Xmas Epilogue or Yuletide Eulogy

James Proclaims (4)

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Today is January 6th and by any definition Christmas is now over. Except for all the masses of chocolate, wine and beer that appear to be in plentiful supply chez moi. This surplus is partly due to the fact that I was, for much of the festive period, quite unwell and indeed on medication, so I was less inclined to consume it all as readily as I might under normal circumstances. However, I did still consume a fair bit of chocolate and, once I’d finished with medication (circa New Year’s Eve), I also upped my alcohol intake so the remaining produce is partly still around because there was just a lot of it to begin with.

People that I know seem to be aware that I like all of the above consumables, probably  because I tell them this at every available opportunity. Consequently a lot of the gifts I receive tend to be of that ilk. And I receive a surprising amount of gifts for someone as curmudgeonly as I imagine myself to be.

It’s ok though; my New Year’s Resolutions, such as they are, did not include going on a diet. It wouldn’t work. I like food and drink too much to ever really be committed to not consuming it.

I’d rather exercise, which I am, once again, doing quite a bit. I’m not quite up to swimming, which is currently my preferred method of calorie burning, because a recent spell of consecutive ear infections has resulted in medical advice to avoid the pool for a few weeks. But I am going to the gym, which is fine. Not fun, but functional. Functional has the word fun in it. But they are not synonyms.

Today, though, I return to work after having had the last two weeks off.

As previously mentioned, I was quite ill for the last fortnight. As were my wife and child. We did our best to enjoy the festivities but my home was not a happy place. Still, I’d rather relive the last two weeks in perpetuity than go back to work.

Insofar as I have to do any job, I don’t especially object to my job but in truth I can’t imagine a scenario whereby doing any job would be better than not having to work at all.

Some people suggest that not having a job would be boring.

Those people are wrong.

I could happily fill my time without the need for a job. I’m not saying I’d contribute anything valuable to society, but I would be happy enough.

But for some reason my mortgage provider expects me to make ‘regular payments’ to them just because they once lent me quite a lot of money so I could buy a house. It’s extortion really.

But as no-one is prepared to give me money for sitting around in my Christmas onesie, eating chocolate and watching bad movies, I have had to pack up said onesie for another year and don a shirt and tie again. And it’s not even the ‘fun’ Christmas-themed tie that I ‘hilariously’ wore the week before Christmas.

But the chocolate-eating will continue. I have enough to last me until Easter and we all know what happens then.

And alongside the new influx of chocolate, there will be an eggs-cuse to crack lots of egg-cellent yolks, which I shell be egg-static about.

Too soon?

 

 

 

 

 

Hoping For A Twixmas Miracle

James Proclaims (4)

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As we’re roughly in the midpoint of that weird period between Christmas and New Year, known to some as Twixmas (and this is not because the only chocolates left in the mostly-eaten tub of Celebrations at this point are the rubbish Twix ones), I thought I’d take some time to reflect on the festive period so far.

It’s not been a vintage year in the Proclaims household. We’ve all been ill since Christmas Eve. My ear-infection appears to be improving thanks to the antibiotics I’m on, but I have subsequently caught Mrs Proclaims’ cold which is quite horrible and seems to have floored both of us. The littlest Proclaims is also still a bit under the weather, although her antibiotics have certainly helped her to bounce back considerably from the tonsillitis that had me taking her to A&E on Christmas morning. Indeed, were it not for the regular snot that she delights in rubbing on my Christmas-themed onesie (a fashion choice I make only at Christmas and one which I carry off with all the dignity you’d expect of an overweight forty year old wearing an oversized baby grow) and an intermittent cough, you’d imagine she was operating at full capacity.

She certainly seems to be wreaking havoc wherever she roams which is normally par for the course. She spared us this destruction on Christmas Eve and the big day itself, but she did cover me and the sofa in vomit. On balance that was probably worse.

Most of the time I go a little feral during the Twixmas period but this year I’ve really let myself go. I had been planning on having a very different sort of Christmas break. I’d been planning on doing lots of swimming, which I have been doing quite a lot since I finished my MA back in April. But an ear infection means you can’t go swimming. So I joined a gym. But I’m currently too ill to do that either.

