Defeated by the old ’uns

2009-02-20 00:00

I haven’t been on holiday with my parents since I was a moody, spotty- faced teenager, when a weekend spent caravanning at the coast with a porta-loo and a gas ring was my idea of purgatory.

The recent invitation, therefore, to join them for a week-long sojourn in the mountains was a courageous gesture on my parents’ part and accepted with certain trepidation on mine.

Given their advancing years, I had envisaged lazy, mellow days spent reading books and admiring the distant scenery, followed by cozy evenings with a large glass of sherry and a little conversation.

“Take it easy on my folks,” I warned my husband, “they’ll want to relax and enjoy the break.”

It’s fortunate that my father had us scale the mountain on the first day, because it took the remainder of the week to regain the full use of my lower extremities, which is not to say I was left in peace to bask in the sun.

Aside from being keen hikers, my parents are passionate bird-watchers — of the feathered variety, naturally. Such is their fascination that they rarely go anywhere (the washing line, the post box, the supermarket … ) without a pair of binoculars at the ready.

Given the abundant bird life in the Drakensberg, our week of arduous activity was punctuated by merciful interludes as they peered into the wilderness at some rare or exciting species. Heated debate invariably ensued regarding the correct name of the specimen, followed by frantic paging through a hefty volume of the Roberts Bird Guide in an attempt to validate their claim.

To be honest, whether they’d spied a yellow-billed this, a red-knobbed that, or a flying pink elephant, my man and I were just grateful for the chance to catch our breath.

But, no sooner had we conquered the rocky peaks, than my father, for whom the expedition had been nothing more than a stroll in the park, was eagerly perusing the activities on offer at the resort.

To the relief of my calf muscles (and several others I didn’t know I had), playing lawn bowls didn’t seem too daunting a task and something I’d always considered as an idle pursuit of the elderly.

If the aim (or not, in my case) is to roll one’s bowls anywhere near the little white ball, then frankly it ought to be a lot bigger or a lot closer. Our game looked like an explosion in a marble factory as most of my attempts disappeared into the ditch or ambled off across the green in the opposite direction. Polite applause from several spectators did little to boost my confidence and our score doesn’t bear a mention.

There are certain muscles in one’s butt that are not ordinarily employed during the course of a normal working day, but which are called into service when playing bowls. It was thus with a strange, waddling gait that we set off for the putt-putt course and 18 holes of adventure golf, thinking we were sure to trounce the old ’uns at this.

In my opinion, golf balls ought to be a lot smaller and the hole into which one is expected to putt them, much bigger. The only consolation, having spent more time rummaging for my ball among the greenside foliage than on the actual green, was that no unusual muscle groups were called into play to do this.

The evenings, during which I had entertained notions of nursing my aching limbs and a large sherry, were spent learning to play Canasta — an absorbing card game that required the exertion of yet another, largely unused muscle — my brain.

Unfortunately, this didn’t fare any better than the rest of my weary body.

But, by the end of the week we finally admitted defeat — outplayed, out-walked and just plain worn out by the old ’uns.

“Well,” said my husband with an exhausted sigh, “I’m glad they wanted to relax and take things easy.”

• Heidi Steyn is a freelance writer who lives in Pietermaritzburg.

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