Our friend Jonathan has asked to join the Knackered Riders Club but I’m really not sure whether we can let him in. The problem, apart from being male, is that he doesn’t seem knackered enough.
“Have you got any actual medical conditions?” I asked rather cheekily as we rode along the high tops above the village of Mellor. It was a fine morning and the views over Manchester and towards the Welsh hills were bathed in glorious sunshine.
A flock of hard-faced sheep, of an unknown gangster-type breed, reluctantly padded out of our way as we cantered up the track from the church. We were with our winning combination of Ailsa at the front on the glorious Ginger, Jonathan in the middle on noble Nobby and me bringing up the rear on princely Patch. Pulling up at the awkward gate, which springs back with such force that you need a hunting crop — one of those old ones with a horn handle to shut it again — Jonathan turned and looked at me.
“Not exactly but I’ve got loads of unexplained aches and pains,” he replied with a determined look in his eye. “You know, the ones where things hurt even though you haven’t done anything.”
So he didn’t have any certified ailments or illnesses, but to be honest, I knew exactly what he meant. Those annoying tweaks and twinges that seem to appear overnight even though you haven’t actually injured yourself. They come thick and fast when you reach middle age and it’s like you’re literally falling to bits. The odd pain here and there, a pulled muscle in your leg, a numb sensation in the back of your heel, the list goes on and on.
I used my usual tactic of avoidance when faced with difficult decisions and just didn’t give him a straight answer. We rode on into the sunshine, winding over the hills until we arrived back at the yard. It’s amazing how even a quick hour-long ride on a Sunday morning makes you feel, and as we sat down for a cup of tea, I breathed a deep sigh of contentment. Nothing ached or twinged as yet, but there was always tomorrow. But as I left the yard, the question of Jonathan’s membership remained unresolved.
I pondered it throughout the week and wondered whether we should set some ground rules if the club is going to grow. Would membership be open to any age? I had just assumed it was for over 50s, but that was purely circumstantial as the original members, who happened to be my friends, were all in their 50s, 60s or even heading towards 70. And an even bigger dilemma was the subject of gender. So far, it has been all women and would we really want to let a man into our ranks? Would Jonathan be strong enough to join in with our robust discussions on the finer points of the menopause, the foibles of our menfolk and that old faithful of whether to wear padded riding knickers or not?
I decided to sleep on it and next time I saw Greg, the owner of Tarden Farm where we all ride, I asked casually how old Jonathan was and was surprised to learn that he was 47. To be honest, I thought he was much younger, and as a consequence I have decided to let him in. He is now officially the first man and the youngest member to join our exclusive riding club so watch this space for updates. And it’s possibly a good decision as he’s coming to Shropshire with us on a two-day riding break very soon and it really wouldn’t do to have had an awkward atmosphere if we had said no.
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