Anyone who knows me well knows also that I have had ambivalent feelings about the city of Peterborough, my home for the last 23 years.
On the negative side these probably stem from the fact that I did not want to come here in the first place, having already disrupted the lives of my family 5 years earlier with our move to the Cambridge area on the closure of Barclays Bank Trust Company’s office in Chelmsford. Plus the not insignificant fact that a lot of people seemed to be getting murdered here just as we arrived.
With hindsight I suppose I could have asked to go with the other half of Chelmsford’s tax cases to the much less attractive sounding “London Eastern” office at Woodford Green and then commuted daily.
As the Peterborough move was a centralisation affecting all offices I would still have fetched up here but things might have been improved by my avoiding at least one of the two appalling managers who made my first 3 years here such a miserable experience. Or, I could have left Barclays and taken a more lucrative job in London!
But then, I tell myself, if things hadn’t gone as they did my daughters’ educational paths would undoubtedly have been different and neither of them would have met their husbands or their numerous friends around the world.
Mind you, on another time track I might already be a grandfather rather than waiting for Hannah and Dave’s happy event due just before Christmas. If you see a bright star in the sky over Peterborough in December…….
Such “what if” games are fun but ultimately pointless as we can never access or even sense the alternate realities!
Because I didn’t want to be at either Peterborough or, to some extent Cambridge before it, I held myself back from the social side of life in our residential areas (partly because experience was always showing me that I would be “movin’ on” soon). It turned out, however, that it was the jobs that “moved on” rather than me and after the ghastly successor to Barclays Trust Co. dispensed with my services I changed to IT work and had two further full-time jobs each of about 4 years duration taking us up to 2009 when I started this blog.
But if you’ve read all of my previous work here (and if not, why not?) you’ll know all about that and my subsequent contract work up to January 2016 when I decided enough of this working lark was way too much and opted for a life of leisure.
I now have to come to terms with the fact that (barring possible home “downsizing” still in the vicinity of Peterborough) there are probably going to be no more major relocations and I should finally make an effort to involve myself in local matters and make some friends other than the many I know only through work!
So, the big question is how I am to go about achieving that involvement and in what areas.
I have mentioned previously that I work as a volunteer at Peterborough Central Library on Tuesday mornings and Wednesday afternoons (the first teaching beginners to use Computers and the second trying to track down the books shown as “missing” in the last stock-take in order to determine just how many books the honest citizens of Peterborough have walked off with while “forgetting” to check them out through the system).
So that gives me an element of Public Service to list on my now useless CV and it was agreed that while fishing in its various forms is undoubtedly a relaxation it does tend to be rather solitary and what I really need is a SPORT to be done with other people!
Don’t get nervous! I am not, at age 63, going to compromise my principles and do anything that involves breaking into a sweat – to list my really physical sporting “achievements” as an adult, I last played 5-a-side football in 1976 (needed to stop for a cigarette break after each 10 minute “half”!), played tennis after work for several weeks in the same year (with visits to a nearby pub before and after), and played my one and only squash game for 40 minutes in 1977 (it took 5 pints of lager immediately afterwards to recover!)
My school sports achievements prior to that were no better – I did once NEARLY break 10 minutes for the mile on the athletics track and always managed to finish the annual amble round the Cross-country course ahead of the fat boys and the ones with bad feet but other than that did not cover myself with sporting glory!
Apart from a few gentle badminton games, a little swimming and some non-exhaustive cycling during the intervening years that was the lot – which explains how I managed to balloon up to 21 ½ stones by the beginning of this year! It was really noticing the fact that lugging myself plus another 3 or 4 stones of fishing tackle a few hundred yards over the soft shingle of Chesil Beach last November very nearly killed me (I had to lay on the beach, gasping for breath, for about 10 minutes after I reached my designated “peg”) that prompted me to go to Slimming World and lose (so far) the equivalent weight of that Fishing Tackle!
So I wanted a sport that could be done standing still yet providing some undeniable cardio-vascular exercise. Lawn Bowls was suggested but I was put off by recollections of my late father’s description of it as “old men’s marbles”. Plus at my height it’s not so easy to do things that involve a lot of bending and rising.
Just after our holiday in Norfolk in July, Faith and I attended the Peterborough Heritage Festival, most of which took place in the grounds of the Cathedral and featured stalls for various historical and re-enactment societies based on the last 1000 years or so of Peterborough’s history.
I have no particular yearning to dress up as a big hairy Viking waving his chopper about (not in public anyway) or, indeed, anything similar so I did not sign up for any of them.
One thing that Faith and I DID go to though was the “have a go” area for a local Archery Club, shooting proper arrows at a proper target with a proper bow. They even had left-handed equipment for me!
And, would you believe, I turned out to be pretty good at it! Apart from my first shot going very slightly high all of the rest were in the centre and it occurred to me that THIS was the kind of thing I was looking for – exercise without all that tedious and unnecessary running about.
I took the contact details for the club concerned and (because I’m shy) finally plucked up the courage about a month later to email them about their advertised “taster sessions”.
The Friday evening after I sent the email I was to be found at a Sports Hall on the other side of Peterborough shooting, not a mere four arrows but forty-eight while under some basic instruction from one of the club instructors. I have to report that of those forty-eight shots, perhaps four or five were outside the “gold” part of the central target.
Rather cheekily, I expressed some dissatisfaction with my scoring and apologetically suggested that I might get better with practice. The instructor laughed, invited me back for a second free session on the next Friday and told me that, while I seemed to be a “natural”, I still had a long way to go.
At the second “taster” I found out a lot more about the rules and etiquette of Club Archery – enough to understand a bit of how much I don’t yet know! Fortunately, despite their sneakily moving the target further down the range when I wasn’t looking, my shooting seemed to remain consistent and I told them that I was, if anything, becoming more enthusiastic about taking up this sport.
As things stand at present I have to take a basic training course covering Archery GB rules about safety and the technicalities of shooting leading to a certificate that will allow me to go and either join or shoot as a guest with any club I like. That has still to be arranged but I intend to pass the course and will probably try to join this particular club if they’ll have me.
You could say that I will give it my best shot!
Oh, and if you are wondering about the title of this piece, I imagine that I will be required to give some sort of undertaking NOT to don a mask and a green hood and go out into Peterborough at night with my bow as some sort of vigilante like “The Green Arrow” of DC comics and TV fame. Neither will I be allowed to utter Oliver Queen’s trademark words just before shooting someone evil – “You have failed this City!”
Although there would probably be enough targets and maybe some of those Barclays Managers are still alive!