Under fit, over fifty and fighting. . .

I had to use alliteration for effect, but the truth is, the title SHOULD read ‘Under strong, over sixty and struggling. . .‘ but let’s let this one stay there. It makes me feel better. Yeah, my muscles and I have never been close. My imagination and creative energy are best mates. When it came to choices for electives at school I always chose Art over Sport. When it is a matter of what to watch on the tv, I always choose period dramas over any national game of team sport whatsoever. I’m sure many of you regard this as a tragedy. Those of a sportive tendency will be shaking their heads. Those, like me, who love anything art/creative/imaginative/fictional will totally get it. Not that these qualities are exclusive, mind.

And that’s where I’m going with this blog post.

I’m endeavouring to bring some balance back into my life, because as I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed a decided preponderance to prefer my armchair to exercise of any sort. And it shows. It has never been an easy choice for me, to get fit, but for a few decades I got away with it. My adventures required a certain amount of energy, and it is THAT which is the key for me. Not the exercise in itself, but the requirement to expend energy to achieve a satisfying creative or imaginative goal. This was me in my late 20s, enjoying an ‘adventure’.

See all the outdoors! The camping, the fishing, the swimming in streams? Great fun, and easy when your body is carrying the right amount of weight too. I would never have termed myself particularly fit, or exercise obsessed. When I reached my mid-30s, a friend asked me to join a group going to climb up into alpine regions on a newish track that takes four days to walk, called the Kepler Trail. I was so interested in being part of this group, that I said yes! I then plodded around the block for a few weeks preceding the adventure, thinking I was getting fit. Ha!

Actually, the guy who asked me did me a great favour. Had I known how hard it would be, I would have said a resounding NO. But I packed my bag and headed to the South Island and we started on the uphill grind to the snow line. I needed regular stops, and often, and more and more was taken from my pack, but finally we got up there, and the huge swell of achievement was amazing!

After that it was a relatively easy walk through the snow capped mountain tops, and down through Beech forest, and the final night soaking in a hot pool was delicious. I am embarrassed to say that I have referred back to that ‘tramp’ more often than I should have, as the biggest exercising experience I have enjoyed. For a few years after the Kepler Track, I did some tramps/hikes with friends, but never sustained enough interest in exercise per se, to keep it up. By my 40’s I was traveling and working overseas, and away from the glorious outdoors of New Zealand, with its easy trails (and lack of dangerous animals.)

Now in my early 60s, I find it hard to believe that half a lifetime ago I carried a pack on my back with such ease. But still, the lure of the adventure still calls to me – and my determination to ensure my body can keep up with that pace drives me to adapt more and more of my day to that endeavour. I clearly remember an older couple – in their 70s – walking past us on the Kepler, and me thinking that was amazing for such elderly folk. Ah, the shortsightedness of the young!

Today, I walked 10.5 kms around the peninsula in which I live, and felt the happy thrill at the end of it, knowing I could still do it. It may not seem like much, but for me, it’s a start and gives me a baseline to work from. I can’t see myself caving again, (photo below) ugh!! Or even scaling up beyond the snowline – as depicted in the other photo below. The mountains in the South Island are incredibly beautiful and the views I saw up there have stayed with me all this time.

I hope there’s still plenty of time for adventures – of a milder variety perhaps – but ones that stretch not only my mind and imagination, but my body as well.

Three cheers for CHAIRS


That’s me, in one of my favourite chairs – it’s a collapsible satellite chair I take camping with me, and it also sits on our front porch where I can wile away an afternoon reading. Still, it’s not COMPLETELY trustworthy. No chairs are.

I’ve had an ambiguous relationship with this furniture from a young age. They’ve been the cause of some of my major social traumas – letting me down, so to speak, at pivotal moments in my burgeoning social calendar. When I was about 9, in the classroom, nervously hoping for acceptance from my peers, a common wooden chair collapsed underneath me. If the whole thing had disintegrated, it would have been awkward but okay, but no, the metal legs and frame remained while the wooden seat disappeared. My bottom and underwear – thick cotton briefs as I recall – were exposed to the titillation of my classmates. I was successfully trapped inside the chair, unable to remove myself without aid, which was very slow to come. The humiliation was intense.

The next significant moment when this deceptively supportive furniture betrayed me was in the delicate and emotional state of my early twenties, fresh up in a new town to teach my first year as a primary teacher. My other three flatmates were teachers as well, and we were invited to come along to a young people’s gathering on Saturday night at the home of someone from the church we had started to attend. To add to the frisson of the night, one of the young men coming had expressed particular interest in me – it was all rather exciting. Entering the living room amidst a crowd of people to whom we had just been introduced, I saw a lovely wooden rocking chair in the centre, and deposited myself comfortably upon it. Discovering that it rocked rather well, I proceeded to nervously tilt back and forth, enjoying the motion. . . until it rocked over backwards and left me hanging upside down – yes, you guessed it, with my legs and underwear exposed to a shocked crowd. We left as early as was possible, and such was my haste, I drove the car over a carefully patterned rock garden in my haste to get away. We never went to another social that year.


Since then, I have fallen through a few more – most notably, a swing chair my friend Beverley and I were gliding back and forth on at the family holiday house. One minute we were chatting merrily and laughing, the next both of us were lying on our backs on the concrete driveway, legs in the air. We recovered well in our late twenties, but if that had happened in my 60s now, I’d probably be laid up for weeks.

A cafe we came across last year, specialised in remade objects – including the chairs which were reconstructed from supermarket trolleys. I was sitting in mine when it started moving gradually towards the road. Things could have been disastrous, but instead we managed to turn it all into a pleasant race. I’m just glad the traffic was light that Sunday morning. Here is Helen on the same chair.


As recently as my camping trip last week, just when you’d think I’d grown wise enough to be wary of those little four legged inanimate objects, one betrayed me badly again. It was part of a family of four, attached dubiously by plastic and hope to an aluminium table top. Part of a collapsible (I should have been wary) four person folding picnic table I purchased. When it was finally put together, it would have been a comfortable dining apparatus for a small Filipino family, and I did rather feel I was sitting on doll’s furniture as I tentatively lowered my frame upon it. table3

It was Thursday night that I came ‘a cropper’. Playing a round of ‘Sequence’ – a great card game, I must have become agitated more than usual. Suddenly there was a metallic rending sound, and the snapping of plastic, and in moments I was lying on my back with a disarray of cards around me, plastic tokens pinging off the sharp angle of the table top. Above it all, my sister’s head framed nicely with a look of appalled concern on her face. I laughed – and laughed – and hooted – and rolled. We packed that table up and squashed it into its box and left it for some other campers more dextrous than I to try and fix. I tell myself that is the LAST time I put my complete faith in CHAIRS without checking them over first.


THIS metal garden chair is SURELY okay – it’s all metal after all. As you see, once again I am a giantess sitting quivering upon its trembling legs. Ah well. It may be a joy to be tall when it comes to reaching high cupboards, but a small person has never suffered as I have through the treachery of chairs, be they garden, camp, dining, rocking or airline variety.