Prince Philip had a special BBC review of his life to mark his 90th birthday. His interviewer Alan Titchmarsh asked him at one point about his relationship with Prince Charles, and Prince Philip replied:
“He's a romantic - and I'm a pragmatist. That means we do see things differently. Sometimes a romantic thinks that a pragmatist is unfeeling.”
I found that really interesting and helpful, because I had never considered that contrast – and hearing it I immediately recognised myself as one of the pragmatists. It’s not that I have no feelings and no vision, but that I always have questions about who’s paying, whether a proposition is realistic, how much time it will take, who is responsible for what – not to mention the condition of the drains, the roof, the bank balance and the store cupboard.
So when I think about cleaning the temple, by which I mean dusting off this mortal house in which the Spirit of the Lord oddly deigns to dwell, I am focussing not so much on repentance, forgiveness, sanctification and redemption as diet and exercise.
I regard my body as the temple of the Lord, and I am its household staff charged with keeping it in the best order it is in my power to achieve, everything pretty and clean and polished. As to diet, everything a person needs to know for the normal body is in The China Study here, this YouTube video on fructose here, and Tom Monte’s book Unexpected Recoveries here. If you follow the advice from those three sources, you’ll have that nailed.
I am not so good on exercise. I have never been into formal concepts of ‘exercise’ – sport, the gym, stretches, yoga, Pilates – aaaagh no! Most of my life I have been a fairly whizzing about person though, so it hasn’t really mattered. But now, as a middle-aged writer with over developed button-pressing muscles, I have to think about it. And Wii Fit is my salvation. Sticking at it is the difficult thing.
But then something happened that hooked into my psyche and so far it seems to be holding good.
There are some people to whom I give my absolute trust, and when that happens an uncanny openness comes about to their words and opinions. An example of this happened when I learned to drive about twenty years ago. At that time I was still in my first marriage, and as I bowled merrily along the seafront with my then husband in the passenger seat, he said: ‘You need to get into the left-hand lane.’ Without thinking, without questioning, without looking, I did. At least I tried to. The blasting horn of the car already occupying the space saved me from disaster. My driving instructor said he had learned from bitter experience to say to his pupils not, ‘Go straight ahead at the junction,’ but, ‘At the next junction, stop, and if all is clear go ahead.’ Because his pupils trusted him implicitly. Whatever he said, that was what they did.
And something similar happened a while ago about exercise. I was whingeing pitifully about how hard it is to keep up any regular program of exercise, and the Badger stopped what he was doing, sat down, looked at me thoughtfully, and said: ‘You have to do it every day, devotionally, as to the Lord.’
D’you think he hypnotised me? Because ever since he said that, I have. Any day I haven’t felt in the mood for exercise, and been inclined to slope off and do something else, the words come back to me, and I can see him saying them: ‘You have to do it every day, devotionally, as to the Lord.’ And I do it. Just as well, because I’m supposed to be two stones lighter than I am, and so far I’ve been practically living on veg and running like a rabbit every morning for nearly three weeks and all I’ve lost is ONE MEASLY POUND! That’s middle age for you.
I like running round the WiiFit island, following the dogs not the trainer, because the dogs go to groovier places – they frolic in the waves and leap off dangerous cliffs and whatnot. But even that gets tedious sometimes, and then it helps to have some music to run to. But as you know if you’ve ever tried running to music, it has to have a regular beat. My top favourites so far for running to are T Rex singing I love to boogie, and a CD I bought on Julie’s recommendation of Bear Tunes for Kids (hear one here). I slightly alarmed my family with this last week. I felt like an extra run before bed, and nipped downstairs to the living room. I didn’t put the light on because I don’t want the neighbours to be able to see me running. It transpired later that my family had been standing outside enquiring of each other if anyone knew why mum was listening to children's bear songs in the dark…