I went to Malvern. I took some pictures and thought some thoughts but I have read a number of Malvern blogs now and don't think I have anything much to say that hasn't been very eloquently said already. I can tell you that Monty Don is not as tall as I thought he was, that I don't like blackboards and lava lamps in gardens, that there were fewer nettles and wildflowers in this year's show gardens than there were last year. This last observation is a bit sad as I had felt very on trend last year. I wasn't too keen on the garden dominated by a pterodactyl, although it did include some shapes of real beauty. I could have moved into the Garden for Life and lived there. Malvern's version of the Wicker Man was truly fantastic.
So I am going to tell you about my lifelong changing relationship with exercise, just because I have been thinking about it.
When I was a child I used to run down the road along the edge of the common and know that I was running like the wind. I could feel the road disappearing under my feet and my legs eating up the miles. I knew I was uncatchable. So it was a bit of a shock when school sports day came round and I found I was generally labouring along somewhere near the back of every race. It can put you off, that kind of thing.
During secondary school I became adept at exercise avoidance. I hated the way that playing hockey involved getting blue legs and a red nose and enduring those shuddering shocks when, having accidentally got the ball, I would be tackled by the hearty, hefty thighed girls who actually cared about whether their team won. I sunbathed by the changing rooms in tennis and wandered along languidly at the back in cross country. I perfected a technique of always being at the back of the queue for any piece of equipment in the gymnasium. I was every P.E. teacher's nightmare.
It wasn't that we were couch potatoes at home. We walked, we swam, I cycled miles to school every day and played badminton with my best friend in the garden. It was organised sport I disliked, especially anything involving a ball and any form of team game. So in my twenties I gloried in doing no formal exercise whatsoever, except the running around which accompanies having small children. In my thirties I discovered the gym and was astonished to find that I loved it, especially weights, and for ten years of so I was a serious, regular, at least three times a week gym bunny. I loved the fact that exercising a lot meant I could eat what I liked, having always had a large appetite and a real love of food. I couldn't imagine ever stopping.
In my forties I began to walk quite seriously, hill walking mostly. When the rest of my life was spent at a desk, I needed to keep going to the gym to be fit enough to walk up hills. I took up jogging too, running would be too strong a word for it. I was never going to be quick but I could cover distance, slowly, my mind running free too. Gradually running took over from going to the gym. I thought I had become someone who would always exercise.
And then we came here and I became ill. I lost six months to illness and incapacity and lost a ton of weight too. When I finally went back to work I was eating my way back up to my normal weight, and kept on eating until I had reached it and passed it and carried on upward and somehow didn't start exercising again. Why not? I am not sure. There is a lot to do here and no gyms within easy reach. It always seems more sensible to go out into the garden than to get in a car and drive to a gym. Running is hard work here, living so high on the edge of a hill. You can't go anywhere from the house without going steeply up or steeply down. It's probably great running country if you are an athlete. If you are an overweight middle aged woman who hasn't run for a few years, it's all a bit terrifying.
I did start walking again and celebrated leaving my job and taking a leap into the unknown by walking the Offa's Dyke Path which runs for 177 miles along the whole length of Wales. That is a couple of years ago now. I loved it, the easy rhythm of the days: breakfast, walk, lunch, walk, stop, shower, evening meal, sleep the sleep of the truly tired. By the time we had finished I just felt I could have gone on walking for ever. Last year we walked for two weeks in the Austrian Alps in July. That was a huge challenge and I was only just beginning to feel fit enough to do it by the time we came home.
And somehow we get to this year. I look back and see that as an adult I have done a lot of exercise and taken a lot of pleasure from it, astonishing though that would be to my teenage self. But somehow I am going into this summer a stone overweight, hopelessly unfit, having fallen into a pattern of coping with these last few months with the help of another glass of wine or piece of cake.
I think I will do something about it.
I wonder if I can?