Ian McMil­lan


Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

THIS could be a col­umn, or it could be an ex­er­cise DVD, or it could be a scene from Al­fred Hitch­cock’s scary and feath­ery film, The Birds. Let me ex­plain: reg­u­lar read­ers will know that I like to go for an early morn­ing stroll, get­ting the blood pump­ing round my veins and set­ting me up for the day and the first cuppa of the morn­ing. I’ve also, over the last cou­ple of years, started the day off, pre-am­ble (as it were), with some gen­tle ex­er­cises.

I stand there. I think about the ex­er­cises. I run through them in my head. In my head, I must ad­mit, I’m do­ing them with a lot more ap­pli­ca­tion and sweat than I ac­tu­ally do them in what some peo­ple call Real Life. I plan the push-ups; I spec­u­late on the sit-ups. I cal­cu­late how many times I will pick up the not-that-heavy weight and lift it up and down. In a minute. I’ll do the ex­er­cises in a minute.

Out­side, in the gar­den, a cou­ple of black­birds and a star­ling are am­blin­gling around on the lawn, mind­ing their r own busi­ness and think­ing about lay­ing eggs and build­ing nests and what­ev­er­ever it is that birds do. I start to do the fee­ble push-ups. I at­tempt not to grunt or moan then I won’t wake my wife up and she won’t think I’m in se­vere pain. The birds sud­denly seem in­ter­ested. They gather on the bird bath, star­ing into the house.

They can’t re­ally be watch­ing a mid­dle-aged man at­tempt­ing a light fit­ness regime, can they? Per­haps they can. I do some sit-ups, hardly mov­ing at all, and more birds be­gin to gather. A few more black­birds sit on and un­der the bird bath and a robin ar­ranges it­self non­cha­lantly on the hedge, keep­ing its eye on me. That’s enough sit-ups for now. I don’t want to overdo it, do I? I loll on the set­tee for a minute and the birds con­tinue to watch me.

It’s time to pick up the not-that-heavy weight and lift it not that far into the air. There it goes. Not that far; not all that far. I hear a noise and it’s not me grunt­ing and moan­ing. It’s a bird; I’ve never heard a bird laugh be­fore but this sounds like a bird laugh­ing. I put the not-that-heavy weight down, (slowly, so I don’t hurt my back) and stare into the gar­den. The birds are whistling and look­ing the other way but I could swear one of them was laugh­ing. I bend down and pick up the not-that-heavy weight again. I be­come aware that as I lift it I make a ridicu­lous face that looks like a cross be­tween a Hal­loween turnip lan­tern an and the death mask of Ad­mi­ral, Lord Nelso Nel­son. There is the dis­tinct sound of chuck­lin chuck­ling from a beak. I try, and fail, to make m my face look nor­mal.

I put the not-that-heavy weight down again. I loo look into the gar­den again be­cause it seems to be get­ting dark out­side. It It’s not get­ting dark at all: all the trees a and bushes in and around the gar­den are full of birds, all of them try­ing to k keep a straight face. I can hear the sound of sup­pressed chor­tles and a gig­gle s stran­gled in an or­ange beak. IfI feel de­fi­ant. Who cares if flocks o of birds are laugh­ing at me? I l lift the not-thath heavy weight again and pull t the face and all th the birds howl wi with hi­lar­ity. I can’t blam blame them, ac­tu­ally. I mus must look pretty daft.

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