It had first become apparent to me during the autumn. Despite getting rather trim during the spring months, as summer drifted seamlessly from one wet miserable week into another, I took shelter, started to drink tea and read the newspaper and, without really noticing it, started to pile on the pounds, rather like an Alaskan bear laying down layers of fat for the winter.
Unfortunately, despite a belated realisation I had started to model lard, I took no action to arrest the decay. Going out cycling I felt like my lungs were being crushed by my Lycra cycling gear, a form of dress which while practical does not flatter in any way, instead forming itself to every fold, bulge and crevice.
For years “Big Paul”, a one-time professional rugby league player, had set the standard for middle-age decline by looking like a lump of day-glo-coloured suet pastry wrapped in cling film as we cycled around Europe.
During the autumn, however, he dug deep and managed to lose two stones by eating little but cabbage soup (actually vegetable broth). As he lost weight I piled it on. Once around three-and-a-half stones separated us – not any more. Christmas was never going to be easy, and we saw in the New Year with friends who I thought only knew how to ruin a good song but actually provided a marvellous buffet that had their dining table groaning under the weight of tempting offerings.
So with the New Year I aim to make a new start and lose weight. Talk of metabolism is for me, frankly nonsense. I need to eat less and do more. In truth, I actually do quite a lot, and so my focus needs to be on eating less – much less. But I have done it before several times and I do not doubt I will manage it again. Conflicting forces will be at work. Self-discipline versus gluttony. Strangely as you eat less you have less energy (lower sugar levels I guess) but as you lose weight you seem to develop more get-up-and-go.
Fortunately, my personal trainer will make sure I never slouch in the chair when there are walks to be had. Little Monty has an amazing ability to sleep for hours but if I so much as go near the front door he is up and about, stretching himself, pacing about, always ready for the off. Unfortunately, the recent torrential rain has rendered the fields near my home no-go areas while the path across Spence Moor on Pendle has deteriorated badly. Consequently, it is always a challenge looking for routes which are reasonably dry underfoot.
Last Monday, however, Wifey and I did the little circuit from Padiham, along Grove Lane to Brookfoot, then to what we used to call the “stepping stones” at the bottom of Ightenhill Park Lane, a short but stiff pull to the top, then ignoring tempting but squelchy marked paths off to the right, cut along the edge of the housing estate on clear paths to the gatehouse near the stately spire of Habergham Church. From there it is simply a matter of cutting through the woods to visit Gawthorpe Hall and then back into Padiham. Despite everything being saturated we enjoyed a couple of hours of easy walking over firm ground with barely any mud. Monty ran and ran and I huffed and puffed but at least I felt I had earned my dinner. Cabbage soup never tasted so good!