping he’ll mend his ways.  Lies awake at night worrying in case someone he’s given too a light sentence might commit another crime.  And he wishes he was more important?

‘Yeah, well, I see colleagues being made judges in higher courts and think maybe I should have aimed higher.’

He was amazed when I told him I thought all middle-aged men go through this.  Seemed elated to think it wasn’t that he should have done more, but that he is hard-wired to think like that.  I was excited because it proved my theory that, no matter what you achieve, at a certain greying-age boom! you feel like a failure.  We both kept smiling at the recognition we saw in each other (me and a judge, imagine), building on each other’s opinions until we’d formed a hypothesesis:  the more successful you are, the harder you’ve had to fight to get to where you’ve got, the bigger the failure you feel, no matter what you’ve achieved.  Because your feelings are not a symptom of your lack of success, they are in fact the cause of success.  That ‘I must do more’ attitude is what got you where you are and turning it off now is so, so difficult.

Do you realise what this means?  It means I’m not a middling middle-manager nor a justifiably unpublished writer who’s never really achieved much in life.  I am, in fact, a typical over-achieving male who cannot, by definition, ever be content with his achievements.   And so are you.  You’re amazing, look at what you’ve achieved.  If you don’t believe me, read the above three times again.  On the other hand,  if you haven’t yet gone through your mid-life crisis, maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about.  But if you know any man between the ages of forty and fifty who isn’t looking so chirpy recently, please share this with him.  Tell him he is not alone.  Even the kindest of judges judge themselves too harshly.


The Downside of Upbeat Australia

I was in the queue in a canteen today, plastic tray in hand, when I noticed something had gone wrong with the food-ordering system.  Ahead of me were five or six other blokes, each with a plastic tray of their own, looking over the counter into the kitchen.  Four of the staff there were moving around in a gaggle, like eight-year-olds on a football pitch, discussing what a docket meant and looking for the relevant food-order, all four of them in one place, then all four of them in another.  The other five or six kitchen-staff were looking on, or chatting about what had happened, or staring into space, whilst behind me more people grabbed trays and joined the queue.  I caught the eye of the guy ahead of me.
‘What are they doing?’ he said.  ‘What are any of them actually doing?’
‘I want to film them’ said the man ahead of him.  ‘I could use them in a training course about how not to run a kitchen.’
We all laughed, and then one of the kitchen-staff broke away from the gaggle and came over to the counter.
‘Anyone waiting?’ she said to the lengthening queue.

Now, if this was the UK, someone – anyone of us – would have made a sarcastic comment.  ‘No love, we’re just keeping out of the cold’.  Or tutted and rolled their eyes, or even asked to speak to the manager.  Some of the queue had been waiting twenty minutes for their lunch, we were all getting hangry.  But this is not the UK, this is Australia.  So I said ‘Yes, actually’, someone behind me sniggered and that was that.  Anything more would have been completely inappropriate.

There’s a stereotype that the Australians think of the English as ‘whingeing poms’ but you don’t actually hear that expression very often.  In fact, I’d forgotten it was even a thing until I first went back to the UK for a visit.  I’d been out of the country long enough for England to be a bit foreign to me already and, apart from the crowds and the dirt, the biggest shock was the extent to which, oh my lord, we poms really do whinge.  Not ‘whinge’ as in the voice of a five-year-old asking for a treat, but ‘whinge’ as in complain.  We complain all the time.  It’s our birthright, but more than that, it’s how we bond.  If you’re sitting at a bus stop in England and you don’t complain about the weather and the bus service and the graffiti and youth today and the government, you’re just not making an effort.  But you try that in Australia and, weather excepted (Australians love complaining about the weather), you’ll find yourself facing a barrage of ‘look on the bright side’ responses.  ‘Can’t complain, listen to us, we’re the lucky country, you’ve got to laugh’.  One of my favourite Aussie expressions is ‘suck it up princess’.  It’s used largely with kids and what it really means is ‘don’t bother whingeing because no-one’s going to listen to you, and even if they do, they’ll call you girly and spoilt.’    It’s fantastically effective, but don’t try it at home.  I said it to the senior partner a while ago and I’m still making amends. 

