Grandpa Webb's blog

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The technology doesn’t know if you’re improperly dressed

Who is this Grandpa Webb?About 15 years ago I won a prize in a raffle. The prize was in two parts. The first was the use of a swanky Mercedes Benz E Class car for the day (“You put in your own petrol”, the man at the garage said). I took grandma to see Auntie Freda and Uncle John in Somerset. They were well impressed.

The second part of the prize was six months’ membership at the St Albans Health and Racquets Club. About once a week I would go there and pedal a bike along with a dozen or so others while we all watched telly on a big screen. When the six months finished, I didn’t renew the membership.

A new swanky hotel has opened up the road. It has a gym, steam rooms, pool, treatment rooms and is full of training people and beauty therapists whose job it is to get you fit and make you look good.

This year grandma and I treated ourselves to a grand combined birthday present - a year’s membership of the posh gym. Expensive, yes, but for both of us it costs slightly less than a month’s stay for one at the local old-folks nursing home. We regard it as an investment.

When you join they give you a complimentary hold-all, a pair of free headphones, a branded water-bottle and a magnetic membership card. And if you get there early, you can also have a free breakfast every day.

The shorts don't have a zip or a fly so it's easy to put them on back to front. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I have a trainer. He’s probably in his 30s, and is one of those stocky types who ooze suppressed energy, a bit like an unexploded hand grenade. He didn’t laugh when I appeared in my Tesco t-shirt and on-the-knee Nike shorts (as grandma says, legs of pensionable age don’t look good - particularly from the kneecap upwards).

He introduced me to treadmills, bicycles, cross-trainers, rowing machines and a weight training device designed to give me a six-pack if I keep at it for another 10 years. Some of the machines have a built-in TV screen you can watch to take your mind off the work-out. He programmed a computer key that I slot into the machines. The key tells the machine who I am, explains that I’m a bit of a weakling and the machine duly selects a suitably mild training programme.

The rowing machine doesn’t have a slot for the key, so when I sit on it I always put the key in my pocket. But there came a day when the pocket wasn’t there. I eventually found it next to my backside. I’d put my shorts on back to front.

My mind went back to when I was about five years old, out shopping with my mother and bursting for a wee. Mother steered me to a dark alley and urged me to pee against the wall. Faced with my reluctance she shouted: “Don’t worry – nobody’s looking at you!” At which point everybody was.

I don’t know whether anybody was looking at me in my back-to-front on-the-knee shorts. Sometimes it’s best not to know…

Do I feel better for going to the gym? Well, yes, I think so. My personal target was to be able to look out the back window of the car when reversing - I couldn’t twist round quite enough to do that before. I can now. And like the younger guys in the changing room I can (just) put on each of my trainers while standing on one leg without falling over. That’s real progress.

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