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Andy Richardson: Doing the things you love keeps the doctor away

I don’t do ‘ill’. Haven’t for years. I think it’s a throwback to my childhood, when I didn’t do ‘well’. A regular shift at the local hospital gave me some sort of determination to stay healthy, keep relatively fit – if not a little overweight – and avoid calling the gaffer to say I wouldn’t be coming into work.

Across the past 25 years, I’ve missed about five days work...
Across the past 25 years, I’ve missed about five days work...

Across the past 25 years, I’ve missed about five days work. Those were all more than 20 years ago, which is decent, don’t you think, considering I had a bout of pneumonia along the way that ought to have put me in bed but somehow didn’t.

The only thing that knocks me back, it seems, is myself. Overdoing it is the thing that takes me off my feet. The last time it happened, there was every reason for my body to say: ‘Nah, to be honest mate, I don’t fancy it.’

The mother of my son moved 300 miles away. I did what any decent dad would do, and begun a gruelling series of 600-mile round-trips so that he knew his dad loved him. While keeping a full-time job. While doing lots of part-time schizzle to make sure I could support him. Because, as Boris says, them’s the breaks.

After a little while and having clocked up 50,000-miles in a year, not forgetting the 70-hour weeks, I got pneumonia. Thanks pneumonia for teaching me to slow down. The unsustainable treadmill was sacked off and I chose life. Illness is good, that’s what I learned. This time, the circumstances couldn’t have been less dramatic.

The 600-mile-round-trips are a thing of the past, Covid has led to a work-at-home-it’s-more-productive regime while there’s no ex-wife looking to re-empty a bank account. Which makes a change.

Not that I’m any less driven and in addition to work and home and all the usual schizzle, I’ve been on a mission to publish more books than the shelves of Waterstones will hold. As you do. Because life is short and we have to make the most of it. Especially when you’re fortunate enough to do the thing you love and turn that into a career.

Not content with writing-and-publishing enough books to fill a decent-sized office, I decided to get fit and (hopefully) shift some of the excess weight. Again. Until I eat loads of nice stuff to put it back on again soon after losing it.

So I got into my six-days-a-minimum routine, dutifully making my way to my office from 7am each morning and working silly hours to keep on top. And then I, erm, relaxed by going swimming every day to get myself something like fit.

And when my body said: ‘Oi, mate, that’s enough,’ I did what any obsessive would do in such circumstances, press the override button and go again.

And then my body went pop. That’s enough. If you won’t listen to your internal monologue, we’ll shut you down like Mick Lynch talking to a rubbish, right-wing journalist. And so it did. The lungs filled with gunk. The daily swimming routine was abandoned and though work didn’t stop – mate, I’d be stuck in bed barely able to breathe and still be writing something for someone – it was a less-than-productive week.

There was no time off work, obvs, for while there’s a fabulously decent, fair and supportive employer, this happy idiot is a grafter rather than a grifter.

And now, happily, after a week of feeling as slow and lethargic as a Grant Shapps leadership bid, my body is back in the game.

I’m not yet swimming daily – though, by the time you read this I may well be – and those plans for more books than Waterstones are back on track.

If you can’t write a 90,000-word book on your break, what’s the point? Or something like that. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. And so does doing the things you love.

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