In February 2020, I was about to go skiing, vaguely aware of some new flu type bug in China and believing the only major issue confronting us was the afters of Brexit. How small and parochial that seems now.
I’ve not experienced war or conflict. In my life there have been conflicts that have caught and, sometimes, held my attention. Vietnam, the civil war in Nigeria, the seven days war and Yom Kippur involving the Middle East were early examples. But those actually involving UK forces have fortunately been both rare and distant, not that necessarily makes our role justified : the Falklands, two in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were the conflicts in the Balkans, but none were in Europe involving a state that could truly threaten us here. The cold war was just that – cold and while a constant never really seemed a real threat. Complacent? Probably.
Now that’s changed. It feels like it will be Ukraine that comes to define the 2020s, maybe more than the pandemic and climate change. I hope I’m wrong, and wrong for the right reasons and not because of our quisling response to this unconscionable behaviour. But it feels like the axis has shifted and not in a good way.
An article in the paper caught my eye: it told us that it has been shown in studies that pottering is good for you. Moving while undertaking repetitive tasks is how they described pottering. The Textiliste is a professional potterer. Ever since I’ve known her she has had hobbies that have her on her feet. Even quilting requires her to move around the floor or table while pieces of material are placed, considered, moved, reconsidered, repeat. She can do the mandatory 10,000 steps in the dining room while she plans a quilt. I sit a lot while I’m writing; I’ve not really mastered the walk, type, avoid a lamppost skill set that Generation X,Y and Z have patented. What neither of us do, though is ruminate. Specifically when we walk, with Dog or to the shops and allow our brains to roam wild and free, we don’t dwell, don’t look back to extrapolate forward. We mind-potter rather than ruminate. I do wonder if the megalomaniac in the Kremlin pottered more and ruminated less we might all be in a better place.
I’m a lucky lad who is able to afford to go to watch England play rugby at the National stadium at Twickenham. I love it. The venue is magnificent, a 80,000 plus seated bowl with all the latest mod-cons. It is a very different place to the venue my dad took me to for the first time in 1971. Back then nearly all of it was standing room, it was about half the size yet had accommodated 75,000 plus crowds in the days before they’d become all ticket. Still it could be very crowded and it paid to come early to get a decent spot, near the front. Once in, however you couldn’t leave and expect to return to the same spot. That first day sticks in my head. I can’t recall if England won but I do remember the crowd, the pressing, the swaying, the sense of being lifted and moved whether I liked it or not. The crowd was 90 percent male and 85% full of beer. It doesn’t take a statistician to work out that, with those sorts of numbers, there were N bladders that needed emptying before the final whistle (where N is an effing enormous number). It would, of course be appalling for such relief to be achieved through the simple expedient of peeing on the terracing. Oh no, there was a far more well thought through policy at play. The beer was brought into the ground in seven pint cans – a party seven as it was known. By the cunning expedient of the can opener taking off the top, you instantly had a mobile urinal.
Naturally these pissoirs were still there as the crowds exited, slopping happily in the wake of the users. Dad made it plain what they were and how important it was to dodge them. Such fun times. And he called it the good old days. I prefer a cubicle, to be honest.
I’m going skiing again in a few weeks, the first time since those early days of 2020. Our destination is a chalet in Val D’Isere, a resort which I’ve visited before. It’s a perfectly fine destination and I’m sure I’ll have a good time. As I was walking Dog today I bumped into one of the other skiers, Sara walking her pup. The sky was blue the temperature mild and we speculated about our upcoming trip. ‘Imagine,’ offered Sara, ‘if we get these sorts of sunny days.’ It was a nice thought, though should I be embarrassed that my first image was not of pristine snow, glinting in the sun or a crisp decent through shadow-flickering trees but a seat on a restaurant terrace as I admire the view and wolf down a tartiflette?
On the subject of skiing, I have now been through the preliminary kerfuffle of digging my ski wear out of the attic and trying to work out if it is still up to snuff. I have been often enough to have acquired an anorak, gloves and salopettes as well as boots and a helmet. This year I decided to upgrade the anorak and salopettes which reheeling the ski boots. The nervous part of this process is trying on the boots and praying they still (a) fit and (b) don’t cause pain. Putting on ski boots after an absence of two years is a challenge, requiring hopping and stamping, while vainly tugging at the tops to get them on.
What I really didn’t need was to succeed in my line dance just as I reached the bedroom door so when I stood up, triumphant, I smacked my head into the door knob. Truly, a total pain. On the plus side the boots are fine.