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A Plan is Nothing until it Becomes Work

Each day I have allocated an hour in my diary for a walk. It would too easy to simply embrace the settee and sleep my life away. No way.

But I want to be fitter than I have been, Yes, I am fitter than most of my age group. However, a memory of watching breakfast TV in a Sydney hotel in 1987 provides an incentive.

They were interviewing the winner of the over-40s section of the Australian national cross-country running championships. And why were they interviewing this very fit looking veteran? He had just won the championship for the fortieth consecutive time! He was in his 90s and beating people in their 40s in an endurance running competition. If that ain't a pause for thought, I don't know what is.

So when I was out for yesterday's walk, I stepped up the cardio a bit more. The distance is now a wee bit over 3 miles and the time is down to 40 minutes. Nine days ago 2½ miles was taking 50 minutes. So that's modest progress.

The telegraph poles are a useful marker (remember I asked why telegraph poles and not telephone poles a few days ago?). When I started embedding some very gentle jogging into my walk, it was three gentle jogs from the first pole to the third. Now it's five jogs to the fourth pole. And yesterday one was to the sixth - downhill.

It was perhaps not such a silly target to be doing 10k twice a week after all. Today's walk will be 5 miles - to the post box to post another letter to god-daughter Darcey - and that's 8k, so getting there.

In the countryside, my walk easily fulfils the social distancing rules as well as boosting my fitness. Yesterday I had to stand clear of two vehicles on our single track roads. And in a small increase in risk, I "clapped" a large hound of some indeterminate breed. Before exchanging a mutually cheery "hello", at a distance, with a newish neighbour, that means about a mile away, who seemed to be exercising some control over it.

Janet Street-Porter, she's ten weeks younger than me, writes today that Coronavirus is forcing her to practice retirement. I think I get that.

I have retired three times so far, so I feel I have cracked the PROCESS of retiring. But as I have more or less immediately gone off to do something else, I am still some distance from learning to BE retired.

She retired as a newspaper editor in 2002 but immediately stepped into a new role as "Editor at Large" at the same publication. Process but not being.

Like me, she seems to have found that is what is essential is the creation of a structure to keep focussed on what we decide matters to our social, physical and mental well-being.

For me writing a daily diary is part of it - mental well-being. Walking each day, and setting targets - physical well-being. Social well-being? I have been making long-overdue phone calls - let's mark that one a bare pass in this exam. I still hate the phone.

The diary is taking me into new territory. I have always had a record of my activities - I have a stack of paper diaries going back 50 years much of whose contents are waiting to be transferred into the electronic world.

But recording thoughts, actions and my response to the world around me? No. Politicians writing a daily diary is hardly something new. My thoughts go back to Richard Crossman MP. Without his 3-volume record of his life and career, our understanding of an important part of our political history would be much less.

So an hour a day is committed in my calendar to the task of diary writing. And the deadline is to have it written, proof-read and published by 1000 hours each day, seven days a week.

Familiar territory for Janet Street-Porter. Quite new to me.

But at approaching 1,000 words a day, every day, we're looking at the draft of a decent-sized book in four months. And if I can book another hour in the afternoon?

Inevitably, social-distancing means a reduction in new experiences to write about, I can only "distance meet" so many neighbours in the sparsely-populated area in which we live during my walks. So I am drawing on past life as much as present experiences.

Without planning it, it seems I am finally adopting that disciplined approach that may, just may, see my writing the autobiography many have asked me for down the years. So I have sketched out a "map" for that. Let's see how I get on.

This practising retirement business is beginning to look good. A success at this, achieving my ambition to live forever, looks possible.

And meantime, the adapted lifestyle has taken nothing away from doing the job of supporting my constituents. But the 12 to 14 hours a week I normally spend travelling have been returned to me for other things.

I am finding the adaptation to a self-disciplined life is possible.

Now time to write that letter to Darcey.

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