Since I was 12 or so, running has been my talisman against self-destruction. It hasn’t kept me slim (that was an early-20s drug cocktail followed by vegetarianism) or particularly fit — after more than 25 years of running regularly I still take an hour to run a 10K — but it kept me functional, if not always happy.
The worst of this godforsaken lockdown is not even being allowed out to exercise. The minor saving grace is we have a driveway, or mini-camino, that is the only part of the property currently free of knee- to hip-high grass.
After five or so days of trying to get a buzz off yoga I started jogging in the driveway.
It is about 75 metres long, uneven, inconsistently cambered and comprised of a variety of surfaces. Beyond the concrete slab in front of the house is a spot of mud from where we turn the car round. This gathers itself into a mossy, grassy hump I cover in two strides before settling into the right-hand tyre track.
The driveway subsides going away from the house till it reaches the j-bend up to the paved road. About halfway down, at the end of a crumbling, overgrown stone wall, a walnut tree is putting out leaves. They are still tightly furled, waiting, presumably, for some solar encouragement before showing face.
Chris has tramped along the verge with our trusty hand-mower, keeping the grass reasonably lawnish for about 50 metres. Beyond the close-cut strip is an explosion of waist-high weeds. There is dandelion and stinging nettle in there, but mostly some skinny chancer with reddish seed pods. No idea what it is.
Romeo, the tiger-ish looking one of our twin boy cats, usually stakes out a spot at the end of the driveway during my run. Yesterday, he sat at attention, perfectly immobile, for about 15 minutes, staring at something I couldn’t see. He may be a Zen master.
I am not.
Today’s news was that Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s improbably debonair, well-spoken and (I believe, as of today) utterly useless, mashed-potato-brained president has threatened/requested an extension of the state of emergency until 10 May.
While I’m rarely carefree I am also not often apoplectic. Continuous low-level outrage and cynicism seems to inoculate me against the wilder mood swings.
Hearing we are going to be trapped in a rain-sodden ice box of a house, in a place neither of us have any love or affinity, for makes me want to put my fist through a wall.
As I write, my chest feels like it is self-compressing. If it weren’t for Chris napping upstairs and the cats (Teddy in particular is distressed by loud noises) I would scream.
Running is supposed to help when I feel like this. Watching my footfall, adjusting my posture, picking up my knees, monitoring my breathing, these things can help.
So I run, counting out the laps: 2.5, 3… 5… 10… 14.5… 23…
On odd-numbered laps I run faster, picking my way between extrusions of natural rock — pinkish, glimmering with tiny crystals — and detritus: rubber piping, smashed tiles, bin liners, odd bits of plastic embedded in the hard earth. Uncut hair flops damp against my forehead. My left Achilles tendon twinges a warning.
Near the end of the drive, on the right (as you face the house) is a bare tree with small white flowers. Must check with my sister later, she’s the garden wizard.
Add that to the post-release list: plant a garden. Be ready, when (not if) this shit comes raining down next. Dig potatoes and pluck herbs.
The permanent mist thickens and moves purposefully. Rain, now, really.
I jog/wheel/sprint/job/wheel through the 40s without shedding the desire to inflict damage on something. I’m going to need a lot of therapy, which I can’t afford.
And the reasons I can’t afford therapy are part of the reasons I’m at risk of melting into a lava pit of rage and self-loathing without it. None of which can be addressed now, or in a week, month, or perhaps a year.
That’s the kicker, as I turn through 47… 49… 52… Nobody knows when, or how, this ends. (I’ll take ‘bang’, if that’s an option.)