The sunny-side attitude which results from all this not-complaining is one of my favourite things about living in Australia.  There’s a widespread ‘can-do’ approach which really does make this a land of opportunity.  I would rather be surrounded by Aussies in a disaster than any other nationality.  I imagine them enjoying it, seeing who could prove themselves to be the most upbeat, solution-focused, team-playing, disaster-overcoming hero.    A friend of mine was once part of a tour-group which got lost in the Indonesian jungle and, before she could stop herself, she shouted out ‘Don’t worry, I’m Australian!’  She laughed about it later, but also pointed out that she was the one who worked out how to use the river and a paperclip to navigate them back to civilisation.

But, like all things in life, there is a flipside.  In a culture which doesn’t complain you get a very different type of service than, for example, in the UK.  In England, if you need to call a call-centre or a plumber or the tax-office, you’re almost guaranteed to speak to someone utterly miserable.  They’ll tut and sigh and imply you’re to blame, but once that’s out of the way they’ll probably do what they’ve said they’ll do.   In Australia, it’s the opposite.  Your assistant will be cheery, charming, upbeat and completely unreliable.  ‘You’ll get it in four working days!’  No I won’t.  I never expect anyone to turn up when they say they will unless I ring them a week, then two days before, then that morning to remind them.  ‘Oh, today was it?  Yeah, yeah, should be fine.  I hope.’  At work I’ve got a reputation for being that weird guy who expects people to stick to deadlines.  And anytime I engage a builder or a contractor or an estate agent, I get asked if I’m a lawyer, wanting everything agreed to in writing.  It’s not that I’m (that) anal, it’s just that, out here, things won’t happen otherwise.  And, let’s face it, if things go wrong, I can’t complain. 

No-one here ever really complains about anything (except the weather).  ‘She’ll be right, mate’ they say.  Which doesn’t mean she will.  It means ‘hey, the sun’s shining and surf’s up and life is good and it’s beautiful here, so maybe you should just chill out and enjoy yourself.’  You have to admit, they’ve got a point. 

I’ll confess, I’m nervous writing this post and in two minds as to whether to publish it or not.   It’s so negative you see, it feels like I’m whingeing about people not whingeing enough.  Worse than that, it implies a criticism of my beloved adopted country.  Friends over here will read it and tell me that if I don’t like it, I should go back to where I came from.  (I challenge any Aussie reading this not to react with that phrase, you so know you want to).

So let me finish on a positive note.  I am, after all, an almost-Aussie myself.  And the anti-complaining culture does provide me with a wonderful opportunity: whenever an Australian friend / colleague / complete stranger says anything less than positive, I can put on my best and loudest English accent and call out ‘Oh do stop whingeing!’ 

And stand well back.


Porn Free

I’ve always had a strange relationship with pornography. 

Exhibit A:  I was conceived as a result of my mum reading a dirty book (banned at the time) called Fanny Hill.  It made her so horny that she jumped my dad as soon as he came to bed, ignoring his defence that the rhythm method (which they were using to avoid a third child) meant they should wait at least a few days.  Nine months later, I arrived. 

Exhibit B:  when we lived in Roden Avenue (a house we left when I was six), I would wait for my room-sharing brother to fall asleep so I could do a sexy striptease dance without him seeing. 

Exhibit C: I first learnt of the Battle of Agincourt (the improbable English-Welsh victory; how it changed warfare forever; how it led to the V-sign) from an article in Mayfair magazine, which my mother read aloud to me whilst perched on the edge of my bed. 

Exhibit D:  My brother and I were allowed free access to Mayfair – and my mother’s other jaz-mags – from a very young age, on the understanding we only looked at the pictures because ‘the words are denigrating to women’. 

Exhibit E:  Actually, I’ve decided not to tell you about Exhibit E.  Get me drunk some time.

