I have never been much good at geography, or indeed any activity which requires any sort of spatial co-ordination. I even have trouble locating my Sat Nav and as for road maps, they might as well be in cuneiform. I’m sure it must be genetic, as my father has even more trouble than I do in escaping from a paper bag. It was therefore a great disappointment, the other day, to discover that Miami is situated at the confluence of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. I thought that it might just be on the edge of the Caribbean.
The only reason I mention this is that I do a gym class with Aline, who was away for a couple of weeks visiting her mother, who lives in Miami. Aline does an amusing and knackering class three times a week here, in which I am the only guy. I started again recently after an absence of about five years as I realised that I hadn’t had any meaningful exercise for months. We normally go skiing in January with the technical university, where Millie and I have worked on and off for years, but this was the second year in a row that we didn’t go. It’s quite amazing what a week of hurtling down Alps at what feels like a million miles an hour does for one’s physical well-being, as well as sometimes frightening yourself stupid as you suddenly turn a bend and realise that the only way down is via an almost vertical precipice.
I can often be seen furtively scurrying down the road early in the morning, dressed in what Millie calls my ‘chav outfit’,* consisting of teeshirt and baggie sweat pants. Luckily, the gym, a comfortable modernised space in what used to be the town barracks, is only about 100 metres from the house, so I have only a short distance in which to pretend that I’m someone else.
As you are probably aware, we are all slightly taller in the morning due to our cartilages relaxing and expanding overnight. Being only 1m72, or five feet seven in old money, I arrive at the class closer to 1m73 due to this phenomenon. I leave about the same height as Peter Crouch.
It’s a very strenuous hour and a quarter. Aline, who is addicted to it, is the only person there who doesn’t seem to suffer much at all. You have to hand it to her, the girl’s fit. The session starts by lulling one into a false sense of security, as we prance around like a lot of Brownies at a folk dancing competition. Except that we keep prancing. And prancing.
After about fifteen minutes of this, the whole thing has definitely gone beyond a joke. If I had any hair it would be plastered to my forehead and your lungs feel like they are going to explode. There’s not even any time to stop and have a comforting fag. I take solace in the fact that it’s doing my heart good.
Just as you start to become convinced that blood is going to start gushing from your ears at any second, the cardio-vascular phase stops. It’s now time for the tough bit. I’ve never really done any yoga before, but it’s what I imagine being cut out of a car after an accident feels like, where you’re obliged to rest all the while in an unnaturally contorted position. Doing an upward facing dog feels like you’ve just given the wrong answer to the Spanish Inquisition.
The final phase is a different kind of stretching and bending, which brings me back to the Miami part of the story, in all its canine hirsuteness. Aline attended some private classes while she was there to bone up on a few more techniques (the extended metaphors keep coming). It really is a pity that Miami isn’t where I hoped it was, as I wanted to call this story, ‘Pilates of the Caribbean.’
* A pejorative phrase denoting people with low levels of education, often with a penchant for fast food and Burberry baseball caps.