Lagging Less

Can a mild cold hang on like a limpet for weeks? Apparently. Also apparently, it could be much worse. Jane returned from the friendly skies with laryngitis. This, whatever I have, is much more unobtrusive. Mostly, it pops up in the morning. A reminder, if I needed one, that my aging body has gone through some stress in the last weeks. Stress, schmess. The move to San Francisco has given me a whole new lease, not to mention perspective, on life.

How much is there of the latter? This matter weighs heavily upon me these days. And why shouldn’t it? This morning, having gotten strapped into my rowing machine for the first time in a month, I sat there, rolling uphill, as it were, while BBC Radio 4’s latest report on Syrian refugees in Hungary rolled through my earphones. In this our modern life it’s very hard to figure out what’s going on in the outside world…for us Americans. There doesn’t seem to be a great market for truth. Meanwhile, the wondrous cornucopia that is the BBC just sits there, waiting to be discovered. With something like 10 radio channels producing programming 24 hours a day, well, there is an awful lot.

As for reportage, where else will you learn that the Hungarians are constructing an enormous wall the length of their Eastern frontier? Which absolutely no one believes will work. An idea so silly in the face of desperate people from, say, Eritrea, as to be useless. American ideas, even the worst ones, get trumpeted so loud that they tend to get adopted by the undiscerning. And along similar lines, who else would explain what it’s like for Syrian refugees in Germany? The answer being that it’s a free flat, public help with job placement and $400 a month spending money. The Germans may be far from perfect, but they have a capacity for shared conscience, having acquired this particular trait the hard way. America’s follies in the Middle East having not escaped notice. And being eminently practical, the Germans appreciate skills and hard work, Syrian trademarks. I digress.

In short, the thing that we call ‘public broadcasting,’ is absolutely key to British life. In this post-Thatcher era with the likes of Murdoch allowed to run rampant in the airways, many Brits are convinced that the BBC’s annual license fee is a burdensome imposition. When I tell UK friends that the Beeb’s annual cost (about $150) is what Americans pay for a month of high-end cable programming, they don’t believe it. I don’t believe it either…though it’s true.

Back to the rowing machine. It’s a long way across the great waters of life. It’s also a long way back to cardiovascular stamina and aging normalcy. I’ve definitely lost ground during my month of travel. And in trying to regain it, I do try to remember my mortality. No sense in pushing the cardiac envelope, is there? So I do 20 rows. I rest and consider the Grim Reaper. Then I row, say, 30 times. Then rest. And so on. Hardly a radical approach. But a reminder of the limits.

Tuesday is bran muffin day at the Destination Bakery, which makes it my destination today. The neighborhood wanders in and out of this place. Which is why I do need to try a little harder. Say hello a little more and, well, louder. All this goes slightly against the introvert grain, but it can be done. The other thing I have to remember is that I’m still tired. Particularly important when crossing streets.

It’s particularly tiring being chased around the Paddington neighborhood at night. Among the things that lag in jetlag are your dreams. Mine still have British soundtracks. I can’t recall what I was doing in Paddington last night, but it went on and on. It’s time, definitely time to get in sync.

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