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It’s been a weird couple of months – a bit of a health update.

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog about the latest downturn in my health. I didn’t do it because I’m self obsessed and imagine that anybody really wants to know how I’m feeling at any given time. It was written mainly because my health was the reason that the blog started in the first place and also because writing stuff like that is a good way of taking the weight of any worry off my shoulders. If you fancy a read of that one, it’s on the link below.

A spanner in the works.

For a bit more context, just over four years ago I was taken into hospital with heart problems and then, having been fine ever since, last month I spent a Sunday afternoon in a bit of a secretive mild panic as my heart decided it was about time it start racing once more. When I eventually confessed to feeling unwell we had a bag packed ready for a visit to hospital quick smart! In the end though, I didn’t need to go as after an awful spell of dizziness and nausea, everything went back to normal.

A few days later I had an ECG and some blood tests at my doctors and was referred back to Cardiology at our local hospital. This then led me to another local hospital some weeks later, where I got fitted with a 24 hour ECG machine. The most exciting thing to happen within that 24 hours was going to the hospital. Once I had the ECG machine on, my heart behaved impeccably, which was both a comfort and a frustration. A kind of proof that nothing was wrong alongside the mystery of what had actually happened in the first place. So, it sort of confirmed what I’d felt all along; that the latest setback was just a blip, while still leaving open that nagging sense of doubt!

In between times I gave myself a short break from any exercise at all. However, in the back of my mind I knew that I had entered the Leeds 10k and was desperate to do it. With 4 weeks to go until the actual race I set myself a challenge. I would train as best as I could, without pushing things too hard and a few days before the race itself I’d make an honest decision on whether to run or not. I presumed that if there was a problem, I’d know before then anyway.

On my first training run I had to detail my exact route and approximate finishing time to my daughter, so that if anything went wrong, she’d have an idea where to find me. This was much more for her benefit than mine as really, I felt quite strong. I also texted my wife the same details just to reassure her too.

Fast forward four weeks and I found myself on the start line suffering with my usual bout of pre-race nerves, but also feeling a huge determination to run a good time. It was a warm day, but quite still so I was pleased that I wouldn’t be battling the wind too much. What I felt I was battling though, was a bit of a lack of fitness. I’d run a solitary 10k in around 6 weeks, so while I wanted to run a good time, I didn’t know how capable I was and the state of my heart was always at the back of my mind too.

In the end, despite any reservations, I ran just two seconds outside my personal best! I got a little confused in the final mile, thinking I had more to run than I did – I’d definitely put this down to fatigue – and so I didn’t start picking up the pace until it was a little too late. I’ll know for next year though!

My latest heart scare had come after another 10k race about 6 weeks previously having just gone straight back to training, so I made sure I rested properly this time round. In fact, I don’t think I’ve run a 10k since, just concentrating on 4 and 5 mile runs when I go out in order to just stay sharp.

So, at the moment, everything seems OK healthwise. I actually spoke to a cardiology doctor last week, about the results of my 24 hour ECG and the general consensus seems to be that what happened was a bit of a blip. He did brielfy float the idea that I may have had another, much less serious atrial flutter (my problem first time round), but having consulted with another doctor, neither of them were too sure or too concerned. There doesn’t seem to be any need for medication and the only minor concern is that my heart rate is particularly low while I sleep, but from my point of view, that’s OK. I keep an eye on my heart rate when I’m out running, but only looking once or twice, usually once I’ve got up any big hills! Again, there’s been nothing alarming to report.

I’m learning to listen to this middle aged body a bit more though! I’m hopefully finding out that it’s not in as bad a shape as I thought it might be. Oh, and I’ve also learned that I need to hydrate far better, after another doctor told me that my blood test results looked like those of a bloke who didn’t ever actually drink water! So, now I start every day with a glass of water and then make sure that I’m drinking throughout the day. It sounds easier than it is, so again, I’m still learning which is ridiculous at my age.

The good thing is though, despite a few more heart worries, I’m still going strong(ish)!

Top Ten Hazards for the Middle Aged Runner

Now some people would take one look at the title of this particular blog and question the need for a Top Ten. In many ways, I would be one of them. I mean, as a fairly regular middle aged runner I can testify to the fact that it’s often no fun whatsoever. In fact, there are times when it’s nothing short of sheer hell. I enjoy it, in a strange way, but I can’t kid myself that it can be sheer hell too!

