A new routine

It’s hard to grasp just how bitterly cold it was this morning. It was 2C. The temperature’s been lower on other days but not as cold if you know what I mean. There was something evil in today’s air. Something nasty and spiky that pierced the very bones and all but froze the blood. When I awoke at 6.15 to go swimming, the wind was howling and the rain was beating down. I thought about that pool for at least a nanosecond and snuggled back under the duvet. Swim on you masochists; I’m staying where I am.

There’s always a downside though: as it’s Monday, and as I didn’t swim, there was no escaping that shivering but insistent part of my wide-awake conscience with its mantra – you must exercise. And if you’ve missed your swimming window on a Monday, then you must return to the over-sixties fitness group.

I didn’t go last week. I don’t think I even bothered with an excuse. It was so excruciatingly awful the week before, I’d simply lost the will and stayed home to watch a jelly set. Speaking of which, I rather resemble a jelly myself. There seems to have been a surfeit of feasting lately and I missed out on swimming last week due to travelling east. So, I girded my loins which, according to Wikipedia, means ‘preparing for a dangerous situation’. That’s the one.

There weren’t many of us present today. Something to do with the arctic conditions I suppose. Wimps. If you want to be a die-hard, you might as well go somewhere that you know is odds on for dying hard. Janice and Ginny, who are the only two other normal ladies in the group, were present, faces set in stony resignation. ‘Feeling any better’, we ask Janice? ‘Not really’, she replies bitterly: ‘stiff as a board and aching all over’. ‘Doing anything nice for Christmas’, I venture kindly. ‘Not really. My son’s coming on Boxing Day if he can remember where I live’.

I don’t know whether it’s because there are so few of us, or because the instructor thinks we need our ancient body temperatures raised quickly, but the routine has changed. And not for the better. The so-called warming-up session lasts forever and is of little help to the terminally confused. We’re straight into one jump right and two jumps left; arms in front, arms behind, one arm up, two to the side. ‘Single’, shouts the instructor. ‘Double’, she shouts before any of us have mastered the first movement. ‘Treble’, shouts someone at the back hoping for a little continuity. To make matters worse, this week we are exercising to Christmas music of which there is only a limited repertoire. I hate Wham’s Last Christmas. When we finally slow down in order to deal with what were once the pelvic floor muscles, she plays Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. Everyone begins to enjoy a festive singalong but before we’ve even started a collective wave she decides the music is too slow. Wham make the first of several comebacks. The pelvic floor muscles can’t cope and there’s general rush towards the loos.

Next, we have to join hands and make a circle which is not de rigueur and causes much consternation. The giggly women on the left want nothing to do with the foul-faced women on the right. Holding hands is a step too far from their comfort zones but we manage it. The purpose of the circle is, of course, so that we don’t fall over during the balancing exercises that are forthcoming. The people to our right and left will support us. Well, that’s the theory but it requires more than a tentative touching of fingers ladies.

Actually, I quite like the circle. When we’re in our normal positions, we can only see the instructor because this is the only person we look at. In a circle, it’s possible to see how absolutely bloody useless everyone else is. There’s a woman opposite me who not only has no apparent clue of what’s required, or whether there’s any useful difference between left and right, it’s clearly obvious that she also has no idea of where she is or who any of these other people are. The lady next to her, who’s always immaculately made-up and wears designer-type exercise clothes, looks appalled. Ginny tells me this person didn’t come last week although she did spot her having a fag at the bus stop. Apparently, she looked very smart

The instructor instructs us to fetch something. Unfortunately, bloody George Michael is still moaning on about last Christmas so her words are drowned and no-one knows what it is we’re supposed to fetch. I look around in the hope of copying someone who has their hearing aids turned up. Sadly, all the other ladies are wandering about vaguely in slow motion. It’s like the senior version of Dawn of the Dead with no notion of who’s still alive. ‘MATS’, shouts the instructor. Oh, mats. Why didn’t you say? Time for a nice lay down after which she says, ‘roll over and get up smoothly’. Of all the instructions she gives, this is the most ridiculously ambitious. There isn’t a single person in the room who can either roll over or get up smoothly. We are like a school of beached whales, huffing and puffing, creaking and moaning, incapable of controlling our noisy bodily functions.

And just when you think it can’t get any worse, we are told to get in threes for the Gay Gordons. Janice suddenly remembers an urgent appointment with the dentist. ‘If I don’t see you next week, have a lovely Christmas’, she says. I think I know what Janice’s new year’s resolution is. I am with Ginny and a rather stony-faced woman in a shocking pink top. ‘I’m not sure what to do’, I mention. ‘Follow those three in front’, says Ginny. I look at those three in front who remind me of that old programme, Lost in Space.

‘I don’t want to be in the middle’, says Ginny. ‘You have to move on and dance with other people’. This seems to me to be a bit unsociable so I offer to go in the middle. I remember the Gay Gordons from school days so I’m happy to give it a whirl. Of course, not only do the lycra ladies cling together, so do the midgets (and if, in these politically correct times, we can still say ‘Gay Gordons’, then we can jolly well say midgets), or porgs (persons of restricted growth). Anyway, when I become the middle turn between two elderly porgs, I can see her rationale. It’s really difficult to go under-arm and round-the-houses with people who are two feet smaller than oneself.

And it’s the end. ‘I don’t like that pink woman’, says Ginny. And I don’t like Wham.