Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ultimate Humiliation

Even when they told me it was ‘circuit training’ I was slightly concerned. After all, I hadn’t been to the gym for ages, hence the sudden foolish urge to book myself onto an hour-long workout. Checking the class time in the leaflet they had helpfully given me, there was no sign of ‘circuit training’. However, winking at me from the page was a session called ‘Ultimate Challenge’. Wow – I hadn’t even put on my trainers and already my heart was pumping faster, not to mention my twitching sphincter.

What the heck was ‘Ultimate Challenge’ I asked myself, and more to the point, what was I thinking of booking myself onto it? But I couldn’t wimp out now. I mean, how hard could it be?

There were a few ‘pre-ultimate’ challenges along the way. First, I had to walk past the door to my local, which sounded and smelled friendly and inviting as I trudged past. My nerve held out and I made it to the door of the gym, where my next challenge was to find the buzzer for the door. Thankfully it wasn’t too long before a passing motorist took pity on me and we enjoyed a little game of ‘golden shot’ as she shouted instructions from her car – “up a bit, left a bit, down a bit’. Finally inside, my penultimate challenge was to part with my class fee. There seems to me to be something quite perverse about paying to be tortured but I coughed up all the same.

It was with some relief that I was introduced to the tutor and he wasn’t Ross Kemp. He demonstrated the various exercises involved in the circuit, and after the first few I was feeling o.k. I even managed to hold the ‘plank’ for the full minute, although an impression of my face may still be visible in the mat. Suddenly I was getting very tired. By the time I made it to half way through the second round it became clear what the ‘ultimate challenge’ was. It was to avoid vomiting in front of a room full of strangers. At one point even standing up was tricky. It must have looked like I was doing a little dance as my thighs decided they had had enough and I’d have to carry on without them.

You’ll be pleased (I hope) to hear I managed it. After a small rest I completed the second and third circuits without giving the cleaner an ‘ultimate challenge’.

However, I should never have put my trust in the instructor. Taking advantage of my visual impairment, the swine followed me home and somehow crept into the house behind me. As I slept, he came into my bedroom and silently injected my legs and arms with concrete.

Do I not like that.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ecoutez et Repetez: Je suis un plonker

In a country where foreign language skills aren’t exactly abundant, I’ve always considered myself a reasonably competent French speaker. I took to it straight away at school and have tried to keep my hand in with the odd evening class.

I’ve particularly enjoyed helping (she may not agree with my choice of word here) my daughter with her French school work, even suggesting at times that her teacher must have got it wrong, so confident am I of my own linguistic abilities. Somehow I don’t think she shares my confidence.

So when we arranged a short holiday to Euro Disney, I thought it would be a great opportunity to prove to her, and myself, that I still had it in me, so to parler. Of course, opportunities to speak the native lingo were few and far between as even the French, as protective and proud as they are about their language, quickly revert to English when they spot a stupid Englishman. My best chance came when I was sitting by myself as the family were busy terrorising themselves on one of the rides. A big guy in some sort of costume, which I think was a pirate, approached me and, to my surprise, asked “Comment allez-vous?’. Here it was, my big chance to speak the beautiful language, to converse in the native tongue and show that we’re not all beer-swilling idiots. Confidently I replied “Richard” in my best French accent. As I waited for his response he backed away, muttering under his breath.

By the time the family arrived back, I had realised my mistake and despite my better judgement, owned up to having answered a polite “How are you?” by giving him my name. :-0

Still, this was a momentary lapse. I could still fall back on reassuring my daughter by telling her, again, that I once got 99% in an end of year French test. At least, that was until she got 100%.