In the recent heat, there have been more than a few moments where I’ve wondered if my thumping heart, trembling legs and sweaty face would actually make it through the next few moments, let alone allow me to get back through our front door. I could argue that my face when running, resembling as it does a prized, agricultural show-ready plum tomato, is hazard enough to just give the whole running lark up. But, if you insist on continuing to run into your forties and fifties, then I suppose I’m providing a bit of a public service in telling you the kind of things you should look out for. And simultaneously ignoring my own advice as well…

Hazard 1 – Hills. Going up. not going down. Although even going down a hill can play havoc with the knees these days. But it’s the going up that presents the hazard. A friend of mine once commented on the town where I live, ‘Morley, built on 7 hills, like Rome. And that’s where the comparison ends’. I’d argue that this is not true as we have crumbling buildings and crazy drivers too, just like Rome, but that’s beside the point. Morley was indeed built on seven hills and this means that when running locally I cannot escape the bloody things. So beware, fellow middle age runners, hills mean an increasingly worrying heart rate, jelly legs and the production of many a strange wheezing noise.

Hazard 2 – Van drivers. Well known for their stereotypically lewd comments to women, van drivers are often not the runner’s friend either. Strangely while some are just downright abusive, others appear to think that they’re either running coaches or cheerleaders and many’s the time I’ve been shouted at to “get those knees up” or just told “go on lad”. None of this does any good for my motivation and if you too are a fifty something runner, I daresay it will only inspire muttered threats and swearing.

Hazard 3 – Wind. Just to clarify, that’s the weather related type rather than the arse related. Although I find that sometimes a good burp can do me the world of good while running. But that’s besides the point (and possibly another blog…). At a certain, respectable age wind can become less of a challenge and more of a factor to keep me indoors. It’s battle enough chasing times running a 5 or 10k without having to throw myself headlong into a 20mph headwind. I don’t mind said wind behind me as I’m heading home though!

Hazard 4 – Cobbles. Now this is a niche hazard, I’ll grant you that. But where I live in West Yorkshire, cobbles are still quite common. And before you say ‘just avoid them’, it’s not that simple. I don’t have to run on entirely cobbled streets much at all, but there are certain sections of the roads that I run on where there are still cobbles that are more or less unavoidable. If I don’t run on the cobbles the alternative is to run on the main road connecting Wakefield and Bradford, which as you’d expect, can be rather busy. So while my elderly knees and ankles are put at risk on cobbles, I’ll take my chance with this hazard rather than getting clipped by a truck! If I can continue to keep my balance and stay upright, everything will be OK!

Hazard 5 – Dawdlers. Slow walkers. Like, perilously slow. The bane of my life when I’m out running. Now you may think that this isn’t just a problem for the more vintage runner like myself. So let me explain. I’m out, I’ve established a rhythm and I’m not even giving any thought to how I feel. I’m just running without really having to think too much. And then, up ahead there’s a dawdler. I’m suddenly aware of the width of the pavement or just conscious of the fact that running behind them might give them a bit of a fright. But if they can just make it to that opening or the wider bit of pavement I can give them a wider berth and not slow down. Because I can’t slow down or stop as I might struggle to find this rhythm again! Of course, they never make it to that wider section at the right time and so I’m forced to take evasive action, like running up a grassy bank or into the road. Not a problem at all as a younger runner, but now it’s the kind of thing that could knock me off balance or just drain the legs of what it turns out is absolutely vital energy! Dawdlers: the incredibly innocent looking hazard that you hadn’t even thought about!

Hazard 6 – Dog walkers. Before I go any further, I’ll just say that I know that the majority of dog walkers are wonderful and responsible people. Some of them though, are just dicks! Now this hazard can be similar to your dawdler, which as we know represent a tricky problem. But then you throw in the dog. And here’s the deal. On numerous occasions I’ve been leapt at by dogs, twice sending me crashing to the floor in an ungainly fashion. The first time led to me completing the final half of my run caked in mud – hair, face, arms, legs – and the latest saw me sent sprawling to the concrete and subsequently taking the skin off my hands and knees. And on each occasion the humans involved were unapologetic and worse than useless. I was jumped at recently by a couple of scrawny rat type things and when the owners just grinned I’m afraid my response wasn’t particularly composed. Instead it was riddled with expletives. But I think I made my point. I’m 50 years old and doing my level best to stay fit and healthy. My body does not need to be hastily considering evasive gymnastics while I’m out running.

Hazard 7 – Young runners. Put simply these runners are younger than us, fitter than us and most likely quicker than us. In my case, they probably look better in their running gear too. But they certainly represent a hazard to the middle aged runner like myself. Lots of us will be the same in that we still retain a competitive edge and thus, when I see a young runner out and about, I only ever see a challenge. If I’m ahead of them, I’ll try to stay ahead. If I’m behind, I’ll lengthen my stride and try to catch them. Both are terrible ideas at my stage of life and only ever result in a struggle to actually finish my run! The lesson is to not try and take on people 20 or 30 years younger than me. If only I could learn the lesson!

