THE ULTIMATE COUCH POTATO
I AM PANICKING. The season is upon me and I am a picture of neglect and physical decrepitude.
This morning, I stood naked in front of the full length mirror. I tried to pull in my belly but it pulled back. I flexed my pectorals, to little discernible effect. I curled one arm in the pose immortalised by Charles Atlas and actually created a slight concavity where once there would have stood a rock-hard hillock of engorged muscle.
Still, I reflected, I'd seen worse - albeit only in walrus colonies.
"Sixteen stones of sheer dynamite," I murmured.
"Pity about the two-inch fuse," my wife remarked.
I was hurt, and said so. She smiled. "Only kidding, big boy. You have the body of a Greek..."
"God?" I offered.
"Restaurant," she said.
I know I should be fitter. I know that if I were to try to lug an aqualung up Chesil Beach, I would probably suffer a fatal embolism. I know that in order to get into my wetsuit, I will have to invest in some seriously masochistic corsetry or otherwise defy the laws of physics. Quarts and pint pots.
I used to run like a greyhound - on all fours, stopping every 50 metres to pee on a tree. But then I stubbed the little toe of my left foot, which caused me to over-compensate in my running gait, inducing shin splints in my right leg which triggered a reverse over-compensation that caused an imbalance in the musculature of the right knee and consequent condromalasia (a painful displacement of the patella) that produced a misalignment of the vertebrae in the lower back, which in turn initiated a severe inflammation of the sciatic nerve so that I can't even bend down to change the dressing on my toe, let alone run.
Result: I'm inflating faster than a South American currency. What am I to do?
My doctor advised me to take up a "low impact" sport. After three months of shove halfpenny and bar billiards, I'd put on three stone. Worse, spending every evening in the pub had ruined my liver. As you know, I never touch alcohol, but the effects of Passive Drinking are only now becoming apparent to the medical community.
So I took up swimming - the most unnatural activity for any diver, trained from birth in the art of sinking. At least when you did your basic training, there was some ostensible purpose to all the swimming - namely, to facilitate futile rescue attempts on your drowning fellows.
But can there be anything more moronically pointless, more mind-numbingly dull, than ploughing the same furrow up and down a pool for hour after hour in a hat and goggles that make you look like Heath the Acid Bath Murderer, or a mutant, aquatic relative of the Red Baron?
In any case, the calories you burn up by swimming 50 lengths, you can replace with a single Mars Bar and a cappuccino.
I suppose I could make up for the lack of exercise by going on a diet. The trouble is, now that I can't run, I have nothing better to do than eat pork pies and sticky toffee ice cream. I have become the ultimate couch potato - I sit on the couch and eat potatoes. When the potatoes run out, I shall doubtless eat the couch.
In desperation, I have arranged to have all my body's "in" holes stapled shut. They tell me that, with practice, I should be able to breathe quite easily through my ears.
See you on the dive boat. I'll be the one with the combined DV and headphones.
Deeper with Blackford
by Andy Blackford
£7.95 plus P&P, A5 format, 156 pages, paperback
Special offer - buy online at £8.95 inc. UK surface p&p
From Swanage Bay to the Redcar sewage treatment plant; from Bovisand Harbour to the wreck of the Wigan Shopping Trolley - Andy Blackford has been there, dived it, and recalls the experiences in this new collection of 36 of his best stories. Illustrated by Rico.
P&P UK £2, overseas surface £3.