I can’t drink alcohol at the moment – apparently that would not sit well with my medication.

I suppose that is some mitigation for the lack of exercise.

But there is still a lot of bad food around.

And I’m eating it.

They do say ‘feed a cold’.

But now my cold is currently so well-fed it probably has gout.

And it seems to be enjoying the lifestyle because it doesn’t appear to be inclined to go anywhere anytime soon.

Still, I expect I’ll be better in a few days.

Just in time to make some New Year’s Resolutions.

One of which will to never be ill again.

 

 

Mind Over Body

James Proclaims (4)

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As I’ve mentioned in one or more of my previous ponderous posts, I’m currently in the process of attempting (but not really succeeding) to write the dissertation bit of my MA.

In truth it’s not actually my MA.

Not yet.

I need to write a dissertation first.

I also have a full-time job, because I haven’t yet worked out a way of not having a job and still being able to pay my mortgage.

Even for someone who is motivated and academically inclined, writing a dissertation alongside having a full-time job is quite hard.

And it would certainly be a stretch to describe me as either motivated or academically inclined.

I’m not stupid (or possibly I’m so stupid that I don’t realise that I’m stupid) but academia and I have never really gotten on too well.

Occasionally I have shown the potential to be an academic. Throughout school, my undergrad days and even at times on this MA course, I have demonstrated that, when I put my mind to it, I can achieve grades at the more impressive end of the scale. However, these flashes of brilliance are all too often followed by mediocrity and in truth I’m far more likely to flirt with grades at the less impressive end of the scale. I normally do enough to pass, but quite often I do ‘just enough’.

Throw in a new(ish) baby (not literally obviously – I’m still a relative novice at this parenting malarkey but I’m given to understand that throwing a baby is not generally considered wise. Especially if bathwater is involved apparently) and time is a commodity I don’t have much of.

I do enjoy looking after my daughter. She can be a little demanding, often in the early hours of the morning, but she’s mostly delightful and for someone who hasn’t actually mastered the art of speaking, she has quite a lot to say, and she says it with such feeling and passion that I’m not sure actual words would add much to her soliloquies.

In order to be able to do my job to an acceptable (but rarely  exceptional) level and to be able to grind out a dissertation (that will achieve the minimum pass mark) by April, and to be able to enjoy the company of my daughter (and sometimes my wife, although in truth Mrs Proclaims are currently operating on a shift pattern with regards childcare and are rarely conscious and in each other’s company. We do enjoy a regular verbal exchange at around 3am when debating over who gets the honour of listening to our offspring’s latest early-morning orations) something has had to give.

And that has very much been exercise.

Not that I’ve ever been any more athletically inclined than I am academically inclined. But I generally do try and keep fit enough that my tendency to indulge in foods that might be considered insalubrious do as little damage to my long-term health as possible.

I’m not sure, even at my fittest, that I’ve ever really managed to get the balance of diet and exercise entirely geared towards optimum wellbeing, but in normal times I do enough good to at least mitigate the bad.

At the moment, though, the balance is swaying very much towards the bad. In attempting to secure a qualification that I don’t really need (and at this point I’m not even sure I want) I am sacrificing the short-term health of my body for the long-term benefits of my mind.

Although it’s not really clear that having an MA will bring any benefits to my mind.

Other than the fact that, assuming all goes well, from April onwards I’ll able to smugly boast to anyone that will listen that I have an MA.

When all is said and done, it’s not actually that much of a boast.

Nonetheless, and in spite of a total lack of comprehension as to what it is I’m bragging about, I’m sure that my daughter will greet the news with her usual infectious enthusiasm.

 

 

 

A Month Of Mondays

James Proclaims (4)
piggybank-472298_640.pngToday is the 7th January, which means that we’re a week into 2019. It also means that we’re almost a quarter of the way through January, which is good because January is an awful month and needs to be over as soon as possible. It’s obviously not January’s fault, you can’t blame an abstract measure of time for where it falls in the calendar. And if you could it would clearly be December’s fault, because without the excesses of Christmas I wouldn’t now be obliged (for both financial and health reasons) to live such a meagre existence for the next few weeks.

