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As if the first sketches were a premonition. As if my return to running in the Park was too good to last. When I first began to work with the illustrator to create a map of Clissold Park, I sent him some links to Google Maps and all the maps of the Park that I could find online. Go, I said. Draw! And what he came up with was a map of the Park that was without the running path around it. I liked the preliminary sketches. I liked that they were an impression of Clissold Park, not loyal to reality. A Clissold Park of the mind. And that’s how it is with everything, rally. We all have our own picture of a place. It’s just that my picture of the Park is so much about the running path that when Ross, the illustrator first sent me his prelim sketches, I was kind of shocked. Like: That isn’t my Park!

Today was my first day back at the gym. A neck and back injury in January stopped me going from the gym, and when I was ready to go back to the gym, I didn’t want to. I couldn’t face the repetition of those machines, the treadmill, the miserable faces of the staff at the Highbury gym, the shit music, the low temperatures of the air-conditioning. It’s a shit gym and I didn’t want to go back. But then my knees started to hurt from running in the Park and because I spend most of my day at a desk, I crave exercise, especially cardio, and so I gave in and went back to the gym. The Aqua Terra gym in Highbury. Name it and shame it. After an hour there I’d had enough.

The gym was crammed full of people, it stank, the cross-trainers and the treadmills are packed so closely together that you kind of have to weasel your way on to one of them. People don’t wipe up their own sweat off the machines. Everyone looks overweight or miserable, but mostly both. So I figured, fuck it! I’m moving to Fitness First, which I should have done months ago when they first opened a branch less about 100m from my front door. I was blind, but now I see.

Every now and then you arrive in a place and you say to yourself, what took me so long. I had that kind of feeling when I first decided to move to London, and the feeling was never as strong as it was when I first walked across Clissold Park in that first week of my new life.

Now I’m in love with Fitness First. It was quite amazing to see the staff greeting everyone who walked in, acknowledging that they actually knew them or remembered them, and they asked them how they were, and people responded and smiled and asked back. You alright? And the gym itself is vast, spacious, well laid out, with room to move. And they don’t monitor the Power Plates. Anyone can use them whenever they want. And the guy who showed me around was sweet and friendly, and the men in the shower were cute, and there was space to sit and chill out. It looked like the kind of place you’d want to be in. I caught a glimpse of myself in one of the mirrors and I looked good to myself, whereas earlier at the Highbury gym things weren’t looking so good!

So for the next while, I guess, I won’t be running in the Park. I want to find a way to strengthen my knees, to get back into an exercising groove, maybe build back some of the muscle I’ve lost over the past seven months, maybe even enjoy being back at the gym, the good gym, my local, so close to home.

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