Wake up at 5.20am, wind howling outside.
I stretch and allow my joints to make their various clicks and pops without getting an earful from my partner Alana, who flying to the other side of the globe on a girl’s holiday.
Stew has sent me a message to let me know he’s not up for kettlebells and swim this morning after having a camera stuck down his throat yesterday.
I told him there are worse places to stick a camera. He tells me I’m wrong.
I grab a kettlebell for Jimbo – as if he will come in this weather – put my bathers and birks on, and drive down to the Men’s Pool.
Love weather like this.
Mother Nature doesn’t piss around.
Jordi is there in his van waiting for me.
No Jimbo, no surprise.
Jimbo is an electrician and he is built like one, he is slender and can slink into places. He’s the human version of a throat camera. He is allergic to cold.
Jordi is built like a reinforced communal brick shithouse, this morning further bulked out by the insulation of a few layers of clothing.
I am all but naked, excepting my bathers and a special addition for the blustery morning, some gloves.
The howl of the wind and churn of the sea wakes us up and awakens something inside of us.
We do 10 goblet squats, 10 press ups, then 8 of each, then 6, then 4, then 2 – 30 of each. We are warmed up.
A dark blue dawn lightens the sky, enough to see some of the froth and chop being whipped up by the waves, which we jog towards together.
We dive in. Jordi makes some incongruously effeminate noises upon entry. Last week he began shouting an impromptu mantra along the lines of, “I am a man!”
Incidentally, cold water exposure spikes testosterone levels; ironically, it feels more of an ‘inny’ than a ‘spike’, if you catch my drift.
Invigorated, invincible, we get out of the water.
Jordi took the Mrs away for her 30th birthday, watching West End shows and the like, wholesome and fun. However, their train into London Town is derailed by some poor wretched soul throwing themselves onto the tracks. Thus Jordi and the Mrs sit in a carriage of miserable commuters, including a woman who decides to fuck the 21st century for a laugh, and light a cigarette.
They also witnessed a security man rugby tackle a fellow holding his McDonalds, which upon impact dissipated around him in a cloud of brightly packaged trans-fat, whilst the real perpetrator of whatever crime it was scurried away scot-free – a midget, as it happens. This is all before the pantomime, by the way.
We get changed, say goodbye, and I jump into my car sauna – my heaters are left on so I have a pre-heated car to return to. First-world pleasures.
I pop home, make a coffee, and scribble some notes on a business vision board for a course a friend and I are attending tomorrow. The course is Starting-Up Saturdays with the Digital Greenhouse, an all-day affair requiring me to confess my veganism, lest I go the day without eating.
It’s Friday, so I shan’t don the three-piece suit and tie I wear all week, the only fellow in the office ever wearing a suit and tie, I might add. I had a veritable treasure trove of silken ties gifted me by Grandshag a few years ago that I draw inordinate pleasure by selecting and wearing. I also bought a suit before starting, and I shall get my mileage out of it, Goddammit.
I get a small kick out of arriving to the office 7.30am having already conquered a couple hours of the day, with a few colleagues in early wrapped up in scarves and jackets.
I’m blessed by a standing desk, so I’m on my feet most of my shift.
My colleague overhears the constipation issues of someone’s dog, requiring it to have its prostate examined.
He stands up and says, “Nah. Not happening.”
He bends over his desk, looking behind him at an imaginary Doctor, “Are you sure you’re qualified?”
Jimbo texts me saying, “I woke up heard outside and thought fuck that. Bet that was fun”.
I’m sharp and focussed for most of the shift, but my mind ineluctably wanders toward boxing this evening. With fight night one week away, competitive sparring awaits.
(Sparring the tricky southpaw: for myself, I need to throw more straight-rights, I need to throw more in general; for him, he needs to jab more and focus on speed more than loading up power punches. Sparring the shorter guy: for myself, I need to get off centre line, pop the jab, whip in a left-hook or straight-right, then reset; for him, he needs to slip as he bulls in, work the body before going upstairs.)
Finish at 1.30pm, clocking up 6 hours of suspicious activity reports and compliance risk assessment plus 5 or so cups of tea – with sugar. I’m off the rails mate.
Whip home, rattle out the words written above, eat pasta.
The Mrs is drinking red wine in London Town living it up before flying to Sri Lanka.
I am still mildly miffed at her because she took out her pre-travel stress on me.
I tell her I love her and call her a name for good measure. She says “My heart now feels relieved.”
Surfing it up in Sri Lanka for a month? Living the dream.
