I walk every evening after supper for about an hour or so, so three or four miles works well for me. This happens no matter the weather, but a storm might stop me once in a while or at least shorten the distance by a mile. I don’t watch the TV much once every three months, maybe for an hour or less. I find it bores me within about two minutes. Even Brexit, populism and protests cannot hold my attention because real life means much more interest to me and fake is of no interest at all. My walk happens after I’ve finished a full day working at the workbench. Now that’s always been hard to beat, anyway. I used to walk and run but found little if any benefit to running part so I stopped. I want to keep my own knees. I have a brother who has to replacement ones. Never fancied that. I think this is because running does not give me as much exercise as planing wood and sawing it by hand. Funny thing though, I have found that runners get more out of breath planing and sawing than I do and that their muscle generally seems to either slow them down or weight too much at the bench. Could that be true. One eighteen year old who worked up his muscle in weights on a daily basis lasted only two hours. He quit the month-long course after only three days. I tried to persuade him it was just like the gym but harder but he left anyway. I find I sleep better and keep the weight off with a fairly rigid regimen. I seem to lose a few pounds each year, five or six. I never gain. I think in the next three years I should be exactly where I need to be and will then endeavour not to lose any more. I think weight gain seems to be an issue for most people but my working at the bench, working by hand and not by machine, keeps me fairly trim. Oh and dare I say I am a vegetarian diabetic too. Not all diabetes is caused by excess weight. I am a third generation diabetic.
I say all this because I think those advocates of the so-called power-tool world are a different breed with different objectives. For me the workout in physical working is pivotal to my enjoyment, my physical activity, my skills maintenance and my ongoing training, using the hand tools of course, is the gym work I alluded to in yesterday’s blog post. I am never bored and no task is too tedious for me. A gym workout is both tedious and boring but I also go to the gym most days, but not for a work out – our gym is also called the Leisure Centre. It’s here that I unwind and relax before going home. From 5.30 to 6.30 I relax sitting and reading, writing, meditating, talking to friends and connecting to another element of the real world I live in.
My day starts with a cycle workout, about five when I then meet with friends for a half hour coffee break before taking another five mile or more ride. My bike is electric assisted but I mostly tun this off because where I ride is fairly flat. With walking and cycling the two worlds are very different. neither of these are old men worlds but essentially they get me off my bum and out of the house.
I like to be immersed in the outdoors even on concrete streets for the meets I make on the way. The meets can be people or animals and other wildlife. I don’t always make it to woodlands but streets always have rabbit runs I duck down to discover new trails and backwaters. As the crow flies I am a mile from work but by road it’s two. I never take a straight path if I can help it. the lakes and rivers always draw me just so I can glimpse an otter or a bittern or anything else with legs and wings. But berries catch my eye and so too leaves, textures, colours, shapes, shades and so much more.
In the workshop I face my greatest challenges and that is both mental and physical. I often rehearse activity in my mind to work through the problems. mental gymnastics develop and maintain mental acuity and this aspect of my workout is never discussed anywhere as far as I know. Dexterity with the hands must often be worked out ahead in the brain first. You’d be surprised how many tricks to this woodworking trade there are and I have them compartmentalised in the same way I place my tools at the bench and my wood in the wood racks. Order means retrievability so pulling out a concept of how to work with what needs to be totally instant for it to be efficiently used and effectively considered. You can’t fake the interrelationships between the mind, the body, the tools used and the wood. It is indeed a constant exchange of strategised moves that is in no way different to a well choreographed dance routine or indeed a musical performance by a an orchestra.
At lunch time I cycle once again but only for four miles to my favourite cafe where I enjoy a bowl of freshly made home-made soup and a slice of fresh bread and butter. Usually this ride takes me by the lake again and I will take a break there to watch the waterfowl on the islands in the middle or duck into the trees to catch the autumn changes beyond the pathways.
This is a privileged way of life, I know that. But I have worked for it and by that I do not mean I deserve it because I worked so hard but that I have carefully thought about what is important to me and what I want from life. In some cases, many, I chose the work over the money made, I chose the harder path rather than the easy way. Some might consider my using hand tools the harder path and indeed ripping a board by hand is definitely harder than using the tablesaw. But the air is clean and fairly noiseless my way, I get plenty of total body exercise, and, well, I feel pretty good for an almost seventy year old. Considering that I have indeed enjoyed just about every single day of my working life and I have never had a Monday morning feeling throughout my woodworking life I think that that’s pretty good. Oh, and my kids mean more to me than anything!