Hazard 8 – Friends in cars. Admittedly, not the worst thing in the world, but believe me, when you’re 50, approaching the end of a run, sweaty, disheveled and your face looks like it might just explode, you do not want to see one of your mates go past in the car!

Hazard 9 – Chip shops (see also Indian takeaways and pizza shops). An easily avoidable hazard, but one where I never seem to learn my lesson. All of the above are regularly on my running routes simply because I live in quite a large town. Let me tell you, they are not good for moral! The wonderful aroma of chips, garlic or curry never fails to leave me wondering what the hell I thought I was doing when I had the idea for a run in the first place. Surely, ordering out and then sitting down and tucking into any one of these delights would be far more sensible and enjoyable than dragging my weary lycra-clad self round another 10k?

Hazard 10 – Beer Gardens. I regularly go out for a run after work on a Friday. I leave as early as possible, get home and changed quickly, stretch and then out I go. And it always seems like a great idea. I can rid myself of the mental fatigue and stress brought on by the working week and just be alone with my thoughts. Until that is, I spot a beer garden up ahead. It’s similar to the feeling I get when I smell a takeaway, but worse. Worse, because as I look up, it seems like every other middle aged person in town has decided to head to the beer garden and they look to be having such a great time. Would it not make sense for me to deal with my stress just like them? Well, yes, it would! And yet, here I am attempting to recapture the fitness of my youth, like an idiot while the inevitable wag glances up from a cold pint to call out to you to ‘get those knees up’. He probably came over in his van as well!

It should be a very simple thing to do, go out on a run. Staying fit in your middle age should only really be a battle with your own body. But as you’ve just read, it can be far, far more than just that!

50.

Two days ago, I turned 50. I started writing this particular blog two days before the milestone day itself. I wanted to write something about what is generally regarded as a ‘big’ birthday, partly because it’s big and partly just to attempt to consider my feelings about reaching it. The blog is called Middle Age Fanclub, after all.

A few years ago, I didn’t actually think that I was going to get here. Lying in a hospital bed, contemplating the events that had got me there – and that would also lead to the birth of this blog – I was pretty much in shock.

I’ll keep it brief because I’ve covered it a few times before here, but about month after my 46th birthday I was admitted to hospital with heart palpitations. More than one person who looked after me that night told me I was lucky to be alive. It was made abundantly clear to me that I was on my way to a heart attack. I didn’t stay long in hospital, but when I was eventually sent packing it was with a large amount of medication that would stop any blood clotting and keep my heart working like a heart should.

Around a month later I was back in the same place undergoing a lengthy procedure that would hopefully sort things out, again cared for by incredibly lovely and talented people. And about a year after that I was discharged from hospital care and told that my heart was healthy and strong once again.

So above everything, turning 50 is quite nice really! And yet, I can’t say I’m fully enjoying it, which I guess is pretty much par for the course. The older you get, the more conscious of your age you become. And try as I might, I can’t help but feel a little bit uncomfortable about it all.

So what’s 50 like then? Well, I’d like to think that I look and feel Ok for my age. A friend recently told me that she would never have placed me as almost 50, referring to the fact that she’d have thought of me as just a few years older than herself. She’s in her thirties. I don’t know whereabouts in her thirties because a gentleman should be asking a lady her age, but thanks Gemma (she’d like you to know that you can find her as the star of Episode 3 of Educating Yorkshire. I’d like you to know that she’s extremely lovely, kind and funny and that you should seek that episode out). Gemma’s comments really lightened my mood that day and some of my other friends have said the same or similar across the latter years of my forties, so in many ways 50 doesn’t bother me.

Since my heart problems I’ve worked really hard to get myself fit. When Covid hit I doubled up on effort and although there have been a few wobbles – mostly from my belly -along the way, I’d say I’m in better shape than your average 50-year-old. I run every week and coach a football team which means I get a bit more exercise there and that keeps me ticking over nicely. I rarely feel poorly.

Fifty and the years approaching it, have made me feel a lot more tired though. The body does not recover or bounce back quite as sharply as it used to. Neither does the mind. But I suppose that’s par for the course really. Life is pretty demanding, so having worked pretty solidly for something approaching thirty years, I suppose I’ll get more tired than most. It’s still a feeling that has taken me by surprise though. I recently wrote a piece evaluating how old I feel and settled on 18 and I’m happy with that. But sometimes, those 50-year-old aches and pains and the regular craving for a nap anywhere past 4pm are slightly unwelcome!

