As my wife said when I crawled into bed one night last week and couldn't roll over because my already dodgy left shoulder was nearly hanging off : "You're 40 now, not 20". Oh yeah ? I'll show her. Like a gazelle I leapt from the bed, jumped for the chandelier and swung across the room and out of the window in one ballet-like sequence, landing upon the ground down below like a perfectly coiled spring. The fact that we don't actually have a chandelier is beside the point - because I could have. Middle age ? I fart in your general direction...............
One evening last week I picked my friend Mark up and we headed out to the coast to go fishing. Conditions looked a bit better than I thought they might and as we skipped merrily down the slope (ok, not quite, but you get the point). I spoke about how it continued to drive me mad that we weren't fishing a set of boulders nearby because we hadn't worked out a way back up the cliffs at HW when we would be trapped around there on these spring tides. "Come on, look at the natural valley in the cliff Mark, it looks pretty easy to me to get out of there".
We get to the water's edge, say hi to another angler who is fishing there, have a few chucks, and then because I can't help but always wonder if the fishing might be a bit better around the next corner I say to Mark that surely we can get around to the boulders and then make our way up the cliff when we're there : "it looks pretty easy to get out of there" is offered with such flippancy. Like migrating zebras we start to make our way around the bottom of the cliffs to the spot we have in mind - no great hassle except for a face-full of saltwater that thankfully is a tad warmer than the last time I got a face-full, and my sheepdog Storm does the most incredible, fruit bat-like jump off a high rock to avoid the waves. What on earth would I have said to my girls if the dog had copped an injury ?
So we fish away. I shoot a bunch of photos, Mark catches a small bass, I catch sod all and keep wondering if we should have stayed where we originally came down the cliffs that has a steep but pretty easy path out of there. Banish such thoughts though Henry. You are still a young adult even though your passport says you're now 40. Your body is a temple of lithe muscle activity that only looks a bit relaxed to make other people feel better about themselves. Come on, you were designed to wear compression gear like Linford Christie was designed to wear what he used to wear for sprinting. Middle age ain't got nothing on me. I am beating it hands down.
About 9pm and Mark says that perhaps we should think about getting out of there in case it takes us a while to get up the cliffs as we don't really want to be stumbling around in the dark on a cliff we have never actually set foot on before - and the lack of any visible paths does make me wonder if anybody else has actually ever set foot on it before. But no, we are anglers, we are men and we are adventurers. Worry not. "I reckon if we go up first Mark and then cut across it looks pretty easy", but within twenty yards I'm nearly up to my neck in gorse and I have no idea of the footing beneath me. Back up, let's look at another way. Not a great start.
As I pass Storm to Mark around a ledge and then cop another face-full of sea water I start thinking about the ridiculous number of cliff-slides that have happened around here over the winter, but now is not the time for such fanciful thinking. We've got a cliff to get to the top of and thinking about various wobbly looking rocks giving way as you go to step on them is hardly a confidence booster, but onwards and upwards eh ? Storm meanwhile is on four legs and finding the going somewhat easier than we are, but still she turns around occasionally and looks at me with a look that asks what on earth we are doing. "It looks pretty easy" keeps bouncing around my head as I look for a way through the gorse and hope that I don't put my foot into a sodding great big hole that swallows me up like the Jaws of Hell. It's warm, I'm sweating, but I'm nimble. I am a ninja. I am sure the other angler who stayed on the other (sensible) mark is looking up sometimes and mistaking me for a mountain goat because I'm moving with such vigour and agility, and yes, I'm beating middle age like swatting a fly.
Eventually the cry goes out : "Mark, I've found the coast path, we've made it". Rejoice. The trumpets sound. We have found the real world. We have made it back to civilisation. No longer need I fear spending the night on a gorse-strewn slope with only Mark and Storm to cuddle up to for warmth. "I think it's a neap tide spot" I say to Mark, in reference to the fact that we could surely simply walk back along the base of the cliffs on a smaller tide and avoid the somewhat interesting climb we have just had on a whopper set of springs. But where's the fun if life is not full of challenges ? My body feels as fresh as a resting lion.
Back to the car, backpack off, strap the rods to the rod holder, and ease myself into the driving seat. This is easy. I am 20 all over again, albeit I can feel a "little" twinge in my left shoulder when changing gears. Drop Mark off, get back home, get into bed and I can't roll over my left shoulder has seized up so much. Do my best not to let my wife see my discomfort, along the lines of when I jumped out of a fast moving boat in the Keys for a $50 bet and tried to hide my damaged ribs from her when I arrived back in the UK like a conquering hero. "Come on Henry, what have you been doing ?" "Oh, we had a little bit of a challenge getting back up the cliffs sweetheart, 'twas a tad trickier than Mark said it would be" (notice I am blaming Mark here and of course absolving myself of blame - but my wife knows me too well).
"You're 40 now, not 20". Oh yeah ? I'll show her. Like a gazelle I leapt from the bed................ OK, I could hardly turn my alarm clock on, but it matters not. The fact that we did it is the point here. Aches and pains be damned. I might well be 40, but what's a number at the end of the day when you're an angler ? Long may fishing keep me wandering the coastline with the agility of a cheetah, the poise of an eagle, and the route-judging ability of a snow leopard. What's around the corner is a part of fishing just as agility and adventure is. Middle age can kiss my derriere.