» O’rl Right»?

When you move to a new place you have to learn a new local language. It can be more complicated in areas where there is a strong regional tradition. Used to greeting people with ‘hello’, ‘good morning’, sometimes adding a ‘how are you?’, we quickly discovered when we moved to Bath that in our neighbourhood people use a distinctive phrase, which is more a greeting than an inquiry about someone’s health. People say ‘o’rl right?’ without necessarily expecting an answer. It’s a recognition of the other person, and may then go on to a discussion about well-being or the state of he weather, but ‘O.K.’ is more than enough that people expect in response.

In the cardiac rehabilitation sessions I go to a couple of times most weeks, it’s the question we throw at each other as we prepare to engage in the treadmill of exercises that help to keep us fit. But here we expect answers, honest ones that reflect how we are coping as older people who have recovered from some sort of serious heart condition.

Often the responses are not about cardiac troubles but many other problems as well, mostly to do with getting older. There’s a shrug of the shoulders as we share an up to date record of our aches and pains!

One of us has had double hip replacements, the last one of which hasn’t worked out as it should. He was having to see a consultant about it two weeks ago and, missing classes last week, I am wondering if he has had bad news about an operation that can leave the patient worse off than they were before. Another friend – one of the few women who are part of the forty or so of us who go to one or other of the four sessions each week- had a serious operation for cancer nine months ago, from which she has recovered remarkably well. Some one else who I know well and with whom we share stories, is arthritic and getting down on the exercise mat for the variety of exercises which normally end each session, is for him a very painful business indeed.

But he manages it.

Its one of the penalties of getting older, that you are likely to have not one but a collection of health problems. I try to discipline myself to refrain from making a daily list of them (and wondering what’s going to come next). Mainly it’s fine, and if bits of me begin to wear out, that’s the deal with old age. It’s just rather good sometimes to respond to the question ‘o’rl right?’ by telling a kindly friend, what isn’t right at all, but ‘o’rl wrong’.


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