Monday 28 December 2020

Three Pairs of Bed Socks and Two Hot Water Bottles



by Hannah Retallick

Tea with All That Sugar




‘How was Christmas?’


‘Your Uncle Steve was happy enough.’






‘Bless him. What about you?’


‘The worst yet, I’m afraid. I received three pairs of bed socks and two hot water bottles. Tea?’


‘Ouch. Yes, please.’


‘Ouch is an understatement. How old do these people think I am? Honestly…Are you still taking all that sugar?’


‘Yes, please.’


‘Do it yourself, I can’t watch. So, I’ve made a decision.’




‘It’s so nice to see someone young for a change.’


‘Young, eh? Thanks.’


‘All relative. Anyway, it’s nice to see you.’


‘Sorry, it’s been a while. Work…’


‘I know, I understand. The thing is, I’m sick of old people. They never do anything but grumble about their aches and pains and their neighbours and their families and the state of the world. Honestly, it’s driving me crazy. And they try to drag me into their misery…and give me old-lady presents.’


‘Mum got three different lavender giftsets this year. She hates lavender, always has. You’re both victims of old-lady stereotyping.’


‘Your mother’s five years younger than me. It’s no laughing matter.’




‘It’s all right.’


‘When you start getting coffin catalogues through the door, you can really panic!’


‘That’s it: from now on, I’m going to become youthful again. You know, like in that film, the one where the man ages backwards. I’m going to do it.’


‘Sounds good.’


‘I’m serious, darling. I need some life in my social life. Where do all the young people gather these days?’


‘I wouldn’t know. I’m an old person in everything but age. I hang out with books and things.’


‘Benjamin Button. Ages backwards in that film.’


‘Never seen it.’


‘Neither have I.’






‘What’s wrong?’


‘Nothing’s wrong, darling.’


‘Then why are you phoning me?’


‘I thought you would like an update. Wouldn’t you like an update?’


‘On the aging backwards thing?’




‘I’d love an update.’




‘Excuse me?’


‘Crossfit. I saw a poster at the library. It’s a gym thing, says it’s open to all ages and abilities.’


‘Please tell me it’s April 1st…’


‘Nowhere near. Don’t be silly, darling. I’ve looked it up on the internet, and I have to say, it looks like a good deal of fun. It is a high-intensity workout regime, involving a huge variety of exercises, such as gymnastics and weightlifting.’


‘That sounds dangerous. What about your hip?’


‘What about it? It’s the old one that gave me grief.’


‘It might be worth running it past your doctor.’


‘She won’t mind. She’s always preaching at me to keep active.’


‘She meant getting up to make a cuppa and taking gentle walks, not becoming a body-builder.’


‘I’m too lazy to become a body-builder.’


‘All ages, indeed. It’s like when organisations say, “We’re a friendly and welcoming group” – it never is. It’ll be a snooty group of teenagers in neon Lycra. Trust me.’


‘I thought you wanted me to age backwards. I thought you wanted me to push myself out of my comfort zone, to develop new skills, to become a New Me, even if it is a little late for New Year.’


‘When did I ever say that?’


‘You’re family. It’s implicit, isn’t it?’


‘I love you. You know that. You’re an inspirational human…Please don’t join Crossfit.’


‘I love you too. Maybe we can meet up next week? Bye for now.’








‘Hey. Iona, isn’t it? I’m Tony. How’s it going?’


‘Well, we haven’t started yet.’


‘Ha, good one.’


‘Nice to meet you.’


‘You too. Excuse my hands, bit sweaty. Pull-ups.’


‘Goodness, is that blood?’


‘I’ve stopped using gloves.’




‘Don’t worry, love, you’ll be fine. We take it slow. Work on form. Build up gradually. Boom.’


‘Boom, yes, that’s good, yes.’


‘So, fundamentals. It’s important that you understand these basic movements before we throw you into a class – gets a bit mad. Let’s start with squats. Here, sit down on this box, as you normally would.’




‘Right…Oh, okay, we might have some work to do.’


‘Did I do it wrong?’


‘There’s no wrong, love. We’re all about optimising movement, building technique and strength.’


‘Have I been sitting down incorrectly all my life?’






‘Gather round, everyone. Right, single-unders to warm up and then I want you to work on your double-unders.’


‘Excuse me, Tony, could you explain what double-unders are, please?’


‘Yeah, sorry, love. Rope goes under twice for each jump. Don’t worry about them. Do singles. Can you skip?’


