Spectator: Lucy on the signs of spring

This is the time I most enjoyed in our old garden. The narcissi under the wild cherry would all be in bloom, creating a wonderful white, cloudy mass that smelt and shivered in a way I never grew tired of admiring. New shoots, allium counting, staring across the fields in wonder that there are so many shades of green-the spring garden holds so much promise before the reality of summer, when everything turns out to be in the wrong place.

And now we’ve moved, never let it be said that the town dweller doesn’t have full access to the changing seasons, too. I’m surrounded by the signs of spring, signs that are more reliable than any magnolia buds or blackthorn blossom. Whenever I open my door, I can see a species more prolific than the crocuses in the garden or the weeds in the vineyard, where pruning has begun: joggers.

They might come singly or in pairs, plentiful and strange. Often pony-tailed and baseball-hatted, they’re Lycra-clad and clutch water bottles. If in pairs, they also-and I really can’t understand this -chat as they jog. Zippy tops. Enormous shoes. They look both straight ahead and remarkably cheerful as they train for the marathon season. I say season because they’re not necessarily heading for London. Paris and New York are also on the agenda.

Zam and I used to wonder if Fletcher the dachshund saw spirits round each ancient corner of this beautiful city-why else would he lie down and refuse to walk so that we have to carry him past the tourists, as the joggers glide past us?-but in recent weeks, the lying down has increased.
Fletcher isn’t psychic. He’s taken a look at the spring tide of Lycra and thought: ‘Look at them. I’m not doing that. I give up.’ For once, Fletcher and I are in agreement.

My seasonal landscape has entirely changed. It’s not the forsythia I now reluctantly admire (I never liked it, but gave respectful thanks to it for being plucky and yellow when all around are holding back), but the pounding runners. I admire them and resent them. They remind me that I dislike being asked by the doctor if I take any exercise. I walk the dog, I mumble and do an irregular exercise class, but I feel this doesn’t get many marks. And I swim, I say, without adding if I’m on summer holiday. I know I can’t stretch the truth to include running because that would be physically impossible, my body being the type that goes up and down instead of forward.

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New and unlikely members of the species appear each day. I had no idea my nephew was planning to join 37,500 others to complete the London Mara-thon until he showed up last weekend, slightly red and turning down the offer of a Bloody Mary. He’d just run seven miles uphill, but still had the energy to explain that his training was a little behind schedule if he was to reach his target time of 26 miles in under four hours. ‘It seems to be a very good year for the spring joggers,’

I observed to my friend yesterday, testing the ground in case she is one. ‘I quit running,’ she replied. ‘Bad for the knees.’ ‘Yes, yes,’ I agreed. ‘It’s not good for you at all.’ I remember now that my brother, for unfathomable reasons, completed the marathon a few years ago and has had a bad back ever since. ‘You gotta try TRX’ (she’s Canadian). What? ‘It’s a Navy Seal thing. You hang your body weight off your arms.’ I stared at her. ‘I don’t think my doctor would allow that,’ I muttered.

The house sparrows are chatting excitedly outside, the fly-catcher is making nest preparations. There’s a confused bumblebee on the doorstep who can’t decide if it’s still too cold and the pizza oven seems to be beckoning. There’s a steady but gentle thud of trainers passing by the garden wall. Zam has signed up for Pilates. Growth, renewal, new life and Lycra. Spring is definitely here. Almost everything is shaping up.

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