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  • Philip Bryer

Road to Nowhere

A chap I work with was extolling the virtues of one of the local gyms. Health clubs are they called now? Fitness centres? I don’t really know, and while I’m aware of their existence, I have no knowledge of what they might be called or of where they might be located in relation to me.

“It’s very nice,” he said about one that’s situated at a swanky hotel hereabouts, apparently, in addition to the usual gym stuff, it also offers a sauna and a pool, and access to the facilities to any old hobbledehoy who might wander in off the street on the off chance of getting stripped off and rubbed up close to some total strangers, or residents who are paying top-end rates on the understanding they’ll be left alone. If gaining a higher profile was the intention for the hotel, well it’s certainly pushed it into my thoughts. It’s definitely somewhere I’m never going to be staying.

I peeked in one of these places once and saw row-upon-row of people on bikes pedalling furiously and making no progress, same deal for those striding forth on the road to nowhere on the conveyor belt – although of course it’s called a treadmill, and I think it’s worth remembering that.

Of course to embroider the punishment, all that’s on telly is MTV. Ironic that while you’re pumping up your thighs so they resemble a pair of Spacehoppers, your brain is under assault by music video and entering the state known to all the top brain surgeons as cold rice pudding.


On the subject of MTV, have you been across there lately? In the blue corner – and these are not the grown-up blues of Chicago or the Mississippi - these are the baby blues dished up by the, “Oh, poor me, I’m so upset,” brigade, once so memorably monikered by record label boss Alan McGee as bedwetters. Ah, the great McGee. Although he did gift the world Oasis, so he ain’t that great.

In the red corner, here's the crimson about the gills with perceived slight, and having a bit of a tantrum and a paddy, are the finger-wagging urban street poets. (Hang on minute, urban street poets? That can’t be right, can it? No.) Ah, correction. Finger-wagging shouty people who always seem so awfully upset, and that’s despite being surrounded by half-naked jiggling women and huge bottles of booze. Maybe they’re so angry because they’re always in a club where the music’s rotten and nobody can dance. Or perhaps it’s because their hat’s on the wrong way round and they can’t figure out how to rectify the problem, or because their mum’s bought them jeans four sizes too big. Again.

Anyway, I’d be mad too if I found myself in a health club, and adding young Tetchy Strider or Prickly Rascal to the mix might just do me in. The idea of being in a room with all of those sweaty, panting, hairy, smelly people at quarters too close to bear…. well, what a revolting prospect. As I said to my colleague, no matter how first-class the hotel, how polished the marble, how fluffy the towels, how fawning the staff. As you take your dive into their Olympic-sized swimming pool, remember this, people still piss in it.

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