I get changed for boxing and pack my stuff for the next couple of hours.
I drive to the rather beautiful townhouse of an elderly gentleman I help out 3 days a week, we’ll call him Humphrey.
Humphrey is 82. He suffered a fall during lockdown, often a death sentence to someone his age. His body is failing and his speech is strained, but he still has a twinkle in his eye.
I stride in and shake his hand, wishing him a Happy Friday.
“And to whom shall we listen today?” I ask, as I assist him in manoeuvring from comfy chair to wheelchair.
Humphrey is very fond of classical music, favouring Bach and loving Beethoven, Shumann, Mozart and the like.
“Schubert,” Humphrey replies, eyes twinkling. I play some of the composer on my speaker, and we begin our exercises, he in his chair, me standing opposite him, warming up and moving our arms and legs.
We do some strength and mobility exercises, I give his hands and legs a massage, we play some catch and some football, and build toward the crescendo to our sessions – getting Humphrey onto his feet.
This afternoon is a particularly good one, Humphrey shuffling his feet with relative confidence. The spine and knees need a lot of strength and concentration to straighten after spending so much time in a chair. I support Humphrey whilst he stands up and shuffles this way and that before his legs begin to bow and he says, “Chair!”
He sits, and we wait a minute or two, listening to the two-hundred-year-old velvet overtures of string instruments melting harmonically one into another, before we go again, and again, and again. Then rest.
Into my car I jump, blasting Midnight Sonata, en route to boxing. I remember when I used to exclusively blast drum and bass en route to boxing. Does that mean I have aged? Life is weird. I wonder how many other people in the world are en route to a martial art directly from octogenarian physical therapy listening to Mozart. Or maybe I’m just weird.
There is a certain buzz in the boxing club, it being a week from fight night. There’s better boxers than I on hand for sparring, so I warm up and help coach a young’un, James, who I have helped happily along the road from awkward bandy-legged sprat to kind-of-scarily powerful novice.
What I love about this kid, what is a refreshing change from most young people with whom I work, is his brilliant receptivity to new information. James really wants to learn.
Many young people I work with are raised in a way that they expect constant cajolement from adults, so when I correct their boxing stance or punch trajectory, it is a personal insult.
One lad springs to mind. I say, “Slow down, don’t load up, let it flow,” and so on.
Dismissing the feedback, he’ll reply, “I know,” and continue as before.
James is like a sponge, and will drill a new movement or combination ad nauseam, and whether or not he gets the gist of it in the moment, he comes back better every session.
We do a drill where James and I take turns flicking out the jab and the other person defends and counters. Our coach whips around to say we can up the power, just to keep us honest, then crack, James spears me with a jab and pops my nose.
“Oh, sorry!” says James, with utter innocence and ignorance of his power.
I make sure to tell James, as I tell him every week, that he is improving immensely and will be a good boxer.
In the car journey to my friend Youlee’s house, I consider the irony that I was preparing to spar two adults competing next week, and my nose has been bloodied by a sprat.
I arrive at Youlee’s expecting to see his two beautiful kids, Maisie 5 years old and Charlie 2 years old – but it is just him. My disappointment is probably palpable.
The other week, I had the uncle prerogative of hyping them up maximally despite it being late. Maisie has a baby Annabel, one of the dolls that piddles if you feed it water. As Maisie feeds it some food, I say, “Oh no! Baby needs a poo! Quick!”
Maisie scrambles to get a potty, but I knock her off balance with the baby, who begins loudly excreting on her person. Charlie, who is a little wary of the beardy big guy, sits nestled in the sofa laughing at us. After a couple more iterations of the baby violently pooing on Maisie, making her laugh so hard it makes no noise, I can start doing the same to Charlie, who laughs even harder.
It was very gratifying to get a text from Youlee the next day saying, “She started doing it to Granny haha.” The thought of Maisie making her doll poo on her Grandmother is deeply satisfying.
But, this evening, I get Dad’s-night-off-Youlee, and we and another friend shoot the breeze and chat about a certain upcoming Stag Party we are diligently organising and play Mario Kart as if we are still in our twenties.
Youlee’s cat Daisy comes and nestles next to me. A serial scratcher, untamed by even our cat-whispering friend Nashers, Daisy has mellowed with age, and pushes her head against my fingers and lets me stroke her. So gratifying.
I message my cat-obsessed partner Alana a picture of Daisy saying, “She’s mellowed so much. Used to be so scratchy and volatile and now she’s all loving.”
Alana replied, “Bit like me.”
And so Frimas ends.