On recounting the things above, the main thing that occurs to me is this:  ‘What the f*** was I / my mother thinking?’   Well, I don’t know about mum, but the asterisks were pretty prevalent in my mind, so it’s not surprising that when I hit my early twenties and discovered there was such a thing as Gay Porn, I was immediately…  let’s say ‘interested’.  As we all were at that age, let’s admit it (in porn, not specifically gay porn, I mean).  But the thing was, you didn’t get to see it too often back then.  You needed a VCR, a super-sharp pair of ears and access to a video store where you didn’t have to go for your Schwarzenegger.   Porn was like grass back then, controlled by inconvenience. 

But then along came the internet.  I reckon that, apart from online-dating, viewing porn is the single biggest impact the web has had on society.  Shopping – you still do it, you just do it at home.  Gaming – you still do it, you just do it with strangers in Iceland.  Self-diagnosis – you still do it, it’s just easier to find spurious evidence.  But porn?  Well, porn used to be a rarity for most of us.  Difficult to access, difficult to find the coincidences that made it go undetected (six hours between trains in Paris anyone?), difficult to find your niche.  But now, everyone’s at it.  When Rolf Harris’s court-case recently revealed his porn habits, it wasn’t ‘Eugh, what a dirty old man looking at porn’, it was hours of deliberation on whether the girls in the videos looked under eighteen or not.  ‘Oh,’ I overheard someone say at the bus stop, ‘that happens to everyone.  You click on something and you’re a few minutes in before you work out how young they are.’  Society has changed.

So what?  Well, two things really. 

Firstly, sticky addiction to anything is a problem.  My definition of addiction, by the way, is ‘when you don’t want to do something but you keep doing it anyway’.  (I made that up, I think.)  By that definition I reckon I had a bit of a porn habit up until twelve months ago.  Not that I was viewing it for hours a day, I was just viewing it more often than I really wanted to.  It got to the point where just opening my laptop made my heart-race faster – like when you walk past a Dunkin’ Donuts and smell all that sugar.  But I identified it and stopped it.  Now I have a 15-minutes once-a-week maximum .  And no, I’m not going to say which day of the week it happens on.  Spank-the-monkey Monday, Choke-the-chicken Tuesday, Wanking Wednesday, Throttling Thursday, Feeding-the-pigeons Friday, Satisfaction Saturday, Sinday…..whichever it is, it works for me.  Pandora’s box is safely shut the rest of the time. 

Again, so what?  Well, it’s the second thing that bothers me more.   Studies have repeatedly shown that porn works is that by exciting you beyond the norm.  And like any drug, your version of what ‘the norm’ is changes rapidly.  That’s why, fellas, catalogue underwear-pages just don’t do it anymore.  Things have to be a bit more extreme than last week in order to get us going.  In the gay porn world, for example, double-penetration used to be a taboo, few ‘stars’ ever agreeing do it.  Now it’s a standard scene.  (I reckon it’s only a matter of time before somebody manages a triple and I really hope I’m not there to see it when they do).  This is the reason the adverts playing beside the thing you want to watch are getting more and more shocking.  Because that’s what’s driving click-throughs.  And where does this all end? 

No idea, I don’t want to find out, but I can’t help but wondering this:  maybe a fair amount of the sicker stuff we hear about (and see adverts for) is driven by people who didn’t used to be ‘sick’, but just want to see something even more freaky and unusual than they have before? 

Maybe not, maybe I’m being naïve.  Either way, I think it’s a good idea to keep a limit of how much porn you watch, if for no other reason than keeping your expectations realistically managed.  I saw ‘Under the Skin’ the other day (highly recommended) and was a) shocked to see erections in mainline cinema and b) shocked by how normally sized they were.  I’d forgotten how, unless you’re qualified for porn  yourself, it really distorts your reality of what people actually look like.  It’s terrible to think most straight guys never see a normal-sized guy with a hard-on.  You must all be fucking paranoid.

Why am I writing this blog?  Because I saw a guy on the street the other day walking to work whilst watching porn on his phone.  That’s addiction.  And, no matter how candid we all are these days, everyone’s embarrassed about admitting they wank.  So I think we need to talk about it.  To learn what’s healthy and what’s not, and how to distinguish between the two before we all go blind.


