I hate gymnasiums, PE kit and nearly all forms of physical exercise. The terror began at the age of 10 at Dulwich College where the PE master was an ex-RSM of the Royal Sussex Regiment. He was a veteran of Dunkirk and D Day and for a small boy, a pretty terrifying figure.
This avoidance of gyms continued into my adult life. I briefly joined one in 1990 when my weight had ballooned to 15 stone after a frantic period of city lunching. But I hated the place, thought it was full of posers, and have never been back since. You won’t see me jogging around Westminster trying to look young and vigorous in front of the paparazzi. I walk a lot, keep busy and often venture out into rough seas fishing but that’s about it. That was until the other week when, post-operation, my right arm was as weak as a kitten and I could barely lift a pint to my lips.
The surgeon had sent me off to a physiotherapist and even before I walked through the door, some of the terror felt by my 10-year-old self returned. My physiotherapist is formerly of the RAMC who was for some time attached to the Royal Marines. He is disgustingly fit and looks as though he may have once been an Olympic athlete.
The manipulations in the consulting room to free up my displaced shoulder are extremely painful but I try not to show it. He has given me a regime of exercises to follow on a daily basis which I am trying to do but not always succeeding. Some of my staff have taken it upon themselves to challenge me on whether I have done my homework, some of which involve some extraordinary contortions I thought only happened on a yoga retreat.
I am also mindful of the physiotherapist I saw while I was recovering in hospital, who was there to check that my nerves and muscles were working as they should post-operation. During my stay we chatted about her work and, naturally, the NHS. I often hear complaints that people give up on waiting for physio treatment and end up paying for private therapy. She explained to me that the Government realised that there was a shortage of physiotherapists in the UK and so they made more places available to study and ensured that grants were available.
But as is so often the way with government departments and large bureaucracies, while they trained more students they did not make more jobs available once these people had qualified. My physio told me that out of a house of five students studying, it was only her and another student who ended up working in what they had been paid to train for.
Having gone through the trauma of the operation, I owe it to myself to take my rehab seriously. But for those of you waiting for an appointment, remember that there are schoolteachers and bankers who trained as physiotherapists but couldn’t get a job in the NHS to practise what they learnt.