I had forgotten why I stopped going to gyms

December 21st, 2014, 4pm

Our boiler’s broken. As the man with the parts is not due until the same night as the man with the presents, we have taken out the 12 Days of Christmas quid-a-day offer at our local gym, so we can at least wash between shivers.

I have forgotten the things that irritated me so much I stopped going to the gym years ago.

The way blokes make the changing room, the steam room, the sauna sound like walrus preening grounds with their rasping sighs, look-at-the-effort exhalations, and how-hot-is-this! throat clearings.

The people who talk in the steam room like they’re at a bus stop. I got a couple of Alan Bennet women stereotypes today comparing pocks and crevices left by their maybe cancerous mole removals.

Then there are the rules that meant while my daughter is old enough to be a life-saver, and in three years could join the army, she is not old enough to sit on a poolside deckchair while I sweat the other side of a sauna glass door.

‘Lifeguard regulations.’ says the lifeguard, ‘Under sixteens must be accompanied at all times.’

‘Even though I can see her?’

‘Even though you can see her.’

‘Even though she’s the best swimmer in the pool and she is pretty good at sitting on a deck chair too?’

‘Life guard regulations.’

Not the nanny state, not the eurocrats, but the private sector litigation piranhas. I leave the gym simmering with irritations and realise why I take my exercise alone, on two wheels, out in the hills.

Though today did remind me of a conversation from my old gym that I tucked away for a story but have not used yet. That gym was above a Netto supermarket, no pool or steam room just a sauna like a tiny garden shed you could never get quite hot enough. A guy came in and we did the bus stop thing, What do you do?

He was a fireman. ‘I never get to put out any bloody fires though.’

‘All cats up trees and peeling the roofs off crashed cars?’

‘Too right. You’ll never guess what I was doing this afternoon.’

‘Go on.’

‘Freeing a fucking Alsatian from down the back of a fucking sofa.’

So I have this idea for a short story about a fire fighter who goes to saunas as the nearest thing he can get to the heat of fires. I’ll write it one day, meanwhile we’re at the gym as the nearest place to get hot showers.

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Steve Dearden

Writer, producer and Director of The Writing Squad - www.stevedearden.com

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