Health and Unsafety

It’s a bit parky out there this morning, so I’d better not stray beyond the front door.

Public Health England (PHE) has told the aged to stay indoors. And they define an aged person as someone over 65. Well, I’ve been aged for nine years, going on ten and I’m afraid I’ve not been behaving myself. When, aged 70, I was living in North London in the coldest winter for a decade, I used to run round the park in shorts and t-shirt. According to PHE, it’s a miracle I’m still here to tell the tale.

That’s nothing. My grandfather Jim Priestley (born 1882) was a newsagent. For more than fifty years he walked five miles twice each day in all weathers, often in the dark, through the back streets of Leeds with two bags of newspapers to deliver. He was well-known among the locals for singing as he went and one of his songs was, “Poor little Joe, out in the snow.”

There were only two days in the year – Christmas and Good Friday – when there were no papers. Mind you, he had it easier on Sundays when there were no evening editions.

So I reckon he walked, heavily laden, 65 miles every week. 3300+ miles each year. About 165,000 over fifty years. That’s equivalent to nearly seven times round the earth or two-thirds the way to the moon.

He was still working aged 75. Energetic, enterprising and popular, he built up his business until he owned three shops: one on the railway bridge, near the Crown Wallpaper warehouse in Armley Road; another on Oak Road opposite the jail; the third on Tong Road by St Mary’s church.

In the coldest winter of the 20th century 1963, when the frost, fog and ice stayed from the end of December until Easter, Jim, aged 81, retired, and having recovered from three strokes, regularly walked the mile from the Tong Road shop, past the Oak Road establishment and down to the shop on the bridge taking messages, as he said, “To help out.”

His diet was porridge for breakfast, a pint of beer at The Brunswick pub – “The Brunny” – on Oak Road after the morning round, with stew and dumplings for lunch. About 4.30pm he would have tea and toast and some Epsom Salts and then set off with the evening bags.

He died a month short of his 88th birthday.

According to PHE, he should not have ventured out in the winter months after attaining the age of 65, in 1947.

Good job Jim Priestley didn’t know that.

Good job Winston Churchill didn’t have PHE to nag him either when, aged 67, he flew – making a long diversion to avoid enemy fire – in a converted freezing Liberator bomber to meet Stalin in Moscow in 1942.

Given these two examples, I think I’ll risk a stroll through the fog to collect the morning paper.

5 Comments on Health and Unsafety

  1. You cannot quote Churchill because he is not an appropriate role-model. Did you not know that he was White and male ? Did you not know that he made no effort to promote socially inclusive patterns of speech ? For example, speaking shortly after the Battle of France , he claimed that “Every man did his duty..” Now that is sexism . In a later speech he invited people to fight on the beaches , landing-grounds , fields , hills etc etc WITHOUT reference to a prior risk-assessment. Also he made no reference in that speech to providing a Safe-Space for any German or EU visitors guests who might have felt triggered by his attitude.
    I am sure you will support my proposal that his speeches be re-written to reflect modern standards of acceptable public discourse.
    I myself am so upset that I have to rest in a dark room and practise mindfulness. I am sure you will understand .

  2. From Wikipedia – “Ed Whitlock (born March 6, 1931) is an English-born Canadian long-distance runner, and the first person over 70 years old to run a marathon in less than three hours with a time of 2:59:10 in 2003”. In October 2016 Mr. Whitlock, at age 85, ran the 26.2 miles in 3 hours 56 minutes 34 seconds.

  3. A bittersweet reminisce Rev. M. Thank you for it. We may be getting on, but have not yet reached the last scene of our respective tragicomedies:
    “A sleep I shall have,
    A rest I shall have,
    Yet death will be but a pause,
    For the peace of my years in the long green grass,
    Will be yours and yours and yours.” (Leo Marks)

    And may happiness and good health be yours tomorrow.

  4. I don’t run, much, usually walking suffices. I feel I must maintain the fiction that I’m still in shape, of some kind or other. My next best exercise is reading, while in a comfortable chair.

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