I can’t say I like being 50. When I was younger 50 seemed ridiculously old and so, naturally, there’s a bit of me that feels ridiculously old now! Now that I’ve hit 50, there’s a bit of a feeling of disbelief. While I know exactly where the time went, I’m still left questioning where the time went! It genuinely doesn’t feel like more than a few years since I was stumbling off the revolving dancefloor again on the boat (a floating night club in Newcastle, actually called the Tuxedo Princess but known to all as ‘the boat’). It feels like minutes since I was trawling the racks of vinyl in the Music Box in Blaydon or sitting in my best mate’s bedroom making music. University seems like yesterday, the stream of dead end jobs I found myself in afterwards, still fantastically fresh in my mind and the last two decades as a teacher have flown by. And yet, retirement is possibly just a little bit in front of the horizon.

Getting to fifty brings a few problems that I really don’t want to be dealing with. How long before I’m duty bound to go and have my prostate examined? Please let it be a good while yet! Is there a cut off point for wearing certain clothes? I’m really not ready for slacks or cheap, terrible fitting jeans with slip on shoes. But I really don’t want to look like the oldest swinger – not the sexy time type, I hasten to add – in town either. Am I getting my hair cut too short? Should I be telling my hairdresser not to use the clippers and instead leave me with a decent covering of hair and thus a smattering of dignity, rather than anything that could be deemed too young? And – oh, the horror – do I have to start listening to music like Renee and Renata’s greatest hits, Phil Collins, Mike and The Mechanics and Roxette? Am I too old to keep seeking out new music when I’m old enough to be most of their dads? (This ‘old enough to be your dad’ theme is starting to get worrying, by the way…)

Worrying as it is, this ‘dad’ phenomenon is one that repeats itself at work. I work in a department where I’m old enough to be almost all of their dads, a sentence that I’d like to instantly apologise to them and their mams for. I could comfortably, age-wise, be their dads though. I think in a way, it keeps me feeling young – working with them that is, not the awareness that in a parallel universe, I could have fathered them. They don’t treat me like their dad or worse still, their grandad, although that may well be my nickname in the English office, as I’m rarely in there. But no one is yet offering me a hand carrying piles of books or a quiet place for a nap, so that’s nice. My department is almost all women and I refer to them as my big little sisters – big because they’re all far more mature and intelligent than me, but little because they’re all much younger and I swear it’s some sort of elixir of youth working with them. However, every time we get a student teacher in school, I look at them and wonder when we got a sixth form. Or how I missed non-uniform day or ‘Bring your Teenager to Work’ day. It doesn’t end there though. As a trainee teacher I taught an A-Level class that contained our now Headteacher. That’ll make you feel old, believe me. So work is no sanctuary from being 50.

Fifty and its approach has made me restless. I had so many hopes and dreams when I was younger. I guess we all do. But I don’t feel like I’ve achieved a lot at all. Is that a failing or simply a fact of life? Probably the latter, but it’s still not an easy pill to swallow, if I’m being honest. I’ve travelled, but not enough for my liking. I’ve seen amazing things, but would have loved to have seen more. I’ve been privileged to have been a teacher for over two decades and adore my job, but it was never what I actually wanted to do with my life and I still found myself wondering about being a long distance lorry driver only last week. It’s funny how a simple number can make your mind somersault all over the place. Yet, maybe not being simply satisfied at this time of life is a good thing.

For all the negatives though, it brought out an amazing outpouring of love and kindness from those around me and although I’m really not comfortable being the centre of attention, the day itself was largely lovely. Whatever age I turned, I certainly felt loved by many people.

So, 50? Confusing, terrifying, humbling and many other ‘ings’ that I can’t really consider all at once. And there’s not a great deal I can do about that. So, I’ve decided just to dive in and make sure that while I can, I’m going to enjoy life, regardless of my age. 50 has happened, just as 60 will and 40 did. They’re all daunting, but none of them have wiped me out and so there’s nothing for it but to get on with life! I think I” spend a while adjusting to this next phase of my life, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it!

How old do I feel?

A funny question, this. And one that is quite close to my heart really. You see, I started my blog shortly after recovering from a heart operation having been admitted to hospital a month or so earlier and being told I was lucky to be alive. Among many things that were brought to mind around this time was the question of feeling so old. That, coupled with the realisation that I really was now middle aged and the desire to write prompted me to write a three part blog about the troubles I’d encountered and the realisation that I felt very old indeed.

You can read that very first blog on the link here that asks When did I get so old?

In truth, the question of how old I feel has been a regular topic in the vast desert of my mind ever since. Surgery was a wake-up call; I needed to be healthier, fitter, stronger – I needed to live.

