I’ve always had bad knees but, since I took a Learn to Row course back in the summer, my right knee has been so painful sometimes I can’t walk on it. Rowing used, or tried to use, a heap of muscles that haven’t been needed in a while and I ended up pulling my knee cap out of line. (That’s how I understand it anyway, I’m sure it’s nothing like that if you ask a doctor.) I had physio until we couldn’t afford it anymore then I had some free physio with the NHS. Very different experiences but both came down to the same thing – I must do daily exercises to retrain my muscles. I knew that – I’ve been told that before.
But I’m rubbish.
I do the exercises religiously three-times-a-day for a week or two then I forget or am too tired or whatever excuse I use and that’s it. I hobble in pain for a while and another opportunity to fix it is gone forever. I think the problem is that no one notices or cares whether I do the exercises or not so it’s easy to be lazy. I just can’t seem to get the exercises to become a daily habit, even though it means I spend a lot of time in pain.
But, until recently when my husband took over the task to give my knee a rest, I walked the dog every single day I could. Only when I had the kids all day did she just get a quick play with a ball in the garden. Rain, hail, snow, tired or not, I walked her. Because that’s what I signed up to by getting a dog. In Terry Pratchett’s Thud! the lead character, Sam Vimes, says something like ‘if I miss it for a good reason even once, I’ll start missing it for bad ones.” He was talking about reading a bedtime story to his son but the theory is the same. He made a commitment.
I’m walking in a snow storm as I write this into my phone. And I’m glad I came out. I didn’t have to come – falling snow and poorly knee were excuses enough. But the dog looked at me, then longingly out at the fresh snow, and I had to come. And I’ve enjoyed my walk.
Blogging was the same. When I didn’t have a living beast to care for it was easy to make excuses not to post. I didn’t have anything to say, I had other commitments, I was doing NaNoWriMo etc. Now I have my daily challenge there is no room for excuses. Apart from the time in Italy when I had no laptop or internet I have written every day since 1st January because it’s a thing I must do. And that’s made it simple, and fun. Even when I’m shattered and I know it’s the writing equivalent of throwing a ball in the garden I have to write my daily post.
Now if only I could find the thing that would make me do my knee exercises every day…
“Hello there, Good Morning. How did you sleep?”
Claire flinched at the bright voice and wondered if she could ignore it. She didn’t recognise the wrinkled face beaming at her, but a vague recollection of the night before threw up a name card.
“Hattie? Yes, I slept okay, thanks.” Years of training allowed Claire to be nice when what she really wanted to say was, Sod off, I’m not here to make friends, I’m working and, even if I weren’t, I’m not about to be best buddies with an octogenarian.
A quick glance round the café showed Claire a surprising number of bodies tucking into breakfast. Hattie patted the seat next to her and Claire had little choice but to sit with her new friend.
“Is it always this busy?”
“Yes, dear. The hostel has a dozen or so rooms and it’s very popular. The locals come too, although not so often for breakfast. Between you and me…” she leant in close to Claire and a cloud of talc and perfume wafted over her, “…their dinner is better. I think the chef doesn’t like mornings.”
“But you eat it anyway?” Claire looked at Hattie’s plates of bacon, eggs and other Full English delights and shuddered.
“Not every day, only at the weekend. They have a lovely little kitchen on the top floor but it gets a bit mucky on a Friday night, what with takeaway boxes and late night munchies.”
Claire smiled at hearing a word like munchies coming through pristine false teeth. “You sound like you’ve been here a long time?”
“I have, dear, on and off. At my age there’s little point spending money on rent and bills. Besides, it gets lonely. There’s only me and I hate cats.”
Claire turned round in her chair, taking her eyes off the laminated menu to stare in wonder at the beaming, line-patterned face. “Let me get this straight. You live here? In a hostel dorm room?”
Hattie nodded enthusiastically. “Not always here, although it is a lovely hostel. Where else could I stay with all my bills paid for £7 a day? It used to cost more than that to heat my flat. I don’t have to clean and I meet some lovely people.”
The words entered Claire’s brain but made no sense. Why would you choose to give up your apartment and live in a hostel? Share a room? No one could be that poor, surely.
“Have you been travelling long?” Hattie spoke around a mouthful of sausage and her chewing gave Claire a chance to choose her answer. In the end she decided honesty was probably easiest. There was no need to impress this garrulous old biddy.
“Not really. This is my first day actually. I’m… I’m writing a blog about hostelling.” Well, that’s true enough.
“Oh how charming. What will you write, will you include me?” Claire was touched to see how delighted Hattie was at the idea, like a small child being offered a tremendous treat.
Claire shrugged, why not? I have to put something in the damn blog.
“Of course. Would you like to tell me about your travels? Why did you choose the YHA? Do you feel it promotes a healthy lifestyle?” Her voice grew stronger as she spoke and she realised at last she was back in her comfort zone. She might not know about making her own bed with a flat sheet or how to start a car with a manual choke but she knew about social media and she knew about fulfilling a brief, however stupid it was.
As Hattie began to talk, waving her hands and nearly knocking over the vase of flowers on the table, Claire sipped at the coffee recently deposited in front of her and scribbled notes on a napkin.