Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Learning how to saunter

This afternoon I needed to get some shopping from the supermarket. It's no distance; at most a ten minute walk; and once upon a time in my life I would have walked it without a second's thought.

But for the past ten years arthritis and heart trouble have combined to make the journey into an expedition.

Lately, my new right hip and my two new knees and my new pacemaker have begun to turn things round. I have to walk slowly. I have to let my hips move. I have to think about the way I place the soles of my feet on the ground.

The gift of walking, which I once just took so carelessly for granted, has had to become a conscious achievement.

Not unpleasantly so. I read in my grandfather's letters to his mother once how he saw Oscar Wilde in the foyer of a West End theatre. He loathed Wilde, and the way in which Wilde moved his hips "like a woman" struck him as especially degenerate and disgusting.

Walking with my hips rigidly facing the front became an important part of my disguise as a man. I know it damaged me.

Letting my hips move is a gently sensuous means of revolt against my grandad and my dad and their rigid masculinity.

But I have to keep aware: or I revert back to it. I have to walk slowly: or I start to get out of breath.

I used to walk so heedlessly fast everywhere. I remember when I first became ill. Sitting on a doorstep with my heart hammering and my breath short in a cold sweat of terror: and an immaculate young man racing past me on the way to the parliament. How I envied him. He was free, while I knew instinctively I had become a prisoner.

But walking slowly back with my groceries admiring the beauty of the sky, I think:  I don't have to walk fast any more. Now I can saunter.

And that is really no hardship
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