But those excesses did happen and now it’s time to tighten the metaphorical belt and strive towards being able to tighten the actual belt again. I’d like to say that for the last seven days I’ve been living a more virtuous existence, but alas there is more than enough in the way of wine and chocolate to see me well into February. I hate to let it go to waste, so instead I let it go to waist.

In reality, therefore, it’s likely to be a while before any kind of regime kicks in regarding my long-term health. I have been exercising for the last few weeks so as to mitigate some of the damage, but alas my ability to consume calories far outstrips my ability to burn them.

Fortunately for my future health, the financial limitations of January do mean that I won’t be able to purchase any more bad food for a while. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to purchase anything else either. Which is depressing and makes me want to drink wine and eat chocolate. Of which I have an abundance.

The good news is that today I go back to work after the Christmas break. I mean it’s obviously not really good news. I hate work (to be clear I don’t mean I hate my job, which has it’s ups and downs like any job, I mean I hate the entire concept of having to work – retirement can’t come soon enough but I’m a few decades away from that according to my bank statements) so I’d rather not have to go back, but when I am in work I don’t tend to drink too much wine – it’s generally frowned upon to be inebriated in the world of secondary education. I can still consume chocolate of course, but I find that when I’m in work, people expect me to, y’know, work. Which leaves little time for snacking. So, I expect January will allow me to return to my usual state of being slightly less overweight than I currently am.

I may strive towards becoming ‘not overweight’ later in the year, but one step at a time.

In a metaphorical sense I worry about taking one step forward and two steps backwards but in a physical sense that would burn at least as many calories as three steps forward.

I think there’s a lesson for us all in there somewhere.

But I’ve got no idea what it is.

All That Twitters Is Not Trolled

James Proclaims (4)

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As part of my never ending quest to be able to have my cake and eat it, and then have another slice of cake and eat that too, I have recently taken up swimming.

I mean I had swum before, I used to do it quite a lot as a child, and then for a brief period during my early twenties, but in recent years I have done very little pool-based exercise.

This is mostly because of a lack of pool in which to do that exercise.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of them about, but swimming pools often have erratic opening hours, which don’t fit in with my requirements.

Also other people tend to use them.

Which is a problem.

I love swimming. It’s probably my favourite way to burn calories. It doesn’t even feel like proper exercise  – I find it quite relaxing, almost therapeutic, as I glide through the water, thinking about all the guilt-free cake I’ll be able to consume once I’ve finished.

But ideally I would always have the entire pool to myself.

I really don’t like sharing with others.

It’s a problem that I have in many areas of my life, but it’s particularly problematic with swimming pools.

I think it’s because, during the aforementioned period in my early twenties when I did quite a bit of swimming, I often had the entire pool to myself. It was a serendipitous combination of that particular pool having quite generous opening times and me having a low-paid job with antisocial working hours. I might have been stuck at work while others were in bed, but it did mean I had a lot of free time when others were working their more sociable 9-5s.

And the pool was often quiet when I was free.

And I got used to that state of affairs.

But these days I work the same hours as the vast majority of the rat race and so  when I want to swim, others also want to swim.

And this means I have to share the pool with them.

If I could guarantee I would at least get a lane to myself, I could probably tolerate others in the pool, but even this modest luxury is rarely available.

So for most of my adult life I’ve exercised in other ways, even though I’d prefer to be swimming.

It’s my own fault, a character flaw I need to address, but one I struggle to overcome.

However I have recently discovered a not-too-expensive facility which doesn’t require a huge deviation on my journey to work, and at this facility, if I get the timing right, I rarely I have to share the swimming pool with more than one other person.

Unfortunately to get the timing ‘right’ I have to get there quite early.

As in 6am early.

Although this is clearly madness, in most respects there has been little in the way of significant change to my daily routine, but I have been starting my daily commute  with a slightly different radio show playing in my car.

