A step too far in pursuit of youth

Kate Livingstone
Kate Livingstone

A while back, my mother took a spectacular tumble right out her front door and landed at the foot of her steps. As she landed with a thump that probably registered ... well, wherever such things register, she noticed a pair of eyes peeking over the fence beside her garden.

The neighbour’s four-year-old was watching, mum reported, feeling slightly shame-faced at being spotted amid such unladylike shenanigans.

“Oh, no! What did he say!” I asked, wondering if he’d run for help, Lassie-style, or attempted triage himself.

“He said, ‘Hiya’!”

That made me laugh. A lot. It even made her smile, despite the bruises she nursed for several weeks.

It made sense. Children fall all the time, don’t they?

Even the sight of a septuagenarian shooting out the front door in a routine that only needed a pair of giant shoes and a flower squirting water to be worthy of the Big Top didn’t phase him in the slightest.

It gave me a bit of a shock to realise that the four-year-old in question is now about to sit his Highers.

I hadn’t thought of this incident for years. But it returned to mind when it was my turn to be the middle-aged lady sprawled across concrete recently.

There was no child to witness my crash landing, which wasn’t so much a clown tumble as a tree being swiftly felled in the forest.

What I couldn’t believe was how much it hurt. Real, physical pain that seemed out of all proportion to the grazes that were visible to others following my misadventure.

Since then, babysitting the grandchildren and picking them up from school, I’ve seen several children take tumbles that draw gasps from onlookers. And yet, they stand up, unscathed, dust their trousers and carry on without a second thought.

When does it happen that tripping up and skinning your hands and knees becomes an event that requires hot baths, arnica, a box of plasters and the services of a psychologist to recover from it?

At what point do we stop bouncing back?

To add to the indignity, I was striding out in a bid to fight off middle age and its associated aches and pains.

Like many of my colleagues and friends, I’ve got a pedometer and I’m not afraid to use it. Well, I wasn’t.

I’d smashed the 10,000 step a day target – as recommended by the NHS – and just thought I’d keep going, in my head the years retreating with every step.

Bang. Whimper. Ouch. Hobble. It hasn’t put me off, but, boy will I be watching where I’m going from now on.