Since then, I’ve made changes – not perhaps as dramatic as I’d like to make, but everything’s in transition at my time of life – and am able to give a far better answer to the question these days! So when asked to write something about it https://billswritingplace.wordpress.com/2022/01/01/how-old-do-i-feel/ by my very good internet pal, Bill of ‘A Silly Place’ fame, I leapt at the chance.

Like Bill, I’m approaching 50. In fact, I’m 50 in February (which leaves plenty of time to organise some kind of gift, dear reader!). I really don’t feel it though. If others are to be believed, I don’t look it either, which is something I’m truly grateful for! Without sounding too big-headed or pleased with my little self, I’m comfortable in my own skin and to a point, with my own reflection in the mirror. But ultimately, this isn’t really important in terms of how old I feel.

So, if I had to nail it and put an actual number on how old I feel, then I’d plump for 18. Not bodily. Running and football and having two kids – I didn’t actually birth them, but sweet Jesus, they’re exhausting – have definitely taken their toll. However, in my head, I feel 18.

There’s a brilliant song by The Courteeners called ‘Not 19 Forever’ and while I love the song, I’d argue vociferously against the title and its sentiment. I won’t reach 19, because I am 18 forever!

So, why do I feel so young? Well, it’s not as positive as it sounds. I feel 18 because I retain a fully formed sense of silliness. Just as I did at that age, I really don’t take things too seriously. I like to have fun and I’m happier than ever when just larking around and having a laugh. In short, I suppose that makes me immature, but they do say that boys take a while to catch up, don’t they? So, I’m only doing as I’m told really. But even as I hurtle towards 50, I still don’t feel that I’m a very good adult. In fact, I’m just a much better kid.

“But dad, I don’t want to form a band!” “Why not? I’m still young and hip and down with the kids, maaaan!”
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

Part of feeling 18 is that I have the same kind of daft ideas that I had as a kid. A fair few of my blog posts will prove that. My recent New Year’s Resolutions post included ideas like learning to moonwalk and adopting an imaginary cat with a rude name, all very much the ideas of an overgrown child. Last summer I bought a Snoopy t-shirt and I still have a Hong Kong Phooey one and while I know these are not the attire of an almost 50 year old bloke, I just really like them.

Eighteen year old me still regularly plays both kitchen disco and kitchen band while doing the dishes. In fact, I like very little more than the chance to mince and mime my way through songs, just simply because it amuses me greatly. In my head on these occasions I’m a combination of a young Mick Jagger, a Jackson 5 era Michael, James Brown and Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, the frontman of Swedish band The Hives. In reality I’m likely much more a slightly out of shape, yet curiously skinny bloke with greying hair and a few moves, none of which are actually that great. But I’m bloody well 18!

“OK Wembley, this is the last song of the night. You’ve been a lovely…oh hi kids, dad’ll get your tea soon…he’s just…working…” Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

I think that part of the reason I still feel 18 is that I spend a large proportion of my time surrounded by young people. I’m a high school teacher, so I’m in the presence of people from 11-16 five days a week. And although this could well be the reason that I’ve developed nervous ticks and often wake in the night in a cold sweat, screaming, I think it’s kept me young, so to speak. I’m obliged to see things from a pre-teen and teenage point of view, I’m informed of the latest trends and I’m haunted, daily by their language! I suppose I’m inspired by their energy as well. For all the mini battles we might have with behaviour, attitude and application, there are a million more inspiring, positive and fun interactions to be had and it keeps a smile on your face as well as giving you the motivation to get out of bed and get into work every day. In my case, it feels like it keeps me young too!

As well as teaching, I coach a youth football team. This definitely helps in the feeling 18 stakes! At least twice a week I’m actively playing football and because I’m very competitive it means I throw myself into it…like a kid, really. It’s something I’m really enthusiastic about; not just getting to kick a ball around, but working out how to inspire our players, how to develop their skills and get the best out of them. It’s tiring, but it’s also another aspect of my life that means I really don’t feel like an almost 50 year old. However, there are occasions when it can have the opposite effect and leave me feeling like I’m nearly 90, not 50! A few months ago I injured my shoulder because I thought I’d go in goal during some shooting practice. The more I saved, the more competitive it became and the more I threw myself around! It was loads of fun, but I regretted it the next day – and for months afterwards – as I’d damaged a nerve in my shoulder. It led to a miserable summer of being in constant pain and frankly, I’ve never felt so old.

Mainly though, I genuinely feel young. Of course, I get more tired than before, but I’m not one for napping or just sitting about. I think because my job requires a lot of energy and my coaching and interests do too, then I retain that (almost) teenage energy, a lot of the time.