For the last few years my radio station of choice has been Radio 4, and I mostly listen to the Today programme on my way to work. This is a predominantly news-based show – Radio 4 does not play music. I don’t listen to Radio 4 because I particularly want to keep up-to-date with current affairs, it’s just the latest stop on a nomadic radio journey I’ve been taking since I decided I was too old to listen to Radio 1 anymore. I did continue listening to Radio 1 for a few years after I outgrew their target demographic (which is 15-29 I believe) but there came a point in my early thirties when I knew I had finally become too old  – and that’s because it started to really get on my nerves. I tried Radio 2 for a bit, but while I find some shows on Radio 2 tolerable, it does try and be all things to all people which means it’s only occasionally in line with my particular tastes. As with all people who think they’re cooler than they really are, Radio 6 is probably my natural home, but that’s an exclusively digital station which can’t be picked up on my exclusively analogue car radio.

So Radio 4 it is for now. The Today show is perfectly tolerable, it never hurts to know what’s going on in the world, and, depending on what time I get out of work, the drive home usually offers up something interesting too.

But the show that’s caught my attention on my recent early morning drives to the swimming pool, is charmingly anachronistic.

It’s a short emission called Tweet of the Day. The first time I heard it, I presumed it was referencing the giant social media behemoth that so dominates the news these days.

But rather than offering up the latest moronities from the POTUS, or the pithy views of other social commentators, Tweet of the Day is a show about birds. Actual birds. And the sounds they make.

Which is really quite a nice way to start the day.

Good Intentions, Bad Results

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This morning I didn’t shower
Because I wanted to exercise
And it seemed pointless to shower
Before I exercised

But the day went on
And I didn’t exercise
Because the requisite motivation
Escaped me

And everytime I found motivation
Something else came up
Like meals
Meals got in the way
Because you can’t exercise
Immediately after eating
But you’ve got to eat right?

And other tasks needed doing
And you can’t neglect your life
While you’re waiting to find motivation
To do something you don’t want to do
But once you’ve started a task
You can’t just stop
Because you want or need to do something else
Otherwise nothing would get finished

So the day went on
And jobs got done
And food was eaten
And it wasn’t a bad day per se
But I didn’t exercise
And so I didn’t shower either
Which seems a gross oversight
With the benefit of hindsight

It’s The Taking Part That Counts

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Mike wiped the sweat from his brow, and looked at his crestfallen team-mates who were gathered round him for his half-time talk. It was not going well, they were being out-thought, outplayed and simply outclassed by their opponents.  As team captain, it was his job to re-motivate the boys, lift their spirits and get them pumped for the second half.

“Come on guys,” he said, “we’re still in this. We just need to tighten up at the back and get the ball to Darryl.”

Darryl, who was by far and away the team’s best player, and was more than gratified by his captain’s faith in him, still felt a reality check was in order.

“Mike mate, we’re 10-0 down,” he said, “I don’t think we’re still in this at all.”

“Come on Darryl, we need to be more positive,” chided Mike sternly.

“No, I mean obviously, I want to be positive,” acknowledged Darryl, “but I mean, I think we’ve misjudged this a bit – they are quite a lot better than us.”

Mike siged. He knew what Darryl was getting at. When they’d first contemplated entering a five-a-side league, a few weeks back in the pub, there had been some concerns expressed that the sum talent of the team didn’t really amount to much. Darryl was fine, Pete was not without skill, although a little out of shape, and Roger was certainly keen, if not entirely what you’d describe as gifted. Eddie, Pete’s brother-in-law, was a reluctant recruit who’d only agreed to turn up because he ‘owed Pete a favour’ and there was certainly no guarantee he’d be back for future fixtures. As for Mike himself, well he was definitely the least able player out of the five. But he was enthusiastic and a natural leader. Or, at least, he was the only one who could actually be bothered to sign them up to a league.

Unfortunately Mike had rather misjudged the standard of the competition he had committed them to. Their current opponents ‘The Kingsmen’ (so named because they all drank at the Kings Arms) were clearly superior in every department. They also had a contingent of more than five players, meaning they were able to use substitutes, which was a luxury Mike and his team could only dream of. Nonetheless, ‘The Kingsmen’ had only managed to finish tenth out of fourteen teams last season. It was unlikely that future fixtures were going to get any easier for ‘Mike’s Machines’.

“To be honest guys, I don’t think this is really for me,” said Eddie, to the surprise of no-one, “I’ll see out the second half, but you might want to look at getting someone else for the next match.”

