Fit For Nothing

As anyone who knows me will attest I am not exactly a lean mean fighting machine and I definitely have what is kindly described as a “middle age spread”.

It wasn’t always thus, I used to be lean and fit, playing sport most days. Indeed one of my “proudest”, if proudest is indeed apt, moments came about 25 years ago.

I was working on a new computer application for the Royal Navy, based at what is called a concrete battleship, i.e. a land naval base.

Being a military base sports and fitness were considered important and everyone was encouraged to play sports.

Consequently every lunchtime was spent playing some kind of sport, including some more esoteric ones.

Amongst my favourites was ”strong man rounders.” This was basically the same as the rounders you play at school, however instead of playing with a conventional rounders ball, you play with a deflated rugby ball instead.

Sounds easy?

Don’t you believe it!!

Oh yes, hitting the ball is easy enough, however to get the ball to travel any distance needs incredible upper body strength and you need to hit the ball in exactly the right spot – dead centre.

Hit it off centre it goes into an almighty spin. That, of course, adds to the challenge to the fielding side – have you ever tried catching a rugby ball spinning fast the “wrong way”?

For me, the best game of the lot was deck hockey. As the name implies it is normally played on the deck of a ship at sea, where obviously playing with a ball on an open deck is not a good idea.  Basically it is ice hockey without the ice. You play with a puck and sticks which, in size terms, are halfway between a standard hockey stick and an ice hockey stick.

The rules are virtually the same as ice hockey and it is fast and very physical, shoulder charging was not only allowed, it was actively encouraged.

Due to the transient nature of the base the teams tended to change quite regularly. However because we were working on a long term project we had a well established team and we played well together and we developed a reputation for playing hard.

A  group of marine commandos turned up for a three month secondment and it wasn’t long before they had a team up and running and they too developed a reputation for being hard.

Inevitably we were destined to meet and come the big day there was a decent size crowd to watch this clash of the Titans. I have to admit some of us were nervous, whilst others were really fired up.

I won’t go into the full details, suffice to say two of the opposition ended up in hospital, one with a broken leg, and after twenty minutes they walked off saying we were too dirty.

So I can proudly say I was one of a team who made the Marine Commandos retreat.

Over the years my participation in sport diminished. Nowadays my “exercise” is limited to walking from the car to wherever I am going.

This weekend it was hammered home just how unfit I am as I set off to Ayr for the Scottish Grand National.

Coming into land at Prestwick Airport you can see the racecourse, about three miles away as the crow fly’s. 

Normally I get a train from the airport into Ayr, then either get a taxi or walk (about a mile) to the course.

I arrived at the station, found I had just missed a train and it was half an hour until the next one.

So I thought “well it is four hours before racing starts - I will walk to the course.”

So I set off through Prestwick Town - a lovely place - a proper High Street with real shops.

By then the sun was out and I was wearing a suit and carrying my computer bag, not an ideal combination.

I knew roughly where the course was - basically it was carry on down the Prestwick - Ayr road then turn left on the outskirts of Ayr. 

Although the theory was perfect, I misjudged when to turn left and turned off far too soon.

I did not realise at first of course but after another mile I though "I should be there by now"

Further on I came to a playing field and I could see the Grandstand in the distance but could not see how to get to it. 

Another half mile I reached a retail park, swallowed my pride, admitted to being lost and asked a couple in the car park for directions.

"Are you driving?"

"No, walking?"


Anyway they gave me directions and it was another another mile and a half.

So I arrived at the course 1½ hours after leaving the airport, sweating, aching - the computer bag weighed a ton by now. I arrived in the press room bedraggled and shattered and immediately downed a half litre bottle of water.

That's not the end of it though.

I emerged after racing planning to get a taxi back to the airport. When I got outside there must have been about 300 people in the taxi queue and no taxi's there.

So - guess what? Yep I had to start walking again, although I did ask this incredulous police woman for directions for the quickest way to walk back to the airport.

I walked 1¼ miles before I reached the main Ayr - Prestwick road then managed to catch a bus to Prestwick town, from where it was a 3/4 mile walk to the airport.

This morning I checked the route I took on Google Earth - the walk to the racecourse should have been 3¾  miles, - I turned it into a 5¼ mile trek.

I have a big blister on my foot and my legs are still aching – I really am not fit and I am not 25 any more either.  




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