I've arrived at Curlew Farm, just outside Lyme Regis in Dorset, although the farm itself is over the county border in Devon. I'm here for six nights - that's five full days - and it looks as if I shall enjoy dry, and possibly very sunny, weather. It may even be quite hot.
I'm not one for roasting myself on a beach, but even so, it would be a shame not to get at least a light tan on as much of myself as I'm comfortable with - more than just face, neckline, arms, hands, legs below the knee, and my feet. I'm talking about what might get sun-kissed if wearing a one-piece swimsuit. (I'm too old to wear bikinis) Will the public stand the sight, or will there be sharp intakes of breath? Or perhaps expressions of pity and concern, horror perhaps, for what age and general decrepitude have wrought?
Hence this post. Dare I expose? What might be regarded as acceptable? Bottom line: do I have a body beautiful?
I know what my body looks like. Realistically. I see it nude twice a day. I don't kid myself that somehow In the last six years it has been totally rejuvenated, and that I could pass for forty-two or younger. It won't pass for fifty-two. Sixty-two, maybe.
No, in the last six years it has gained weight and girth. It's firm in some places but sags a little in others. There are blemishes here and there, nothing desperate, but defects that bother me a bit. I still have the suggestion of a waist, but breasts and hips are more obvious now, and not in the way of a young woman, but in the way of a woman who is decidedly past middle age and won't be regressing.
It would be unkind to call me 'cuddly' (a euphemism for 'fat'), but the tummy is all too prominent and I don't think I will ever now get rid of it. I have joined the army of tubby women.
I am philosophical: after all, my significant abdominal mass counterbalances my unwanted upper-body mass, and serendipitously makes for a better-proportioned body overall. And at my age, it is at least the kind of body an awful lot of women have. It suggests good living; a certain degree of self-indulgence; a no-worries state of mind, where fitness and sloth have sunk their differences and called a truce.
I remain conscious that it would still be a very good idea to lose some more weight. Little by little I am training myself into better habits. Happily caravanning helps, simply because I'm much more active. So there's actually a really good health reason for getting away and having a nice holiday. Highly convenient, that!
And indeed, although I wrote this sitting down in a Lyme Regis hotel sipping my large sauvignon blanc, I had two solid hours of walking along the shore to precede it. I earned my drink. But the walk won't magically give me a body beautiful!
I'm not obsessed with looking skinny and toned. It would be pointless. What would it be for? To please whom? When you live for yourself, it's sufficient to look pleasant and intelligent enough to be taken seriously. I do however practice being graceful and fluid, because these accomplishments disguise heaviness.
The teenage me was skinny. My chest was flat and my hips were embarrassingly noticeable - incongruously wide. Acutely conscious of this, I did not expose myself on the beach, whatever the scorn heaped on me. Well, despite being overweight I have at least overcome that kind of inhibition. I rather think I'd have no problems now on, say, a nudist beach, if getting one's kit off was the only way to go.
Which begs the question, would I feel comfortable doing the same in someone's bedroom? Would the fact that it was a private space, rather than a public one, make a difference? Thus far, this is entirely in the realm of speculation. I think that not having a body beautiful wouldn't be a problem. The problem would lie with surrendering myself to a situation that could get out of hand, or at least involve unpredictable outcomes. For now, that would be the thing that would make me back out and run.