There were a few half-hearted efforts to change Eddie’s mind, but no-one realistically believed that there would be any need to recruit an additional player for future games.

Mike though, was not going to walk away without an attempt to rescue some pride in what was almost certainly going to be his team’s only fixture.

“Come on guys,” said Mike, “we’ve got to give it our all for another twenty minutes!”

There were non-committal grunts of unenthusiastic assent.

“And the first round of drinks is on me after the match,” continued Mike.

There were slightly louder, more enthusiastic murmurs.

“Now let’s get out there and give Eddie the send-off he deserves!” exclaimed the captain, loud enough to draw amused glances from their opposition.

“For Eddie!” bellowed Darryl as he charged onto the pitch.

“For Eddie!” came the slightly muted chorus from the others as they followed, with the exception of Eddie himself, who looked less than comfortable with the battlecry.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, albeit the goals did not come quite as thick and fast as they had done. ‘The Kingsmen’ had rather taken their foot off the gas, what with victory being so completely assured, and were using the remaining minutes as a training exercise, trying audacious passes and shots that they would never have contemplated in a closer fixture.

Perhaps it was this complacency that permitted Darryl to steal the ball of a rather cocky sub in the dying moments and smash what was the first strike on target for ‘The Machines’ all game. It was easily parried away by the goalkeeper, but, in the most unlikely of flukes, the rebounding ball was caught by an unintentional knee belonging to Mike as he bounded up the pitch with his unwavering enthusiasm. As the ball crossed the goal-line in what was the final act of the game, changing the final score from an embarrassing 15-0 to a much more credible 15-1, Mike was swamped by his team-mates.

The Kingsmen, for whom winning was nothing of note given the ease of their victory, were more than a little perplexed by the resulting celebrations from their opponents.

Mike, for his part, was in a reflective mood as he was carried out off the pitch on the shoulders of his friends. There may be no future outings for his ‘Machines’ but he would never forget his brief tenure as captain of this fine group of players.

Insomnolent Isometrics

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John awoke with a start. It was dark and without his glasses on he couldn’t make out the digital read-out on his radio alarm clock. Rachel was still sound asleep beside him, giving no indication that his sudden return to consciousness had in any way disturbed her.  Feeling it was probably better to maintain that particular status quo, he shuffled delicately out of bed and slowly exited the room.

Deftly avoiding the creaking floorboard on the landing, he made his way carefully down the stairs in darkness, knowing that the slightest hint of light creeping under the bedroom door might be enough to wake his beloved wife.

Once he was safely on the ground floor, he made his way into the living room, where at last he felt it was safe to risk switching on the light. Realising that he had left his spectacles on the bedside table he was forced to squint at the digital readout on the cordless handset that was connected to what was, in the age of the smartphone, a redundant landline. It was 2.30am. Far too early to be awake, but, by the same token, he calculated that, thanks to a relatively early night, he’d had about four and half hours of sleep. It wasn’t enough, given the day he had ahead of him, but he had survived on less.

It wasn’t the lack of sleep that worried him, so much as quite how he was going to occupy the hours before he actually needed to get up for work. Moving around the house would be too noisy, the last thing he wanted or needed was for Rachel to wake up. He loved his wife, but she was not particularly well-disposed to missing out on sleep, and the fall-out for imposing his insomnia on her could result in days of recriminations.

Better then, to suffer in silence. But it was going to be a long night if he couldn’t find anything to pass the time. Television was too noisy, and the novel he was currently attempting to read was sitting next to his glasses in the bedroom.

He scoured the room for anything to do. There was a half-finished jigsaw on the dining table, but that was Rachel’s project, she would not thank him for completing it for her, even if his rationale was that he’d only done it to protect her current state of slumber. Beyond that there was not much else on offer.

He sat for a while, staring at the opposite wall, breathing deeply, trying to relax himself into a state in which a return to sleep might actually be a possibility, but after ten minutes he had succeeded in boring himself, almost to tears, without discovering anything resembling inner peace and tranquillity. Indeed, he was arguably more tense than he had been at the outset.

