It being warmer of late and with the lockdown sort-of still in effect, Phil and I have had the bedroom windows open overnight. During normal times it would be too noisy with people arriving back from the pub, slamming their car doors, disagreeing with their taxi drivers and so on. We live on quite a nice street but the neighbours have social lives which continue beyond my personal curfew of 7:30 PM. I know, inconsiderate. Now it’s mostly pleasant, ambient background noise. The rustle of the trees, the occasional car, oh, and yeah, the bloody seagulls.
Now every morning we enjoy the circulation of fresh air. We can also hear a familiar refrain. The muffled thud of running shoes on pavement. The puffing getting louder as jogger approaches. The breathing more laboured, like air being forced through the blocked nozzle of a pair of bellows. Desperate wheezing directly sounds under our window before quietening again as it thumps away down the street. A wet, distressing doppler effect.
We’ve named him Panty Man. Not in reference to his choice of underwear, we’ve only ever pictured him in our mind’s eye, but to his heavy breathing. His route seems to take him up and down outside our house. I’m hoping that he’s running further or faster everyday because, judging by the intensity of his inhalation, this guy’s not getting any fitter.
“Panty man,” we say in unison.
“Has Panty Man been this morning?” A sliver of concern in my voice.
“Ah, Panty Man’s back.” Later than usual, he probably overslept.
I’ve wondered about staging an intervention. Hiding behind the tree outside with a handwritten leaflet on the Benefits of Walking. I’ll spring out and ask if he has heard the good news. I’ll have to repeat it louder because he won’t be able to hear me over his own huffing while I thrust the sharpie scribbled piece of paper into his sweaty hand. Jogging alongside, I’ll remind him of how low impact exercise is good for you, avoids injury and most importantly doesn’t scare the crap out of people who are groggily eating their toast.
I’m all for people getting fit, improving their health for the sake of their families and making time to take care of themselves. Hard to believe that myself, a middle-aged, asthmatic cartoonist is not at an athlete level of fitness. But steady now, lets not overdo it. No one wants to get on the Couch to Acute Myocardial Infarction program.
One morning we may never hear Panty Man again. For any number of reasons: work pressures, shin splints, an ill-advised conversion to CrossFit. A local institution will have crumbled. I will mourn his passing.
Not literally, I hope.
You can sign up to my six week fitness program here (actually it’s my online store). I now sell boxes to keep my collection of mini comics in. Curate (abusing this word here to annoy museum professional Phil) your own collection by choosing some or all of the dozen minis on offer to keep in the box.
The box. Flexible storage device for your private collection of toenail clippings, baby teeth and pogs.
Some of the mini comics. None of them about pogs, I swear.
Also, I have copies of Kerry and the Knight of the Forest, a book I may have mentioned and will likely mention again. Here’s what the inside of a signed and sketched hardback looks like:
And with that avalanche of self promotion I will go and organise my collection of mutilated pencil erasers in their curated boxes.