Published in the Meath Chronicle June 13th Edition 2015

Weight a minute, who took the fun out of slimming classes?

Govern well thy appetite, lest Sin
Surprise thee, and her black attendant, Death.
~John Milton
I finally bit the bullet last week. Dragged my sorry ass to the slimming club and joined up. Got my diet sheet. Got my exercise sheet. Got my official weight on a proper weighing scales, not one that had been mucked about with (by me.) The last time I was this heavy, I was due to deliver a baby within a week.
The whole experience reminded me of the last time I tried a slimming club. I was twenty-one and thought that the chipper was mandatory after a (mandatory) skinload of Heineken. I was wrong. But I had great fun at the slimming club. I had a companion – more of an accomplice, really, called Eleanor. She was hysterically funny.
Back then, half of the weekly session comprised of “exercises”. Think Jane Fonda Workout. Think legwarmers and mullet haircuts. And now think of a room full of overweight women, sweating to the Pointer Sisters bawling “Jump! (da-da-da-da) For my love…Jump in! (da-da-da-da) And feel my touch!” Eleanor wouldn’t have missed the spectacle for anything, nor would I have missed her running commentary.
We were overweight for sure, but there are always people less fortunate than ourselves, and Eleanor was merciless. “Jaysus, look at the size of her!” she would whisper about some poor woman. “If she lands on me when she’s jumping, they’ll never find me.”
She was appalled at the idea of giving up her tipple and swapping it for the occasional glass of wine. “Rather be dead. Killed by jumpin’ to the feckin’ Pointer Sisters.” And on and on her diatribe would run, in a low, indignant monotone, every single week until we reached our targets. Which we did.
In the early eighties, almost nobody in Dublin drank wine. Women drank beer and vodka. The real amateurs in the office drank Snowballs, made from an obscene, frothy fluid called Advocaat, which looks very similar to snot. The only wine that us young things drank back then was a German Liebfraumilch whose name I’d better not mention, so you’ll be – er – Nun the wiser… It tasted of anti-freeze melted with caster sugar and vanilla pods. In the late eighties, it was discovered that the secret ingredient was, indeed, anti-freeze.
Anyway, it’s back to 2013, and I find myself in the slimming club again, missing Eleanor. The first week has been a disaster. Like most women, I blame my mother for my troubles. She had her birthday party last Sunday and I was too weak-willed and lily-livered to resist the multi-calorific goodies. Thanks a bunch, Mam! (Great party, though.) As I returned to the food – twice – I insisted it was for the dog. My dog doesn’t eat cake. And he hates chips. But I sauntered out to the garden with my full plate, calling “Toto, Toto…Goodies!” Toto was busy trying to drown himself in the fish pond, so I was obliged to eat his portion. I don’t think anyone noticed…
I face another weigh-in tomorrow. I know I’ll be heavier. And I will get a sympathetic smile from the club leader (a lovely woman, skinny and glamorous – just like I want to be), and some encouraging words about slow starts, and do my best this week, etc. And be sure to get some exercise. Walking is boring, running is…well, it’s boring. Cycling is definitely not my forte, and there are some weird drivers out there, waiting for cyclists to kill. I think I’ll have to go swimming. Swimming makes you skinny faster, I believe.
Juliette Binoche swims her head off in Three Colours Blue. She’s in the pool every opportunity, ploughing through the water with the ease of an otter, while her cantata pounds away in her head (everyone thinks it’s the husband who wrote the music, and now that I’ve killed the plot, you don’t have to watch it). But films don’t give you smells, do they? I will have to endure smelling like a bottle of Parazone, and chlorine makes dyed hair go green. And knowing my luck, I wouldn’t have cantatas in my head. No, I’d have something like “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round”. And there’s no outside noise to distract you when you’re swimming – whatever’s in your head is stuck there. So that’s probably not even safe, I could not vouch for my sanity if I finished twenty lengths to the steady accompaniment of “The Wheels on the Bus.”
“Did the swimming kill her?” they’d be asking at my funeral.
“No, but it drove her mad. She fled the pool, still in her togs, and ran out under a bus. It was the wheels on the bus that killed her. ”

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