A month ago I was decidedly plump.

It was time for a good hard look at myself.


    Plump is a good word and much underused.

    It’s a slightly less aggressive way of saying fat.

   Plump is a cherub in the Garden of Eden or a cheerful, rosy-cheeked granny, probably wearing a floral Laura Ashley number. We plump a cushion to aerate it, to make it round and soft and comfortable. If you plump for something you choose it. Plump is the first 5/8 of a racecourse in East Sussex. The final 3/8 is 'ton'. You see, 'plump' and 'ton' go together, there's a rather pleasant roundedness to it all. Yes, as a word, plump is a good all-rounder.

    Whichever definition you ‘plump’ for (see how I worked that in), it’s usually a way to describe rotundity, or being overweight, or as one definition tactfully says, ‘somewhat fleshy’.

    What I’m getting round to is that after eight weeks out of action with sciatica I have become somewhat fleshy. In fact it could be argued I’d gone past plump and was now Americanesque. I changed the mirror from portrait to Landscape and ‘plump-shamed’ myself. Despite having had five years of heavy exercise, I have gone to seed mighty quickly. Alarmingly quickly.


    I've had a sore back before, but for the first time in my life, I found out what proper sciatica is, and it is really, really painful. For about six weeks I went from chair to fridge to bed to chair very slowly with the aid of a stick and a selection anti-inflammatory snacks. Now that I’m mobile again, it's time to do something about it. A regime is called for.

    I decided on a boxing analogy where my belly took on the role of opposition. I needed to devise a plan so brutal that I would sneak up on my stomach and flatten it.


    I have chosen to forget the steroids and go for the natural / holistic approach. After all, I don’t need to get into a confrontation with John Douglas, 9th Marquis of Queensberry, over the use of banned substances. My boycott of chemical stimulants has made things awkward. I have to find a natural balance between pork scratchings, red wine and exercise. A puzzle worthy of a tea-time quiz show if ever I saw one. A wacky half hour where obese celebrities battle to ascertain who can roll the furthest while maintaining the illusion of being utterly talentless. This silly analogy is a defence mechanism where I'm trying to downplay the seriousness of my plumpness.

    I needed open space to figure out my dilemma so put the emergency ambulance on speed dial and went for a power walk. At least it was a power walk for the first thirty yards, after that it became a power stroll. A couple of hundred metres further on the whole thing ended up, frankly, rather a mess. It became a ramble, then an amble. After a lap of a football pitch (speed diminishing by the yard) I was substituted. Following advise from the team doctor I retired for a segment of orange and a power nap.

    It was a disappointing start to my campaign. In fact my friend leaned over his garden wall to witness my passing (nearly literally) and described my power-walking style as ‘pedestrian’. This from a man who is a generation older and who’s just had his first knee replacement.


    I refuse to give up my treats (pork cratchings and Merlot). After all, I’ve already given up everything else that tastes of anything due to a diabetic diet. I will just have to build up my stamina and get on with it.

    The dog has just had a period of becoming plump too. He had an operation on his eyes so wasn’t keen on dashing about as normal. The conical plastic collar cramped his style. We will endure together and I’m pleased to report that we’re walking with increased determination. The medium term goal is for me to take him up on the moors and do a three-mile circuit. It’s a route we have done before but not for a couple of years. Round the far side of the walk, in the lee of a peaty hill, it’s a bit isolated so I don’t want either of us getting into trouble at an inopportune moment. I need to be reasonably sure we can cope, so training is in order.

    Long term goal? Not sure really, but the dog’s 11+ and I’m pretty much knackered. Let’s just stick to a series of medium term goals.

    Move on ten days and things are improving. Starting at six in the morning the hound and I walk two miles. We do two laps of our local circuit. Along the field, through the park, past the cricket field and school, past an old manor house, down a lane and rejoin the field for the final stretch home. There’s a good deal of sniffing so progress is steady if not spectacular. I enjoy a good sniff.

    After I’ve dropped the dog off and made him breakfast I set out again, in the opposite direction. That’s because the uphill sections this way are gentler on the hips, though it’s still a bit of a drag. It’s a few hundred yards gentle gradient that I have named heartbreak hill.


