THE BRIEF Indian summer is well and truly over. Gone are the balmy days of early October, only to be replaced by damp, misty mornings, the first frost of the season and even a hailstorm or two on Tuesday.
The trees are all shedding their leaves; the garden is full of them. I can’t decide whether to bother with the laborious process of removing them all or if to allow nature to take its course. They will eventually turn to compost, although I have a nagging feeling this may take years.
Max, our excitable little Schnauzer, has taken to wearing his coat on his early morning walk. I’m not sure if he’s doing this because of the nip in the air or if it’s just an excuse to show off.
His claim to fame is that he’s the only dog in the village with a Harrods Barbour.
With the golden letters of the luxury Knightsbridge store emblazoned on the tasteful check of his coat’s turn-down collar, he is strutting around the country lanes like he owns the place.
And I have joined the gym, or should I say rejoined.
During the spring and summer, it’s life in the Great Outdoors, endless happy hours spent golfing, horse riding or tramping around the countryside. On spectacularly sunny days without a breath of wind, I’ve even occasionally donned my ancient trainers and jogged – or, in the interests of accuracy, staggered – around the hills. Despite a keen interest in sport, with flat feet and one leg a bit shorter than the other, sad to say I’m not one of Nature’s athletes.
These days even running up the slightest of inclines is a major battle. As I sweat profusely and fight for breath, my brain is working overtime, wondering how long it will be before someone discovers me if I have a heart attack, while the plates of meat below move in slow motion.
The trouble with jogging is that you set out all enthusiastic and by the time you realise you’ve had it, it’s too far to walk back. American humorist Erma Bombeck raised a smile when she said: “The only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.”
How I envy true athletes with their effortless grace and beautifully toned bodies. Which is why I have the dilemma about rejoining the gym each autumn as the golfing season ends and the weather takes a turn for the worse.
The angel on my left shoulder reminds me how marvellous it is to feel fit and energetic. Just imagine the money an entrepreneur could make if he or she could manufacture endorphins, the body chemicals which give you a buzz, without people actually having to do any exercise.
Meanwhile the devil on my right shoulder whispers softly about the quiet pleasures of sitting in front of a roaring fire with a glass of wine and a good book on cold, dark nights.
There are indeed plenty of reasons for not joining a gym: they cost money, they smell, there’s always someone else’s hair in the shower, you have to strip off almost to your birthday suit in freezing changing rooms, reminiscent of the weekly school trip to the swimming baths decades ago, and you have to pull your tummy in every time you walk past a mirror.
Despite all of this, the angel won and I decided to rejoin last week. After psyching myself up, I arrived to find that the gym had gone, completely disappeared. It was a small gym in Slaithwaite with a distinctly Colne Valleyesque feel.
Located in the back room of a pub, it used to be a restaurant. The treadmills and cross trainers were surrounded by woodchip wallpaper and ceramic uplighters, very popular in the 1980’s.
Where diners had once quaffed their Liebraumilch and tucked into prawn cocktails served in sundae glasses, the gym clientele grunted and groaned their way to fitness, often in woolly socks, baggy track suit bottoms and ancient T-shirts bearing slogans which were amusing in 1998.
The gym and its friendly owners had a loyal following of locals who came in all ages and sizes. Trendy LA-style fitness gear was a rare sight. After one of my early visits and a glance at myself in the only mirror, I ditched my own figure-hugging lycra outfit. After all, what’s the point if it only hugs flabby bits?
We liked the unpretentiousness of it all, plus, in my case, the fact that you could join for a month at a time.
As with all things, time marches on and the gym has moved to larger, more suitable premises. I’ve found the new one and already embarked on my intensive once-weekly training regime, I can’t wait to start shedding those extra pounds.
The new gym is full of sophisticated machines, mirrors, TVs and an impressive array of weights.
It’s bigger and better, more like a gym......... but I do miss the old place.