Out of the corner of his eye he spotted a much-ignored kettlebell, purchased at a time when he had had a wave of enthusiasm and misplaced optimism about getting into shape. Perhaps exercise was the key to solving his current state of insomnolence. Despite being alert beyond all reason, he didn’t really feel that he had the energy for a workout, and it would be a difficult activity to carry out in silence but, in the absence of any other options, it would certainly fill the time. As carefully as he could, he cleared a space in the centre of the room, picked up the weight and started swinging.

Five minutes later, John was breathless, sweating and completely exhausted. He still didn’t feel particularly sleepy, but he certainly felt drained. He collapsed onto the floor and stared up at the ceiling in a daze. He lay there for a while contemplating what else he might do to kill a few minutes. He lay there a little longer. He wasn’t especially comfortable, but neither was he uncomfortable.

John wasn’t sure at what point he had drifted off, but it was daylight when he became aware of Rachel prodding him.

Rachel, for her part, was somewhat confused as to why she had discovered her husband on the living room floor hugging a sixteen-kilogram lump of iron.

 

 

 

Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Batman!

James Proclaims (4)

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At the moment I appear to be in quite a bizarre place health wise. The Christmas period certainly did very little to reduce my weight. And by weight I do, of course, mean mass. Weight, as anyone who studied science to a fairly basic level during their school days will know, is a force and is measured in newtons. We measure mass in kilograms, grams etc. (or stones, pounds, ounces etc. if you prefer the imperial system over the metric system. It’s your call, I make no judgements). But conventionally we refer to mass as weight.

And thus, talk about losing weight.

When we should be talking about losing mass.

Call me a pedant if you will, but I don’t want anyone thinking me to be an uneducated oaf because I refer to weight loss when I actually mean mass loss.

Nonetheless, for the sake of accepted convention, I’ll go back to calling it weight.

So long as we all recognise that that is technically incorrect.

Anyway, I clearly didn’t lose a lot of weight over Christmas. But I didn’t gain any either.

Because while I’ve been eating lots of bad stuff, I’ve also been exercising a bit.

And I seem to have struck a balance, whereby my Body Mass Index isn’t getting any better but isn’t really getting worse either.

And that’s fine, because even if I should probably try and lose some weight, I’m perfectly happy to just buy bigger clothes.

As far as I can see, my weight will only become an issue if that ceases to be an option.

And at the moment I’m happily able to buy clothes that fit me from most major retailers.

So, it’s all good.

But as I say, I have been doing quite a lot of exercise.

This is motivated partly through health reasons, because exercise is generally viewed as being a good thing, but it’s also motivated by a desire to be Batman.

Obviously, I’ll never be Batman, he’s a fictional character, and, even if we were to suspend our disbelief and imagine that Batman could actually exist, his alter ego, Bruce Wayne is super rich. So, while Batman’s crime fighting ability comes partly from his supreme fitness, agility and strength, it also comes from having expensive bits of kit, like the Batmobile.

Even if I can get as fit as Batman, I’m not currently rich enough to own a Batmobile. I do have nice little city car that gets me from A to B. It’s great around town, copes with motorways reasonably well, and is relatively economical to run.

But utterly useless for fighting crime with.

So mostly I exercise for health reasons.

But, given the recent world events it’s probably just as well to be in the right physical condition to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

But I do sometimes wonder (not enough to really do anything about it) whether my policy of exercising a lot but then eating what I want is better or worse than if I had a more sensible diet but did less exercise.

In all likelihood it’s  a moot point because the leftover indulgences from Christmas are nearing their end. I’ll soon be forced to make the decision to eat more healthily or buy more bad stuff in my grocery shop.

And Christmas has wiped me out financially until …er…next Christmas.

So, a sensible diet is probably going to have to be my modus operandi for a while, albeit for reasons of cash flow.

But I presume that will make me healthier.

So ironically, poverty might help me in my quest to be Batman.

But I still think the car is a bit of a barrier to achieving that goal.

 

 

Just One More

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“Just one more,” is my mantra
As I near my breaking point
Just one more and I can rest
And ease my creaking joints

Breathless, broken, sweating
An hour of constant pain
At the end of which I wonder
What exactly do I gain?

The answer comes soon after
I pick myself up off the floor
And crack open the biscuit tin
When it’s never ‘just one more’…