It’s just over a year and a half ago that I gave up running, after 40 years. Taking up regular running way back in 1979, when Life Of Brian had just opened in the cinemas (apart from those which banned it ) was one of the best things I ever did. At the price of a few pulled muscles I kept myself lean and fit. There were so many cold, wet days when all I wanted was to stay by the fire or under the covers, but I’m so glad I persevered. I ran in streets and parks and beaches all over the world, from Saudi Arabia to Sierra Leone, but my regular patch was Hampstead Heath, close to my home in London. Just the right mix of hills and woods and off-piste tracks and paths.
After my heart surgery I scaled down from running to walking, and have come to value the Heath even more. It’s still a challenge, but now I have more time to take it all in. The bird life, the trees, the woods, the mix of secret places and some of the finest views of London. I walk some days to Kenwood House and back. It’s a great goal to aim for, offering you the chance to stroll around the grounds of your own mansion. I love the changing moods of the place. This morning an early mist gave the house a ghostly, spectral presence and I’m glad I had my iPhone with me.
In between long walks and bird-spotting, I have been whiling away the days by making a start on the book about my Great-Uncle Harry. He died young, 31 years old, and in a bad place, the mud of northern France, but I’m trying to give his life some value, so he’s not just another name on the wall of a memorial. This involves a lot of detective work, but it also brings into focus a blood relation who has been consistently ignored and whom I now feel quite close to.
My friend Basil Pao described pandemic life as feeling like the world has pressed the Pause button, and to try and break up this sense of being in lockdown limbo, I try hard to keep in touch with friends and there are always surprises, and when Paul Whitehouse told me his daughter’s a Clangers fan, I was happy to oblige.
Hope you’re all going to have a jab as soon as you get the chance. For me having the vaccine was a no-brainer – if only to get me out of the house.
Here’s to the light at the end of the tunnel, or the needle at the top of the arm.