‘Yes, I used to do it all the time when I was a little girl.’




‘That was a while ago though.’


‘Once learnt, never forgotten, eh? Riding a bike. Right, come on, get moving people. Simon, shift back a bit – your barbell’s in the way. Wow, Iona, what on earth did you do to that rope?’


‘I’m sorry.’


‘That’s more Tangled than the movie.’




‘You know, Disney? My kid is always…nevermind. Karen, you do box steps – reduces impact on your knees.’


‘Yes, coach.’


‘Core tight, Ben. Don’t arch your back.’




‘Don’t be sorry; keep your core tight. You okay, Iona?’


‘I think so.’


‘Good. Right, so, the workout will be a hundred double-unders – or however you’ve scaled the movements – a hundred air squats, and finish with a hundred double-unders. For time. Got it?’


‘Excuse me, Tony, but is an air squat a normal squat?’


‘Yeah, it is. Don’t do a hundred. Stop after 10mins, wherever you’ve got up to. Watch your form, as we discussed last week – back straight, head up, keep your thighs aligned with your feet etc…You’ll be fine, love.’


‘I think this rope might be a little long.’


‘It is. Go get another, they’re hanging on the door.’


‘All right.’


‘Watch out!’






‘Auntie, what on earth happened to you?’


‘Hello. Get yourself a cuppa, and a cake, if you like.’




‘Don’t fuss.’


‘I told you not to do it. Now look at the state of you.’


‘This is why we have two.’


‘You could have made sure it was your left.’


‘Ha. Your Uncle Steve can wash his own dishes and fill in his hospital forms and make me cuppas for a change. I tell you, darling, this is the way to go. He’ll never let me out again though.’








‘Does it hurt?’


‘The painkillers work a treat. The cast is frustrating thought; can’t move much. At least it’s not twinging anymore.’


‘Can I sign it?’


‘If you must. Would you like half of my iced bun? I had one before you arrived.’




‘Well, I’m running out of time. Don’t take the cherry.’


‘Can you sue or anything? I’m sure they’re not meant to injure you on your first workout.’


‘And I’m sure it’s my responsibility to look where I’m going. I was moving too quickly. Excuse me, hello? Please could we have a pot of tea over here? Thank you.’


‘You need locking up.’


‘Jail or old people’s home?’




‘I think you’re right.’




‘I’m sorry, darling, but five teaspoons is ridiculous. You’re going to die young or give yourself diabetes.


‘Says you, Auntie Two Buns.’


‘Well, I can’t stick to my principles all the time. Where’s the fun in that? Honestly, darling, that’s hot syrup; I don’t know how it doesn’t make you vomit. You ought to join Crossfit and learn what health and fitness mean.’


‘I think I’ve already seen…’


‘Oh, stop it, darling. I told you, it was all my fault. A man was practising his deadlifts – don’t look so shocked, I’m fully versed in Crossfit terminology now – I tripped on his barbell. I forgot for a moment that I wasn’t thirty-five, and that’s all there is to it. It can happen to anyone. Well, not you, obviously, you are thirty-five.’




‘Oh, of course, sorry. Remind me to do a bank transfer. Did you have a nice one?’


‘Not bad, thanks, went out for cocktails with Darren and one of our friends. Pretty quiet apart from that.’


‘Good, good, well enjoy it while you’re young. Goodness knows the aging backwards thing is harder. I’ve decided not to bother. I’m old. That’s fine. I’ve made my peace. It’s difficult to be young when you’re aching in muscles you never knew you had, when you can’t even watch where you’re walking, and when half the class are young enough to be your grandchildren.’


‘You the oldest?’


‘No. Marie pipped me to the post. She’s ancient. I want to be like her when I grow up, if I survive that long. It seems Crossfit is off the cards for the foreseeable. You know what I need?’


‘Feet up and Uncle Steve’s tipple?’




‘Bed socks and hot water bottle?’


‘Stop it.’


‘What, then?’


‘An activity that only involves my legs. Have you heard of kick boxing? I should imagine that’s a possibility.’




‘Or perhaps I could still attend Crossfit but only do squats and lunges and suchlike, although I should imagine I’d still need my arms for balance.’


‘You’re joking, right?’


‘No, no, I’m quite serious. I might be old, but I’m not dead.’


‘Auntie, no offence; you’re actually mad.’


‘Thank you, darling. I’ve made my peace with that too. It’s what keeps me going.’



Word Count: 1527


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