Being married again
at my age
has its advantages
I no longer have to bother
keeping my plumage preened
my beak sharp
or my feet clean...
as long as I provide dinner
a warm nest
and disappear afterwards
I'm allowed to stay
thank god I don't need
to fertilise any eggs
but it's been a long time
since I saw my friend
and I wonder
he has shrunk
or my belly grown
luckily my arms
seem to have
Back in the 1940s and 1950s, before TV, X-Box, McDonalds and graffiti, we were active, outdoorsy kinds of kids. Yet in spite of all the activity I was a very chubby child, raised on the English idea of working class tucker: dripping sandwiches, three full meals a day, fat-laden roast and vegetables with the living bejejus boiled out of them. These were generally followed by a steamed pudding with Golden Syrup and lashings of fresh cream and hot custard...
Mum always made sure that all the cake tins were full and baked at least three times each week. Cream and jam-filled sponge cakes, butter and sugar-laden biscuits, thickly iced small cakes... but we had plenty of cow's milk to drink. At 4d a pint delivered it was a cheap way to give kids their calcium intake. Even at primary school we had an obligatory half pint of milk at every morning break. It sat in crates on the school's front porch all morning until the assigned milk monitors delivered it classroom to classroom at 10.30am. Warm. We had to drink it sitting at our desks. Not to do so attracted a good strapping on the hand. For our own good, of course.
Yet in spite of the typical Kiwi calorie and carbohydrate-laden diet of the time, I grew a foot and shed the puppy fat just prior to beginning my first year at high school. I made both the First Eleven soccer team and the First Eleven cricket team in my first year. I was on my way.
I continued my sporting endeavours after leaving school at age 15, in spite of a real dislike for team sports. Well, that's what a Kiwi boy did then, right? Nothing aberrant about me. About now I discovered two things that were to remain vital to my growth to adulthood: girls and booze. They went together like peaches and cream, Sonny and Cher or sodium and water. I learned how to maximize enjoyment on both fronts, sometimes two-handed. It was bliss. My dietary habits, of course, didn't change. No sir... didn't one need the fatty and sugar-laden foods to soak up all the booze? Of course they did! Everyone knew that. Common knowledge.
In the mid 1950s rock and roll hit NZ, and I found that I was good at it. Friday and Saturday night drinking binges decreased as my girlfriend Pam and I were hired to give demonstrations during the ball season at twice what we made for a normal week's work. That was some exercise, I can tell you! What with that on Friday and Saturday nights, cricket or soccer practices and table tennis during the week, and match games on the weekend I was, as they say, trim, taut and terribly terrific.
Cholesterol hadn't been invented yet, women still had "nervous breakdowns," cracked ribs were taped tight with adhesive tape and everyone ate fish on Fridays regardless of religious beliefs. Godzone, our beloved New Zealand.
This was to be my pattern for the next forty years. Only the sports changed periodically. After moving to Australia in the late 1960s, I took up cross country motor cycle racing, a seriously-aggressive physical sport, along with squash and tennis. The drinking ratcheted up a notch. A little later I took up archery, and in particular, bow hunting. This pursuit, along with the racing kept me attractive to the fairer sex, a consideration of major importance.
I even did a vegetarian period for several years to impress my latest paramour. It did, however, teach me about such previously unheard of weirdo things like lentils, chick peas, bean sprouts and tofu (yuk), and made me a far better cook than I had been. I was clear-eyed (except for romance) and creative.
Eventually, in the 1990s, I took up farming in an Outback area in South Australia, and one would think this to be a healthy occupation. It usually is I suspect, but the area I chose had a high alcoholism rate. I loved it. We drank port and/or home brewed beer every day. Twice as much on weekends. Gradually, my trouser size increased from 34" to %#@*&.
When drought killed the farming enterprise, I decided that after a 29 year absence I'd return home to NZ. That I did, and with the help of yet another devoted lady I quickly dropped all the excess blubber... apparently I looked so good after 6 months that she couldn't bear to look at me, and told me to leave. Just another bus stop on the journey.
I think it was about now that I began to give some serious consideration to drinking. I was still competing in archery at a national level, and doing a little bow hunting. However, a nasty car accident early in the new millennium put paid to my archery. The last of my physical sports.
There was a long convalescence, and somewhere along this part of the trail I lost the plot, my waist size beginning to escalate again. I decided that I didn't need anybody's advice. That I didn't care. I had more important things to worry about. And I'd just discovered the addictive qualities of computers and the Internet.
Now I'm overweight again. Considerably overweight. Grossly overweight, and under-exercised. Actually, I don't exercise at all. I sit here in my chair with the curtains drawn, living in a make-believe world, convincing myself on a daily basis that "I'm a writer." That it doesn't matter any more. And anyway, I'm an old aged pensioner. Here, finally, is my place in the sun. Is that an oxymoron or what?
I recently married a delightfully generous drinker who is also a writer. We share a lot of interests, you see. A match made in heaven, you might say. We eat well and healthily, lots of beans and lentils and vegetables. A goodly lump of liver for Herself occasionally for the iron, no cow's milk products and minimal sugar. We drink a fair bit. Well, quite a lot, really. But we're eating right, OK?
Anyway, don't you worry, because all my blood tests are fine. My blood pressure is perfect, kidneys terrific, heart and liver show no signs of deterioration and my mental health is A1.
So they should be: I'm taking a lot of pills to make sure.
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