My name is Graham and I’m an almost 50-year-old man. I have some wrinkles and some grey hair. In my head, I’m still 18, although I’m not sure my knees agree…

Christmas Gift Guide: What the middle aged man about town might want this Christmas.

I’ll be honest with you. I have no real idea what the typical middle aged man might want this Christmas. So, if you’re looking for a guide that might prove to be of some use, this might not be the read for you, although as a middle aged man I may be able to offer some useful advice. I mean, I’ve been middle aged for a while now and run a blog called Middleagefanclub; I can hazard a decent guess, right?

My first gift recommendation can be both practical and stylish. It’s slippers. Now, I know, I know, I know that slippers seem to be the most stereotyped middle aged man gift going. And perhaps they are. But I’ll tell you what; they’re practical too. In fact, all you need to get some use out of slippers is feet. On an even more practical level, us middle aged men have gotten to a stage in life where circulation isn’t quite what it used to be. And it’s our hands and feet that will suffer, so in order to keep some feeling in those feet on those long Winter night, you could do a lot worse than buying the middle aged man in your life – dad, husband, brother, uncle, whatever – a nice pair of slippers.

Now slippers can range wildly in price. Like anything, really. So, if you’re working with a budget, you could pick up a pair in a supermarket such as Asda or Sainsbury’s – or whatever the popular supermarkets are in your country, global ‘fanclub fans – for as little as £7 and even get the more toasty warm boot style slippers – you know, if the target of the present has literally no sense of style whatsoever – for around a tenner.

However, there is a luxury end to the slipper market as well. I spotted some online recently and, as a confirmed slipper wearer they got my interest. For starters they didn’t really look like your traditional slipper. There was a bit more style and originality and the colour choice was a bit more daring too. But the price was an immediate stumbling block. Howver, dear reader, if you’re feeling flush and have enjoyed my writing over the last few months, well a pair of Mahabis at up to £75 would be very much appreciated and they’d keep my toes from getting numb too!

Books are always a good purchase for the middle aged man in your life and especially at this time of year. And fortunately, there are a lot of books released at this time of year too. A trip to your local supermarket over the next week or two will reveal all manner of newly published work and the good thing seems to be that the quality of these books seems to have improved in the last few years. A book isn’t a very difficult present to buy either and while it’ll give the middle aged man in your life something to concentrate on for a while and an excuse to sit on an armchair or lie on the bed, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, as once read it can be passed on to charity.

A quick look at the shelves of my local supermarket revealed the scope of choice, just for non fiction. There were books by Mel Brookes, Will Smith, Billy Connolly, Bob Mortimer, Louis Theroux, Freddie Flintoff and Dave Grohl. And for those who aren’t really that big on reading, there were also books by the likes of Paddy McGuiness, Alison Hammond and Ant Middleton (who has a disturbing amount out, as it goes). I imagine there’s more pictures in these ones.

Boxer shorts/underwear are always a sure fire winner with your middle aged man. Now, It’s not an area I’ve surveyed a lot, but I’d like to think that the majority of discerning men of a certain age are in favour of boxers. Without putting you off your next meal, I know I certainly do. Much more comfortable. And while I’m not being paid to mention them, my recommendation would still be that you try http://www.myoddballs.co.uk as their range is excellent. They’re also very comfortable, make donations to testicular cancer charities as well as raising awareness and their designs are such that it’s safe to say they’ll put a little more funk around your junk, so to speak. And it should still be important to look good at our stage of life. Oddballs also do other products such as socks and sportswear too, so you could find yourself really treating that middle aged fella!

As for buying budgie smugglers for middle aged men; listen, if you know anyone still wearing them, run!

Alcohol is always a good gift, although it’s obviously dependent on a middle aged man’s relationship with booze, I suppose. But, if you know someone who likes a drink – occasional, steady or just a raving session drinker – then these days the choice is amazing. It’s fair to say that beer has undergone a bit of a revolution in the last 5-10 years with the emergence of craft beers. Small, independent breweries, tap rooms and beer shops have sprung up regularly and there are some real gems to be tasted. It might be that you simply buy a gift pack or hamper online from a site like Honest Brew, Flavourly or Beer52 or one of the craft breweries. Even if you’re not sure where they are, a quick Google search of ‘local craft breweries’ should do the trick. And even if they don’t do some type of pack or bundle, you could always just put a hamper together yourself. You could revolutionise someone’s tastebuds.

If beer isn’t the thing for the middle aged male target of your gift giving, how about whisky, gin or rum even? There are always packs of small bottles available in supermarkets and of course online and a bit like with beer, the emergence of many small craft distilleries over the last few years means the choice is great. Failing that, your local supermarket will most likely have a vast selection of all manner of spirits and you can usually pick up a decent bottle for somewhere around the £20 mark. If you’re not sure, go online and look for reviews.

