Mind and Body

It’s hard to know which takes the severest pummelling in life, the body or the brain. I was in Bantry in Co Cork at the weekend, competing…No, wrong word. Participating in the half-marathon. It was a hilly course, which made me very apprehensive, as I tend to start gasping after a hill, and once that starts I’m hanging in by my fingernails if at all. Oddly, though, the hills – upward slopes, really – weren’t nearly as bad as they looked and the slope downward after em was rather restful. The scenery was stunning – along the edge of Bantry Bay on a sunny Sunday morning – does life hold anything more fair? – with a really friendly Cork guy urging me on in the final mile or so. Afterwards there was a free massage (in a room with another nineteen masseuses, so less wisecracks – and then a good big meal preceded by a beer. My daughter Phoebe did it as well – it was her first, my second half-marathon – and she was equally delighted.

And the mental pummelling, if that’s how you spell it? I was in Belfast Central Library newspaper archive, thumbing through the Derry Journal editions for the 1950s, and ended this afternoon looking at the report of the St Columb’s College sports day, June 1960. There I am, at seventeen, getting third in the mile, second in the high jump and winning the football League. Don’t know whether to be aghast at the value I attach to those awards, nearly fifty years later, or to rejoice in the momentary illusion that I’m still seventeen, when all you needed was a sit-down and a fag to leave you ready to grip life by the throat again…

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