Once upon a time I had a schoolfriend who was incapable of eating bananas in public without first breaking them into small pieces with her fingers. I remembered that rather random fact today when describing my antics in the Club Med Gym (which I still call the Gymnase Club, because I’m old school, me, and set in my ways) to a friend over lunch.
“So, how often do you actually go?” she asked, picking at the huge slice of apple crumble she’d ordered. I nursed my espresso, feeling virtuous for turning down dessert, but also rather jealous.
“Oh, three times a week at the moment while I ease into the routine,” I replied. “Then I’ll see if I can bear to go more often, maybe take some classes.”
“Bear to go more often?”
“Well yes, it’s not exactly a pleasure. More a necessity. I’ve always been rather anti-sport, as you know…”
Anti-sport may be something of an understatement. I haven’t changed much since I vowed never to enter the sports hall at sixth form college. Or university. The rubbery odour of a sports shop is enough to make me wrinkle my nose in distaste, so crossing the threshold of the Club Med changing rooms requires a supreme effort of will. The only thing which makes the whole entreprise remotely bearable is my latest purchase: a tiny, clippy iPod shuffle, which makes it possible for me to block out my surroundings and lose myself in electronica while I cross country ski or climb seventy flights of stairs.
“The worst thing,” I confided, “is cleaning off the machines after you’ve used them.” Unable to restrain myself any longer, I seized my coffee spoon and stole a mouthful of crumble with crème anglaise.
My friend looked rather puzzled. “But surely it’s your sweat you are wiping?”
“Yes, but that’s not the problem” I said, setting down my spoon so I could mime the cleaning action with my right hand.
Imagine, if you will, a petite anglaise who has just finished her fifteen minutes on the stepper machine. Not just any stepper machine mind, but the one directly located under an air conditioning vent, my machine of choice. For some reason, French girls who go to the gym never break a sweat and rarely turn an attractive shade of beetroot, like I am wont to do. In order to blend in better, and draw fewer horrified stares, I always try to work out in the coolest part of the room.
By my side a lithe young man in tight shorts is hard at it. Something about his zeal for butt tightening and his choice of attire makes me think that it may not be for the benefit of a lady. Unless of course he is one those meetic boys who likes to claim that his most attractive attributes are “ses fesses”. He watches as I dismount and stagger over to the paper towel dispenser a few metres away, squirt some white, slightly opaque soap onto the tissue, and proceed to clean the first handle, gripping its girth firmly within my open palm and sliding the lubricated tissue up and down.
It suddenly occurs to me how this looks, and when I move on to the second handle I find it impossible not to smirk as I rub. The fact that my iPod has just opted for an explicit little track by “Peaches” has tipped me over the edge.
Disposing of my spent paper towel, I return to grab my tap water-filled Evian bottle and my decidedly unluxurious Club Med towel, turning to face my audience as I do so.
“It’s all in the wrist action,” I say, with a smile, before turning on my heel and heading off in the direction of the showers.