If the middle aged man in your life likes to exercise, then there’s always a gift to be had. Maybe it’s something they’ve been doing for years. Maybe, they’ve decided to look after themselves a bit better and want to embark on some exercise. Or maybe they’re just having a mid-life crisis and have decided to launch a crusade to look better and – in their dreams – snare themselves a younger partner! Whatever the reason, exercise gear could make a great gift. As with a few other of the suggestions above, there’s a huge range of things to choose from and a huge range of brands too. Whether it’s a new pair of trainers, an exercise top, a base layer for those colder times or a pair of shorts, there’s plenty of choice and gear to suit all budgets. If you’re in the UK places like M and M Direct always have sportswear at decent prices and even shops like B&Ms and The Range do exercise gear. You’d be surprised what you can find. You never know; your gift of some sort of exercise gear might just open up a whole new world for your middle aged target!

If you’re going down the exercise road with your gifts then one thing I can highly recommend is a massage roller. These are brilliant for soothing those aching muscles and, as a middle aged man myself, I can vouch for their positive effects! My wife actually bought me one last Christmas as I was having problems with my calves after running and it was an absolute revelation. You put the roller in the freezer and when you need it, it’s ice cold and ready to work its magic. Roll the metal ball over your aching muscles and it will really help recovery. And believe me, us middle age geezers need all the help we can get! The two that I’d recommend would be the Murlien Massage Roller Ball (the one I’ve got) and the Fitness Cryosphere Cold Massage Roller. Both are available in various online outlets and are reasonably priced too!

My final recommendation is ideal for the middle aged man who’s just waiting to move into the realms of being a pensioner. Get him a pipe! If he doesn’t use it now, he’s sure to reach for it within the next few years!

Well, I hope my gift guide gave you a little bit of good advice. If not, well I hope it gave you the odd chuckle. Happy Christmas to you and the middle aged man or men in your life!

Irrational hatred or reflex loathings?

For some time now my family, and even some of my friends, have sometimes referred to me as being a bit grumpy. I’ve even heard the phrase ‘grumpy old man’ flung in my general direction on occasion. It’s the kind of label that I’ll readily dispute.

For a long time I just put it down to the fact that I have a low tolerance for certain things. If you’re rambling on I’d rather you just got to the point. If you’re singing along to a song I like and you happen to be horribly out of tune, I’ll most likely let you know. My face still changes when I look at my pay and cast my eyes over how much tax I have to pay. If I’m grumpy, then I assume everyone else just loves paying tax. And if we’re at work and you’ve had what I feel is a terrible idea then, although I’ve mellowed considerably, I’m still likely to let you know. After all, a shit idea is a shit idea, right? Nothing grumpy about that.

Then one day I was reading a book and happened upon a term that would perhaps put an end to all accusations of grumpiness. Well, at least for me anyway.

It was nearing the end of a Year 7 English lesson. We used to do a thing called ERIC Time, which meant that ‘everyone reads in class’. So for the last twenty minutes of a specified lesson, twice a week, we’d be reading as a way of relaxing, learning something different and, well, promoting reading.

I was sat in my usual place at the back of the room, half reading and half keeping an eye on other readers; looking for pages turning at relevant times. And it was here I met a kindred spirit in the writer Bill Bryson. I was reading Bryson’s fantastic book, ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’ about his adventures wandering around England. Now Bryson, it has to be said, can come across as a little bit grumpy. Not to me, you understand – I empathise completely with his everyday frustrations. But it was he who introduced me to the idea of reflex loathings, which he describes in the book as being something people “dislike without having to justify or explain to anyone why they don’t like them.” Bryson recommends that we be allowed ten of these reflex loathings, although as he invented the term, he gives himself a few more. Fair enough.

So first of all, I will be offering some explanation as to my reflex loathings, mainly because a list of things I don’t like but won’t explain wouldn’t be much of a blog. It wouldn’t be very funny either and at the very least I was hoping to raise the odd smile with people. So, in no particular order, here’s my list of current reflex loathings and at the very least, a brief explanation. Is it a complete list? I very much doubt it, but any more than ten might make people think I’m just a grumpy old man.

