Amazing new skills you can develop midlife, including dishwasher stacking

Apparently I need to learn some new skills.

Since I was made redundant I spend more time at home. Now that I have completed the “projects” list I compiled, I am into the day to day running of the house. In the mornings when my wife and kids head out the door, I am left tidying up their mess. I’m not sure who did it before I was home alone, but now it seems to fall into my remit.

I used to have other skills. Socialising, technical guru, handyman and sex god (well, you can but dream). These skills however have fallen into disuse, and apparently I have to learn new ones (or at least improve on the things I have spent the past twenty years developing).

New skills for an old dog

How sharp knives should be stacked in the dishwasher. A new skill.
Which way does a knife go…

First up is dishwashers and loading (or unloading). As I am at home, to be fair, I do it more often than I did. It turns out though that I don’t do it right. Over twenty years of practise and I’m getting it wrong. Plates not pre-rinsed (despite reading somewhere they shouldn’t be), bowls stacked too closely together, and knives point downwards, are among my faults.

I had thought I was saving lives with the knife thing, as I’d read of someone impaling their hand on a knife pointy side up. In our house though it seems as if cleanliness wins out over health and safety. A perfect contradiction to a work environment. I hadn’t realised there are places you can learn these skills – – see point 5 for the knife answer if you’re interested…but my other half knows best.

Another lesson I am being taught is to not use the tumble dryer to dry clothes. This is a cardinal sin. It goes against the environment, our electricity bill and clothes in general. Far better to spend ages putting it onto a strange folding device where it can languish for days as a mess. Obviously it begs the question why we have a tumble dryer if we’re not allowed to use it, but just like the spirits in my drinks cupboard we’re saving it for a special occasion.

Tumble dryer and clothes airer -new skills to be learnt

Folding washing in a way that doesn’t crease it follows on from the drying. How do you crease socks? Anyway ignore the fact I am at least depositing clothes into the correct bedrooms, let’s focus on the re-folding, ironing or in extreme re-washing that goes on. Oh, and if you are doing the washing, woe betide you if you miss the tissue in the pocket. That’s a complete re-wash and twenty minutes in the corner.

Finally (well for a few examples, there are others) I’m left with table wiping. You could argue that people should use their plates to catch the crumbs, but that doesn’t happen in my house. That leaves me with the job of clearing the mess. Crumbs left on the table scores -10 marks, those falling onto the chairs – 5, and the not sweeping the floor effectively is -3.

What’s the reward?

I don’t mind particularly. Actually that’s a lie. I do mind. I mind the fact that once my slapdash approach was endearing not endangering, my poor household skills were compensated elsewhere and I was forgiven for everything (that last bit isn’t strictly true). What is strange is that how being off work means I should now wipe better, fold better, stack better and dry clothes in the optimum way despite many years of practise. Yes I did do these things before, I wasn’t a complete numpty.

So the question is, how to respond when you see the dishwasher restacked, clothes refolded or table re-wiped? I tend to sigh loudly and retreat to somewhere quiet. It’s not great communication I know, but over the years that skill has probably gone the same way as the others.

Perhaps that’s the one that would be worth re-learning…

My body used to fix itself…sadly it doesn’t any more. A story of midlife arthritis.

Last night I cried out in bed. No, it wasn’t what you’re thinking, but because of midlife arthritis. It was loud enough to stop my wife snoring, which was some consolation. But as I lay there trying to get back to sleep, I couldn’t help feeling a stab of regret that now in middle age the injuries, aches and pains stayed with me. Gone was the default “give it a couple of days” recovery process. Now it is more of a “get it checked out” process. My body used to fix itself, but sadly it doesn’t any more.

I’ve always been active. Football, squash, rugby, golf… in fact any sport was my thing. I was never great, but I was a trier. Of course that was a recipe for injuries, and I’ve had a few. Broken arm, hand, collar bone, nose. Dislocated finger (twice). Add to that torn cartilage (both knees), stitches in my head and chin (multiple times) and many others and you get the idea. I over tried.

However when I reached middle age I noticed things change. I couldn’t recover as fast and gradually the sports started to drop off. It all finally hit the buffers with a visit to a specialist about hip pain that was not going away. I was still playing squash as the time, along with other overweight middle aged blokes (who liked playing inside in the warm too). It was my thing. And unusually for me I was quite good.

Midlife arthritis. At my age? Really?

“You’ve got grade 4 arthritis,” said the consultant jovially. “Worst you can have. Both hips but the left is particularly bad hence the pain.”

I smiled back. “So how long before it’s better?”

“Ah. That’s the point. This doesn’t get better until you have a hip replacement.”

I was staggered. A hip replacement was for old people, not 40 somethings. It turned out I had been playing the “wrong” sports. With my funny shaped hip joints, the twisting and turning had worn away pretty much everything. Apparently I was unlucky. Midlife arthritis is uncommon but not unheard of. A different sport, or less sport, and there would be no issue.

In actual fact Andy Murray had the same problem, so I guess I was at least on a level with other sporting pantheons. Albeit he is younger, fitter and has a wealth of healthcare support alongside him.

“Does that mean I won’t be able to play squash any more?” I asked nervously.

Then came the killer blow. “Well, not really. I mean, you have to look at yourself. You’re not a young man any more.”

So there it was. Old. No recovery without some serious medical intervention and even then if I had a replacement hip now, I’d need another later on (assuming I lived into my seventies).

For me this was a hammer blow on many levels. Something I’d once said was more fun than sex was now denied to me because of my age (a bit like sex, but that’s another story).

Operation and recovery. Of sorts.

I sulked for a few weeks. I tried all the treatments – a steroid injection, pain killers including CBD, but to no avail. My body which had used to fix itself now couldn’t even be fixed.

I ended up having a hip arthroscopy where they tried to reshape my hip joint to remove the spur that was causing the pain. Aside from some time off work, sympathy and the chance to watch a box set or two it didn’t really help.

Eventually I roused myself to consider alternatives to keep me sane. I invested in some lycra and started cycling. I went swimming. I even became a gym bunny. Well, if you can call a middle aged bloke in saggy shorts and t-shirt a gym bunny. It all helped, after all exercise is good for the mind and soul.

Exercises you can do with midlife arthritis
Be proud of being middle-aged in lycra

However it has taken me a long time to come to terms with the finality. No more squash, football, or rugby. They’re lost to me now unless I try for the hip replacement. Midlife, for all the self help guides and encouragement, is the beginning of a decline. It hasn’t helped being made redundant.

Keeping yourself sane is key, so alternatives must be found. The positive is that no one cares what you look like anymore, so you can invest in the lycra and reveal all, or sweat like a pig in dodgy t-shirts. Failing that just grow a belly in the pub.