Inspiration from a recent run.
Thirsty, I stopped at the tap. Running in warmer weather, I liked to drink every few kilometres to keep hydrated. And along the River Torrens – my regular route – local councils dotted drinking fountains at regular intervals. Mostly, they were located near playgrounds and barbecues, and I had stopped in one such area for a H2O top-up before heading home.
Leaning over the tap, I noticed an older man checking one of the nearby barbecues. He was sporting a straw fedora, and wearing a coral striped polo shirt, sand-coloured chino shorts and brown sandals. Sunglasses shielded his eyes. I could see he was in good physical shape: his movements were fluid and he stood tall.
‘Be careful you don’t drink too much,’ he said over his shoulder to me. ‘They’ll charge you for it’.
‘True!’ I said. ‘They charge you for everything, these days.’
I watched as he abandoned his chosen barbecue for another, picking up his plastic Woolworths bag and placing it on a barbecue near me. I was still guzzling down water. He lifted the lid, checked the plate for cleanliness and started fiddling with the controls.
‘Light, damn you,’ he said. ‘Light.’
Satisfied the barbecue was heating up, he reached into his bag and pulled out various items: spray canola oil in a bright yellow can, a couple of aluminum-shiny egg rings, slices of white bread, large mushrooms and a piece of steak. Spraying the barbecue plate with the oil, he cracked eggs into the egg rings, and tossed on the mushrooms, which he’d cut into thick slices, followed by the steak.
‘That looks good,’ I said. ‘You’ve got quite a feast going on there.’
‘Better to use the council’s power than mine,’ he said. ‘Anyway, I’d much rather eat here than in my flat. It’s the best time of the day. I’ve already ridden my fifteen kays.’
‘Oh wow,’ I said. ‘That’s impressive. How old are you?’
‘Eighty. I ride about fifty kays a week. I’ve got an old mountain bike. It does me. It’s beautiful riding along here.’ He waved in the direction of the track along the river.
‘I agree,’ I said. ‘I run outside for the same reason. No gyms for me.’
‘How old are you?’ he asked.
‘Fifty one,’ I replied. ‘I run about forty kays a week and cycle around twenty.’
‘Good for you,’ he said.
We both agreed that much could be done to stave off the effects of old age, and keeping active was key. I mentioned another eighty-something year old I met last week, who cycled more than a hundred kays a week. He too, was in excellent shape.
We chatted for another five or so minutes as he cooked his breakfast, flipping mushrooms and steak and eggs. He confessed that he had no time for old people and their whingeing, and worried about the state of the country, in particular his children, whom he foretold would be working forever. He liked reading, he said, but preferred the outdoors.
‘There’s nothing new in books,’ he said. ‘I feel like I’ve read everything there is to read.’
‘I bet at your age, you’ve seen it all before and then some.’
He chuckled. ‘Oh, yeah.’
As he started dishing his breakfast onto the plate, I bid him a cheery ‘see you later’.
‘Cheerio, love,’ he said. ‘Enjoy your day.’
As I continued on my run home, I realised it would be highly unlikely that I’d have a conversation like this at the gym. For a start, gyms don’t have open air, council-maintained barbecues on their premises…