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com
  1. The lights being left on in the house…FOR NO APPARENT REASON. Ok, so clearly I’ve turned into my dad, which is frankly regrettable. However, as I get a bit older I find that I am left flabbergasted by the sheer amount of times I walk into a room in our house to find no one there, yet all of the lights on. It’s not a money thing; we can pay the electric bill. I just find it astounding that someone (my kids generally) can leave the room, the landing, the hallway or wherever and not give the slightest thought to how empty it is, yet how light. Who needs that light? I feel like I walk round my house channelling my dad and muttering stuff like, “It’s like bloody Blackpool Illuminations in here!” I’m right though.
  2. The ridiculous names they give to paint. I’m not going to explain, but let’s try something. Can you spot the false paint names in the list? Elephant’s Breath, Rose Madder, Ian’s Armpit, New Gamboge, Squirrel Tail, Moonlight Romance, Armitage’s Parsonage, R2D2 Blue, Broccolli Brown, Broccolli Green, String, Smelly Bumbum, Burnt Tofu, Savage Garden, Jennifer’s Hen Do, Well Green Innit, Blue…Just Blue, Orgasmic Purple, York Spinster and Auntie Hazel’s Having A Hot Flush. No, me neither. I actually looked some paint names up, but got carried away making my own up and now I can’t tell which are which. You get my point though, right?
  3. People knocking at my door. Neighbour, salesman, delivery driver, whatever…I’m not interested and I will hide behind the armchair in order to avoid you. Your persistence will be rewarded with my ridiculous, childlike behaviour!
  4. Clothes being left inside out when put in the wash. Aaaaaaaaaagh. Luckily, I don’t need to explain it as it’s just a reflex loathing.
  5. The Mistreatment of Books. Maybe this is just my problem entirely. I think books are precious. As a kid we didn’t have a lot, but we always had books. And I was an avid visitor to the library too. A genuine teenage bookworm; yep, that cool! What it meant though is that I always valued books. As such, even now when I finish a book it more often than not has the look of one that’s just been taken off the shelf. So, to find dog eared books in my classroom, see people breaking the spines, see the pages being turned over instead of using a book mark…my blood’s boiling just thinking about it!
  6. Glory Hunting Football Fans. I’m sure these people are present around lots of sports, but as a football fan, this really winds me up. Simple rule; if the club isn’t vaguely local or you weren’t born there, then that’s not your club. These sort of fans seem to be more accepted these days and I’ve heard the argument that ‘it’s a global game’ more than a few times, but put simply, it’s not and you’re wrong. You can’t argue that you have the same connection with that team if you were born miles and miles away. Your support is based around the pursuit of glory, nothing else. However reflex this loathing is, it is in my opinion, 100% justified.
  7. Local Radio DJs. You’re not funny, you’ve probably got a stupid voice, your material is likely to have been stolen and re-hashed from someone else and I loathe what you do. Terrible jingles, a nickname you probably made up in order to look popular and a world full of awful catchphrases. Oh, and did I mention you’re not funny? (I think I need a lie down).
  8. The Dressing Habits of Young Men. I feel sure that this is solely a British thing, but let’s get it out there anyway. I am the father of a daughter. I dread the introduction of boys into her life. And yet, a bit of me can’t wait. I’ll be the dad that turns them round on the doorstep if and when they’re not good enough. Off you pop fella. Not today. Not near my daughter. One of the things I dread most is a sight I see regularly. There’ll be a couple out and about and while the girl or woman has obviously made the effort with her appearance and most likely looks great, the boy will be invariably wearing a tracksuit and scruffy trainers. In the U.K. he may even be walking around with a hand down the front of his tracksuit bottoms. His hand, just to clarify. I look at these situations and my heart bleeds for the poor girl. She has probably spent hours getting ready to go out. He’s slung on the first thing he found on his bedroom floor – this is what this chap thinks of you. I have genuinely already warned my daughter about this type of thing! Please, don’t stand for this lack of effort and level of disrespect. And please lads, have a tiny bit of pride in your appearance.
  9. People who don’t hold the door open. Holding a door open takes little effort at all, but it’s just a nice thing to do. And still, people just let the door slam in your face. I don’t care what or who you are, there will always be a sarcastic comment from me in these instances.
  10. Supermarket Dawdlers. Don’t. Just. Stop. That tin of tomatoes doesn’t need your scrutiny. That aisle isn’t a place for you and the neighbours to park trolleys (badly) and have a natter. By all means take your time, but please, at the very least walk in a straight line so I can get past. There are no imaginary cones for you to be weaving through!

So, there you have it. A list of my Reflex Loathings. In the course of making the list I’ve discovered that I have quite a long list! But I decided to leave lots out as what should have been a vaguely humorous blog felt like it was turning into a rant. And someone somewhere reflex loathes ranters and their rants!

I hope you enjoyed the post. Maybe you have a long list of reflex loathings of your own? Feel free to let me know what yours are as well as what you thought of mine. Am I right or just a very grumpy old man?