Holy Fruit! Fruit boxes and solar imagery

Love this blog.



In the Sacred Heart image in Christian icongraphy Jesus opens his cloak to reveal his heart, which is floating outside his chest. It has a crown of thorns and a crucifix jammed in the top with some little flames licking about the cross. It is not the weirdness of disembodied hovering heart that constitutes my interest in this common religious image though, but the rays of light that are coming from behind it.


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Stay out of the shops!

There were two reasons why I was excited, a few months ago, to walk into my second favourite bookshop.  Firstly, the senior partner wasn’t with me.  This meant I was to have the rare pleasure of slowly pondering the tomes without him huffily checking his watch and telling me I don’t need any more cookbooks.  Secondly, Berkelouw Books has a toilet, so I knew I could relieve the effect any bookstore or library has on my digestive system, and then carry on browsing, clench-free.  I was looking for something new, an author I’d not read before, maybe a whole new genre.  So I asked the two assistants behind the counter for their opinion.  They looked at me with blank faces and there was an awkward silence, until one of them said: ‘Er…I don’t really read.  Much.’

I resisted.  Honestly, I did.

Then I said:  ‘You know, I don’t have to come in here.  I can buy any book in this shop, online, for less than half the price and have it delivered, free of charge, to my door.  Or I can use my kindle and have it instantly in a format which is easier to read than a book.  And cheaper.  But I come in here because I like this bookshop and I want to support it.  And because it provides me with a shopping experience.  So don’t tell me you don’t read, much, because all you’re really saying is that you’re completely unqualified to do your job, both in terms of experience and attitude.’

Of course, I didn’t say this in the shop.  I said it about twenty minutes later on the way home, and I said it in my head, but I think she got the point.

Here’s another one.  Last winter I had the shopportunity to get a new ski jacket.  That’s a big purchase, so I did lots of research online and carefully chose the one I wanted.  Then I went to a store in Sydney and almost cried to find it was a whopping $900.  Back online, I found it in the States for $300.  Not on sale, that’s just how much it cost.  Except, guess what, they don’t sell online to Australia.  So I paid a shipping firm in California $10 to buy it for me and another $20 to deliver it to my door.

Then, on Sunday, I was in David Jones.  By the way, I don’t spend my life shopping, honestly, these examples cover twelve months.  Anyway, three shop assistants – three! – chatted around me as I struggled to reach a teapot at the back of the shelf.  Now, I know they were all on the tired side of fifty, and I know it was a Sunday,  and I know department-store lighting plays merry hell with your skin, but all the same.  Ladies, come on, the job title is Shop Assistant, there’s a bit of a clue in there.  Anyway, then I saw the price and thought ‘I’m not paying $345 for that!’, came home and found it for $119 online.

If you’re reading this in Australia you’ll have your own examples.  For the rest of you, people in Sydney swap these stories almost as much as we talk about property prices.   Surprisingly, both conversations are great social levellers.  This is because everybody hates being ripped off and nobody can believe how much property costs.  Investors in their sixties cashing in their pensions to buy an investment;  couples in their fifties moving into their last house;  people in their forties looking for something they can pay off before they retire;  thirty-somethings trying to get on the ladder.  We all struggle to believe what we have to pay.  And the twenty-somethings?  Don’t be silly, no-one in their twenties can even think about buying property over here.

Recently, though,  something interesting has started happening.

Firstly, the guilt at buying online  – ‘I know I should by local but it’s just too exxy’  – has begun to assuage.  This is partly because of the price difference, but mostly it’s because of the appalling level of service.  You feel less guilty threatening someone’s job if they can’t be arsed doing that job in the first place.  (On the other hand, I know full well I could get my sports-shoes cheaper online, but those guys at The Running Company are knowledgeable, helpful and charming, so I’ll always go there.)

Secondly, a few people have started whispering that Australia ‘needs a recession’.  After all, we haven’t had one in over twenty years.  Then property prices would fall.  Shops would learn to give a fair price, and service would have to improve because people would be competing for jobs and sales.  This kind of talk makes me curious: why are we Australians the only people in the world to call it the GFC  (that’s Global Financial Crisis for readers overseas), when we’re one of the few countries to prove it wasn’t a global phenomenon?

