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Old age, I have always felt, is God's way of telling you to move into more voluminous underwear. I do not mind admitting that when I hit 40 I set aside all youthful thoughts of Y-fronts and started wearing briefs, which were substantially more modest in the area we doctors call the upper thighs. Now in my fifties I buy sensible boxer shorts in packets of four from the Bernard Manning range at Marks & Spencer.
I mention this only to explain my vague unease at the sight of 70-year-old Eric's posing pouch, part of his armoury as he prepared for the Natural Universe bodybuilding contest in California, featured in the BBC's One Life series last week. Eric seemed a little embarrassed himself as he held up a skimpy piece of shiny black material and explained that that was all that stood between his pension-age genitalia and the spectators.
Not that a Chippendales-style scenario was ever a danger. The question of sexual attraction surfaced only fleetingly and rather unconvincingly in the programme, which followed competitors on the older people's bodybuilding circuit, the Seniors' Tour if you like.
Kathy, a 54-year-old grandmother, said she had taken up the sport to hold age - and particularly the dreaded so-called bingo wings - at bay; and husband Mike suggested the results had been something of a hit in the boudoir department, although he was "not drooling over the dinner table", for which relief, I suspect, much thanks.
I do not wish to be ungallant and I am as inclined to drool as the next man - especially if I fall asleep on the sofa after a decently alcoholic dinner - but I am afraid time's winged chariot seemed to me not only to have caught up with Kathy but to have pulled up alongside her and be flagging her down. She looked exactly like a lady of 54 or maybe a little older, albeit one with extraordinarily well-developed muscles who would have no trouble holding her place in a Post Office queue. Her enduring allure in the marital home possibly has less to do with her physique than with her temperament, which seemed as sweet as a nut.
Unfortunately she was also the colour of one. Nobody, apparently, can take the stage at one of these bodybuilding shindigs without calling upon a small mahogany lake of fake tan. Linda, wife of 61-year-old Bernie, competing in a championship at Southport, applied her old man's gloss finish with a paint roller and rather sweetly ended up with a smudge of it on her own face when she kissed him after his success.
Alongside the creosote and the tiny cossies the third element that normally surfaces in programmes about bodybuilding was notably absent. Apart from one mention of Preparation H - 65-year-old Ted uses it in his training routine in some unspecified way - pharmaceuticals were the elephant in the room.
I am sure I was not alone in wondering whether in order to train into your fifties, sixties and seventies, it might not sometimes be necessary to run to the shelter of Grandmother's Little Helper.
Then again, old-age bodybuilding did not appear a fiercely competitive business and the participants we met seemed thoroughly decent folk, so maybe it is only an old cynic like me who would even raise the question. Good luck to them.
And good luck also to another senior pushing himself to the limit as he enters his twilight years. Sixty-one year-old John Motson, commentating on the Reading-Manchester United Cup replay, showed the youngsters a thing or two by attempting the longest sentence ever uttered by a commentator at a live football match.
In the midst of a paean to John Madejski, during which he failed to mention where the Reading chairman currently stands with Cilla Black (there's some senior action we could stand being updated on), Motty provided us with the following (this is just a portion):
". . . outside there's a conference centre and a luxury hotel and there's an indoor training complex but I think what most of us appreciate - those of us old enough to drive anyway, heh, heh - is the location of the Madejski, just a mazy dribble by Cristiano Ronaldo over a couple of roundabouts on to the junction 11 of the M4 as that westbound motorway roars out of London through the Thames Valley and . . . ."
Screen Break would like to break in to that sentence for a moment and ask if anyone else has noticed how often during a Reading match, commentators will say "here at the Madejski". It must be at least twice as often as they would say "at Villa Park" or "Stamford Bridge". I mean, the guy has his name on the stadium, how much more publicity does he need? And now, back to Motty.
". . . onwards to Bristol and Cardiff where the Millennium Stadium is still on standby just in case the new Wembley is not ready to stage a final from which these two teams tonight are just three matches away." I was disappointed there was no mention of the Chippenham turn-off or the Leigh Delamere services but Motty proves once more that, when it comes to stream of consciousness or, more accurately, oozing river of random thought breaking its banks and flooding several small fields, you never lose it.
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