    I’ve built up to a sedate ten circuits a day, which is ten miles, with the odd pause. If I go too fast my backside and mid-section go numb due to ‘a blood flow anomaly’. But I want to know how much I can do and how much I can improve so I push it a bit. If I stop for even a couple of minutes all feeling returns, so that’s positive. During lap nine this morning I had a minor dizzy spell so heartbreak hill became heartbreak ill. But I crested the summit and things returned to normal.

    The good thing is that I can now walk a greater distance before things start to go wrong, so with luck I’m doing some good. I remember when recovery time was measured in minutes. These days it’s weeks.

    I meet some nice folk en route. Some regular walkers, with or without dogs, and some people who are off work looking to stay in shape. Perhaps they are furlonging. For the last couple of days there have been a team of lads rendering an exterior wall on a house down the lane. They see me trudge by time after time and naturally we exchange a word or two and have a smile. This morning I passed and said hello.

    ‘See you in twenty minutes then,’ one of them laughs.

    When I pass again, they had completed a section of wall. ‘At least you’re making progress,’ I say, ‘I’m just going round in circles.’

    It wasn’t exactly builders humour or a chuckle for the proletariat but the lads chortled politely.

    The final time round this morning I took the boss guy’s number. Good plasterers are handy lads to know and they were doing a good job. Taking his number didn’t go as smoothly as it might have done. On mile ten my vision gets a bit blurry and I messed up twice trying to add him as a contact on my phone. He was anxious because his render undercoat was drying fast and needed attention. I’m pretty sure he mouthed something uncomplimentary to his mate as I buggered about with my telephone.

    Each of my laps is accompanied by magical birdsong. Also the odd deer or fox and, as the morning wears on, an increasing number of people. The weather has been wonderful recently so that has made any pain easier to bear.

    Near the end of the circuit I pass a row of nice houses whose gardens back onto the field. Regularly at about 7.00 AM outside one place a large chap sits on a small chair having a brew. After about forty minutes I pass him for the third time. He’s moved barely an inch. He’s probably thinking, ‘look at that pillock going round in circles. He doesn’t look at all well’. He’s a big lad (plump) so I want to tell him to get off his backside and get some exercise. Problem is there’s only a low fence between us and I don’t want to end up in A & E if he takes offence. I keep silent and rush past in a blur of motion and swirling leaves.

    The other thing that surprises me (though I suppose it shouldn’t) is the number of people who walk around immersed in an electronic other-world. They really must have something very special on their gadgets if they are willing to forego the beauty of a summer morning. I stop for a moment down the lane among the trees and try and figure out how many species of bird is singing. I usually count about ten but there may be more. Then, in the long grass to my left there is movement. A roe deer looks up to see who is wheezing in her territory. And she has a fawn with her. It’s magic and makes the pain worthwhile. Wrapped up in a gadget you miss all that.

    So, a progress report as I approach two weeks on the hoof. Well, I’ve lost a bit of weight. But that may be due to the supermarket running out of pork scratchings. I’m drinking less wine because I fall asleep in the chair an hour earlier due to the increase in physical activity.

    Despite lots of walking I’ve remained ‘irritatingly plump’. That’s rather a nice expression I think, using my word of the moment. It nicely sums up my present status. You’ll note that ‘irritatingly’ qualifies the word plump. As opposed to me being plump and irritating. That’s another debate altogether. Though I doubtless am irritating to the bloke on his arse in his garden. He probably wishes he too could look like a man god. Actually he’s probably a really nice guy, it’s just not easy to introduce myself as I speed past. Besides, the wind whistling through my facial stubble renders meaningful conversation nigh impossible.

    On Monday a pile of timber is arriving so I can build a pergola. Shifting that lot around should account for another pound or two, unless I decide to sub-contract out to my brother. Might not be a bad idea thinking about it, I can blame somebody else when it goes wrong.


    I have stopped using exclamation marks. You won’t see any in the written version of this piece.

    Why? Well, I read the other day that an exclamation mark is a way of laughing at your own joke. So, if there’s anything remotely witty in the above you’ll have to figure it our for yourself!

    And let’s be frank, being plump is no joke.

    Jo May © 2020