But, more than that, talk of ‘needing a recession’ makes me very uncomfortable.  It’s not as bad as saying we need a war, but it’s on the same scale of Be Careful What You Wish For.  Because let’s look at it another way:  maybe I should just stop my white whine.  “Boo-hoo!  I have to go online to get a good deal on a top-end ski-jacket.”  “Boo-hoo, a twenty-year old science student working part-time in a bookstore isn’t more widely read than me.”  “Boo-hoo, ageing shop assistants aren’t so desperate for commission they’ll massage my ego.”

Property prices are different:  it’s a national disgrace that successive governments have done nothing to make housing affordable for young families, instead structuring taxes to favour wealthy investors.  But the rest is just whining.   Everything being expensive is the price we pay for living in a country with a decent minimum wage, close to full employment and half the raw materials China needs to build its cities.  We need a recession?  Give me a break.  Say that to anyone in the US or Europe and see how they react.  We are the lucky country and we should never, ever forget it.

Anyway, must dash.  The postman’s at the door with some Australian wine I found cheaper online in London.


The Kids Need To Know

We have a legend in my family, a grain of truth cultured over the years into a pearl of a story, about the day my brother came home from sex education at school. He’d have been about ten, I guess, which sets this story in 1975, my mother between husbands, furiously feminist and making sure everybody knew it. I remember holding mum’s hand in the supermarket in those days, listening to her persuade strangers that if they were doing the shopping, and carrying it home, then it was their husbands and children who should bloody-well cook the stuff. Anyway, when Jonathan got home that day and said ‘We had sex education in school’, my mother, of course, quizzed him about it, just as she did with me a few years later. (Mum: ‘Anything you didn’t know already?’ Me: ‘I didn’t know men had periods too.’ Turns out I’d got confused about ejaculation.) Anyway, long story short, the next morning my mother is in my brother’s headmaster’s office, banging her fist on the table and demanding an explanation of why, at no point, not once, was the clitoris mentioned in her son’s sex education class. ‘You’re going to ruin the next generation of men too!’ she yelled. Years later when, at the slightly more appropriate age of seventeen, I confessed to my mother that I wasn’t quite sure where it was either, she nearly crashed the car trying to show me. With hand-gestures on the dashboard I mean.
About two years after that near-miss in the car, I taught myself to type. I can’t remember why. I was also learning the alphabet backwards and how to shuffle cards, I probably just saw someone doing it and decided I wanted to learn. It was a good choice. I made more money through my twenties from being able to type than I did from either of my degrees.
And the connection between the keyboard and clitoris? It’s about what we teach our children. I have to confess right now that I haven’t been in a school in thirty years, so maybe all the stuff I’m about to talk about is actually taught to kids these days.  But I doubt it. For example, are we telling kids they should never ever just pay the minimum amount mentioned on their credit card bill? My step-dad, a bank manager, taught me that at fifteen and despite all the other financial mess I ever got into, I never had a big card bill growing fat on compound interest. And do we teach kids the basics of economics, so they can understand how exchange rates, inflation and the stockmarket impact their daily lives? Do we teach them to deconstruct adverts, to see how they are being manipulated to believe in lifestyles that don’t exist by people who just want their money? Oh, and don’t start me on photoshop. Please tell me there are schools somewhere which show teenagers, with slideshows, how celebrities really look and how they look once they’ve been photoshopped into the shape we’re all supposed to be. (Mylie Cyrus has thighs! The man on the front of Men’s Health doesn’t actually look like that!).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking morality here, that’s a whole different debate. Morality is akin to religion and, next thing you know, you’ve got men and women who’ve foresworn ever having an orgasm giving out relationship advice, or looking after small children. No, I’m talking about basic practical stuff everyone needs to know. Like over-paying on your mortgage, checking ingredients before you buy, the basics of personal hygiene, what plants are growing around you, how to cook five good dinners, painting a wall, what sugar does to your body, how to cope with tough times. I’d love to hear your additions to this syllabus.
So where did you and I learn all this stuff? From our parents probably, or maybe just life. Same place we learnt to ride a bicycle, make small talk at parties, persuade petty bureaucrats to do us a favour. But isn’t that leaving it all to luck? Isn’t the point of school to give the next generation the greatest chance of success? After all, if school doesn’t teach kids about life and how to cope with it, there’s a good chance they’ll learn from TV, movies, the internet and magazines. And if that’s the case, heaven help us all.


