WEEK 59: SAS Squirrel

WEEK 59: SAS Squirrel


We’re at war with an SAS-trained squirrel. Having had a bird feeder hanging from an external light on our conservatory for a year without interference, our garden is now liberally littered with shelled sunflower seeds after countless dawn raids. It’s classic SAS tactics: smash, grab, get out of there. Here’s Mrs Gale (see main image) doing a very good impression of the squirrel. Our fluffy-tailed terror is an expert at shimmying and leaping, and even when we transferred the feeder to the middle of the washing line the results have fared no better.

Even worse, when the squirrel enters stage left, running down the fence at full pelt towards the conservatory and its heavily defended low-slung pot of seeds, our cat merely looks on, disinterested – like a copper at a Just Stop Oil demo.

I’m not equating our karate training to the SAS… Actually, thinking about it, maybe I am. Our two hours a week in the dojo require a toughness of mind so perhaps if the tables were turned, I’d now have the same determination as our resident bandit squirrel to get at the bird nosh.

I survive karate with the mantra: “Get on with it.” You’re pushed physically and mentally but after 13 months, and at the age of 51, I know I can handle it – and that’s been a surprise. Mrs Gale commented on my muscly arms this morning, which have been gradually built through press-ups and pummelling a punchbag. Thank God I saw that karate advert at the train station coffee shop in April ’22.

The weekend had been unnecessarily boozy and having been told that I had high cholesterol by my doctor, this might have inversely led to me downing more than my usual amount. I knew the game was up but wanted a skinful before the barrier came crashing down.

So Monday karate was tackled after a day on jury service with a drink-induced sweat on. Ten burpees was a shock – jump up, get down into press-up position, jump up, get down into press-up position, etc, etc. Like a 1960s footballer, I used to refuse sipping water during exercise – but not now, not any more. I look forward to hydration breaks. I sweat so much that I need to take a glug.

Drills comprised punches and kicks to the forward position, then 45 degrees to the right, then 45 degrees to the left. The aim, I think, is to loosen the teak-hard trunk of our body to allow explosive attacks. My ageing body takes so long to warm up that it’s like a Morris Marina on a foggy Monday morning in November 1981. I was worried I was going to dislocate my spine.

After running through yondan in slow motion, panting, I headed home saying, “The lifestyle change begins now.”

It didn’t of course; I drank on Tuesday night as well but by Wednesday I felt that I had no more runway left. I went to bed early and felt pretty sharp for Thursday’s dojo ding-dong. The new beginning, the re-birth had happened. No more drinking in the week.

We had a new-starter – a teen who was taller than me. A Chelsea supporter. I remember loving my first karate session despite finding it very tough, but feeling completely flummoxed by katas. I thought I’d never learn kata kihon. I wonder what he made of it all?

We ran through all the katas apart from kihon tonight and had a bunkai demo for selected moves. Shodan, sandan, nidan – I have to watch the others’ first move to remember what kata we’re doing and try and hide the fact that I’m slow out of the traps. Shodan and sandan sound the same to me so you can see my predicament. Once I’ve viewed the opening manoeuvre, the rest slots into place.

My fight injury in my right hand from back in February remains a problem. I thwumped the pad with the outside of my hand and felt whooo-whooo-whooo painnnnn. I put it in ice when I got home. No drinking – a shower and bed. The new regime! I felt I’d deserved a few glasses of red by Friday. I’m hoping that I become that bit sharper at Shotokan by abstaining on school nights. If I don’t, well, like I said earlier, I’ll just get on with it. As for the SAS squirrel – I’ve bought some special clips from Blacks. Game on!