Imagine this scenario. You are on the fourth day of a hike. By now one craves something special, anything different from smash and bully beef and possibly – heaven help us – perhaps an unexpected treat. At that moment one of your co-hikers produces a skillet from their pack together with a pancake mix. At first one believes that one is daydreaming but even the smell is too real for a dream. Arnold could have charged us R10 a pancake but instead he made us all a few pancakes each.
Such is the temperament of fellow hiker Arnold Jonathan Paikin, a considerate selfless friend and co-hiker. In fact the best adjective to describe Arnold’s signature trait is solicitous which means to be characterized by or showing interest or concern.
How did I meet Arnold originally? Arnold was a Consultant to Robor who assisted us with Baan, an ERP system. Over time he became aware that I hiked and ultimately he was invited along. Our first hike was a family hike with children and wives to Suikerboschfontein to which he in turn invited Clive Cameron to join us. Arnold assured me that he was not a disreputable type of person and an experienced hiker to boot as they had hiked for ten days across the Drakensberg in their youth. So much for experience. Clive wore some Hush Puppy style shoes and within a short distance they broke.
A few examples will highlight the measure of the man.
On day three of the Outeniqua hike en route to the Millwood Hut, Don Matthews found himself unable to continue any further. Arnold immediately came to his assistance and offered to stay with Don until we could pick him up after we had completed the hike. Fortunately Walter was feeling fluey and offered to stay instead. Arnold showed his true colours in agreeing to sacrifice his hike as nobody should be left alone at any stage during a hike.
On our last Otter Trail Hike, Arnold, I and Mike Paxton, a dapper RAC runner with 10 Comrades under his belt, travelled down together. During the trip back, Arnold received a stream of calls for assistance from Customers. Notwithstanding the fact that he was formally on holiday, he assisted all and sundry without grudge or grievance. Both Mike and I advised him to switch off his cellphone but he graciously declined on the altruistic reason that he had to assist his clients irrespective of whether he was on holiday or not.
Arnold then decided to do the 94.7 cycle challenge and ultimately Comrades.
Unlike Kurt who is a natural sportsman and requires the minimal amount of training to complete Comrades, Arnold is a regular guy without Kurt’s sporting prowess. Such people are required to train assiduously in order to finish the event.
Due to certain feminine distractions of which we were gradually becoming aware, Arnold never did the requisite level of training. In spite of this paucity of exercise, Arnold nonetheless finished Comrades much to everyone’s amazement and incredulity. Arnold ascribed this success to his patented Virtual Training Method in which he merely focused on training rather than running on the road itself. In many ways I don’t blame him for adopting this approach as it meant that he could snuggle in bed with Lxxxx. If correlation is equivalent to causation, then it was successful.
As the truth finds a way, it is ineluctably revealed. First Arnold would always have a three hour lunch appointment every Wednesday afternoon, then I organised a hike for my running friends to Suikerboschfontein. On the trip down, we stopped at a Wimpy for a meal. As usual Lxxxx and Arnold shared it. For the rest of the journey Margie, Nigel’s wife, was insistent that they were an item. The signs were unmistakeable but the admissions had not yet been made.
Then in 2013, Arnold tried to emulate his 2012 Comrades achievement and push the envelope even further. This meant doing no training whatsoever. Instead of being a distraction, Lxxxxx was becoming a full time occupation. Arnold was seldom to be seen at races anymore.
Finally Arnold and Lxxxxx decided to make their arrangement permanent with the nuptials being held at their old stomping ground 22 Main Road, Modderfontein.
With the diversion no longer a hindrance, a renewed attempt at the Comrades was expected for 2014. Arnold was noticed at various races such as the Greenstone and the Pirates half marathons, but nobody ever neither saw him finish nor was his name on the list of finishers.
Nonetheless, his claim to be training for Comrades was undiminished. Finally in trying to qualify on the Township Marathon, he speedily learnt the error of his ways. Long distance running requires at least a modicum of fitness whereas Arnold did not even possess an iota. Comrades and Two Oceans for 2014 were clearly unachievable.
Finally the female distraction had taken its ultimate toll.
However Arnold does possess some irritating habits which quickly became evident during our hikes. Foremost amongst them was to lick the spoon continually whilst making a joint hiking supper.
But what is even more disappointing is that Arnold has never again made us pancakes on the fourth day of a hike.
Arnold, next time I would like four with honey on mine.