Where’s Willy?

I lost my penis again last week.  To be fair, it is that time of year, but it’s always disconcerting nonetheless.

I was seventeen the first time it happened.  I’d just got back from a school exchange to Germany, utterly bowled over by the experience of another family’s life.  Klaus, my exchange partner, was blonde, blue-eyed and rode a motorbike to school.  His mother wore platinum-blonde hair and a housecoat which somehow emphasised her 1950’s breasts.  His father drove a Mercedes, looked like he could wrestle a bull (or had just eaten one perhaps) and disapproved of everything that didn’t involve hard work.  The whole family was so utterly big and German that just being around them made me want to invade Poland.

But it took me no more than a week to discover what made them so imposing.  Meat and bread.  Bread and meat. Every morning and every evening we’d eat cold meats and schwarzbrot, toastbrot, vollkombrot and weissbrot.  At lunchtimes we had pork or beef or lamb with potatoes or dumplings or green vegetables or all three.  All with a good slice of heavily buttered bread.  Never in my life had I been so completely fed and when I got back to grey England I discovered something shocking.  When I stood to urinate, if I looked down, gasp!  I couldn’t actually see my penis.

Now, naturally, if you suck in your belly you can probably always see your little fella.  (I say ‘probably’ because there’s this bloke at work, and I’m telling you, unless he has a handy assortment of mirrors, I reckon he’d struggle to pick out his todger at a line-up.)  And, after a certain age, of course, the belly-suck is an involuntary muscle reaction, like the gag reflex or turning down loud music.  Even if there’s no other person or reflective surface in sight, I just need to pull at my t-shirt and ding, my well-hidden abdominals have crushed my lunch uncomfortably inwards.

So, when judging whether I need to worry about my belly, I have to breathe deeply, relax my stomach without pushing it out, look down calmly and…oh bugger, where’s he gone this time?

Naturally, this happens every Christmas and holiday.  But when it happened last week, I had a strangely worrying thought.  What if it didn’t matter any more?  What if (adopt Carrie Bradshaw voice): in a world where the whole point is being happy with yourself, can you, at last, let yourself go?

It’s very tempting.  When I was seventeen and winky first disappeared, I think I may have missed a between-meal snack and, er, gone for a walk.  Hey presto, I was flat-stomached again.  Roll on thirty years and I’m looking at 12km of pavements twice a week.  Unless, of course, it’s time to become a mamil?  Surely not. Now, I don’t know if the Middle Aged Man In Lycra thing is big where you are, but it’s massive in Sydney.  You can’t drive to Dunkin Donuts without passing flocks of fit fellas in their forties and fifties, wearing matching pinks and shouting ‘tour de this’ and ‘tour de that’, pedalling for their lives as if they can speed away from the next prostate test.  The threat of road-cycling is hanging over me like golf and gardening.  I know I’ll have to like it in the end but I’m just not ready yet.  Maybe I’ll just get fat?  Maybe I’ve earned the right to sit on the sofa and watch the cricket over a beer balanced on my belly.

Maybe.  But then Saturday came round and, despite the rain, I didn’t want to be the first to chicken out of surfing.  Which was when it happened.  Face in the ocean, arms and legs pulling me towards the rain-sodden sunrise, air and spray in my face and eyes and ears and boom!  It was like an evil spell had been broken – the bucket of water thrown over the witch – for suddenly I could see the truth.  We don’t keep running and swimming and cycling and gyming and whatever-it-is-you-doing because we want to look good.  We do it because it feels so bloody fantastic.  Oh yeah, baby.  I’m going to be fit forever.  With or without willy in view.