February 10, 2012

In the pub the other day, the conversation turns (as it often does when you hang out with people of a certain age) to medical horror stories, and in particular the story of one woman’s 84-year-old mother-in-law who came round half way through her gall-bladder operation to the sensation of someone rummaging round in her innards apparently with a corkscrew.

‘How’s she doing now?’ I asked.

‘Oh, not bad, she’s back on her bike.’

It’s entirely unscientific, but I’ve noticed the phenomenon up here of the indestructible octegenarian, usually cyclists, though occasionally walkers (someone else was complaining that she was getting little breathless but that her doctor didn’t take her complaint seriously as it was only happening after the first five miles or so). Obviously I should be above taking unrepresentative anecdotes into account, but somehow a story like that is far more of a spur to action than any number of large-scale longitudinal studies. At least, that is what I told myself today as I dragged myself out on the bike not once but twice on a day untroubled by sunshine, warmth or indeed much in the way of visibility.