Take Me Back

I’m a Van Morrison fan, and have been for a long time. Recently, I started listening again to some of his material from the 1990s, simply because I hadn’t blown the dust off those particular albums for a while. I’ve rekindled my love of The Man’s 1991 classic double album “Hymns to the Silence”, which includes the monumental, nine minute plus “Take Me Back”. It’s an evocation on the lines of “how things have changed”:

“Take me back, take me way back, take me way, way back,
Help me understand.
Do you remember the time
When everything made more sense in the world?”

…and so on.

It is currently resonating with me for a whole load of reasons, mostly to do with a theme that has been common in this blog for a while: coming to terms with getting older.

My age-related trigger points have been more than usually stimulated over the last couple of months. I’ve just begun to receive my State Pension, entitling me to regard myself officially as an “OAP”. Not that I concede this too willingly. I long ago termed my state of mind when it comes to things related to ageing as “Peter Pan Syndrome”.

I also had my first free NHS ‘flu jab today. Mind you, flatteringly (in retrospect) the pharmacist who administered it really put me through it when it came to proving that I was really who I said I was, and that I really was over 65. Fortunately, I had my passport on me for another reason, and we solved that one easily. “But oh”, she said, “You just don’t look like a 65 year-old!”

I’m off shortly to my running club’s 150th anniversary dinner. It’s going to be a “black tie” do, being held in, of all places, the Members Dining Room at the House of Commons. Don’t ask me why there. I joined what was then still called “Blackheath Harriers” in late 1968, and I was just 14 years old. 1968/9 was the Club’s Centenary year. That wasn’t particularly why I joined, but it makes my time as a member of what is now known as Blackheath & Bromley Harriers Athletics Club that much easier to calculate. So, the quick amongst my readers will have worked out that somewhere in the last 12 months or so, I’d hit 50 years’ membership. Actually, I blogged about this, in passing, back in the summer, here. The anniversary, and the fact that, we’ve calculated, I am one of only two Club members to have reached 50 years membership still regularly competing on the track. This earned me a “top table” seat at this October’s Vice-Presidents’ Supper. An honour.

In mid July this year, just as my knee problems were at their height, the Club held its 150th Anniversary Track Meet. As a young sprinter, I’d run in a 100 metres event at the Centenary Track Meet. That was an altogether grander event, held at Crystal Palace when the track there was in its heyday. It was also the first occasion I got to photograph an athletics event (using a decrepit, really cheap “Soviet” Leica-copy I’d bought for buttons in a second-hand shop), thus setting in train two of the underlying themes in “the story of my life” running, and photographing running.

I was unable to run at the 150th Anniversary event. I could hardly walk that evening, in fact. In the 1969 100 year-event I’d photographed steeplechaser Chris Woodcock in action. Chris made the journey up from Devon, where he now lives, and he took part in the mile race at the 150th. And it was a delight to photograph him again, “still at it”. He was the only race-fit survivor of 1969 present, although I’d have raced too, were it not for my wretched knee.

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On the theme of looking back, however, it was a BBC athletics commentator at this year’s IAAF World Championships, who made mention that the Mexico City Olympic Games were now more than 50 years ago. He remarked that perhaps that didn’t sound all that much, but that if you’d gone back 50 years from those Olympics, you’d have found yourself in the final days of the First World War. The 1968 ‘Games were one of the direct triggers to me joining my Club. In those days, the First World War already seemed so long, long ago. However, it was no more distant then than the start of my athletics career is from where I am today. A very sobering thought, for some reason.

And where am I exactly at present? Well, as I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere, severe knee trouble forced me to cut yet another race season short this year. I stopped in July, and had to abandon any hope of competing in this year’s European Masters Championships, in Venice in September. Progress recovering from the tendinopathy that has plagued my right knee in particular has been slow and frustrating. However, there is progress, and if I can maintain it to the point where my knee is stable by Christmas, I will consider racing again indoors in February and March. I’ve become too old to make promises, however.

More next time…

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