I like Aesop. And his fables. I particularly like the tortoise and the hare. You know the one. They have a race. The hare is cocky and over confident. He decides to have a rest as he is soooo far ahead. And falls asleep. And so the sure and steady tortoise wins the race.
I am that tortoise. Unfortunately, although I do indeed often look like I have a shell (the packed rucksack I never leave the house without), that is where the resemblance ends. I never win the race.
I live with four hares. Three have the excuse of youth. And the other is still younger than me and considerably fitter. Because he spends hours working on it. And I do not.
Today three of my hares and I went on a long cycle ride. I was predictably at the back. Going too slowly. I have never been a great cyclist. It has never really suited me. I am not sure why. Short legs. Maybe. Lack of practise. Maybe.
My kids know where to wait for me. So I can shepherd them across roads. Something I am actually good at. I guess at some point they will be able to cross roads safely alone. In fact when big daddy hare is there I am totally superfluous, except for being the butt of all the jokes.
I was once fit. In fact BC I was really quite fit. Daddy hare and I did Body Combat and Circuit Training.
Then I had kids and my opportunities to exercise were somewhat limited. Scrap that. Totally limited. If I got time on my own the last thing I wanted to do was run to the gym. I wanted to sleep. Pee alone. And such like.
When they all finally went to school I did start some exercise DVDs and managed to keep up with them for about a year and developed some quads. And then the long school holidays hit again and I had to stop. Or risk the children having hysterics at the sight of me star jumping. And I never found the energy to restart.
I tried running, another thing all four of my hares are good at. I set off with new trainers and an irritating guy in my ear telling me when to run and when to walk. Every time I saw someone I knew my pace picked up a bit. By the time I got home I was spent. It took at least half an hour on the stairs with my head between my knees before I was able to risk moving without being sick.
I can swim. Maybe more a turtle than a tortoise? In fact I can currently still beat all my hares. But I prefer to do my swimming in a heated pool somewhere situated on the Med or the Aegean Sea. I have developed an allergy to municipal swimming pools. The cold shock of the water. The inability to see anything (my extreme myopia) causing me to possibly get in the ‘wrong lane’ or swim the ‘wrong way’. That deforestation I can’t be bothered with, especially in winter. The likelihood of being caught behind either two women who consider exercise to be chatting next to each other whilst doing a weak breaststroke and not getting their hair wet. Or a bloke creating a mini tsunami with his frantic yet ineffective front crawl. And the showers afterwards, dodging used plasters and other peoples hair. Shudder.
No I have to accept that I am basically unfit. Middlest is my most likely ally. He is the least sporty of all my hares. Once on an infamous trip cycling round a reservoir I spent the time before our first pit stop- which is really a stop for mummy to catch up by which point all the others have refuelled and hydrated and are champing at the bit to get off again before I have even got my breath back- a loooong way behind. It was hilly.
Middlest spent our next cycling session to lunch falling behind with me. We had a lovely chat. Well he chatted, I listened and tried not to sound too ‘panty’. On the flatter bits I commiserated with him about how tough the ride was and he agreed it was hard. Especially the bits on the sand. I felt comforted that I was providing Middlest with company in his hour of need.
We got to lunch. I had the sandwiches in that tortoise shell rucksack so the others had had to wait. After we had eaten I went to the loo and on the way back overhead Middlest asking for a new volunteer to ‘stay behind and keep mummy company’ as he wanted to ‘race on ahead again’. There were no takers. And I felt tremendously patronised. In a nice way.
So there you have it. I will always be bringing up the rear. Red in the face. Less than gently made fun of. But I will still go. Otherwise it would probably be Middlest in that spot. And he was once kind to Mummy Tortoise.
Footnote The remnants of those quads ache today….