Brian Viner: 'My punch bag keeps me fit – and I can belt it when I get an annoying email'

Share
Related Topics

Accompanying me on a fleeting recent trip to the United States was my good friend Patrick, who was in health and fitness clubs in a pretty big way until he sold up a few years ago. He still proselytises on behalf of the divine Multigym, and indeed on our first morning in the States, as I woke up bleary-eyed, jet-lagged, and looking forward to an all-American breakfast, there he was on the carpet, powering through his habitual 70 sit-ups.

I got home four days later determined at least to hang up the punchbag that I bought three months ago at Walsall market. I have extolled the joys of Walsall's Sunday-morning market before in this column: it is the only place I know where you can stock up on chicken thighs, SIM cards, sports socks, azaleas, bin bags, pillowcases and apricots without walking more than about 50 yards, although actually, for breadth of stock, I should also put in a word for Gilbert's in Bromyard, here in north Herefordshire. Waiting to be served I once stood behind a woman who solemnly read her shopping list – a pound of grapes, six-inch screws, a wok, tulip bulbs, paperclips, a mole trap – while Mr Gilbert just as solemnly fetched every item, doubtless with only me of the three of us thinking of The Two Ronnies' classic "Four Candles" sketch.

I could probably have got my punchbag from Gilbert's, come to think of it, but at Walsall market it cost half the recommended retail price even before the obligatory haggling started, and now, finally, it hangs in the attic. As soon as I have recovered from the cricked neck I incurred while putting it up I intend to begin daily sessions. I'm told it's an excellent way of keeping fit, and it's just outside my office, so every time I get an annoying email I can go and belt it.

Also, with there being a rowing machine out there already, not to mention plenty of digging still waiting for me in the vegetable garden, and a weekly game of admittedly slightly pedestrian tennis with three friends similarly grappling with middle age, I can claim to be doing my bit on the fitness front. On the other hand, I can't remotely match Patrick's regime, or my dear wife's for that matter. Jane joined a gym in Hereford two years ago, and still goes at least twice a week, either to swim 100 lengths of the pool in the time it would take me to get my trunks on, or to do an hour's circuit training. And she gets to exercise her willpower, too, because there's almost always something she would rather be doing than sweating cobs on a treadmill.

There are disadvantages to gym membership, however, and one of them is the potential it offers for acute embarrassment. There are a number of women in the Hereford area whom Jane knows only from the ladies' changing-rooms, so scarcely ever sees except in bra and knickers, or less. She tells me that there is one woman in the habit of blow-drying her hair while standing proudly naked in front of a mirror, and I have spent enough time in male changing-rooms down the years to know that letting it all hang out is a quirk also shared by some men. Not that I'm counselling extreme self-consciousness, which can be just as disconcerting, but there's something decidedly unBritish about look-at-me nakedness.

Anyway, we were at a charity dinner a few months ago when Jane spotted, dressed up to the nines, one of the women she knew slightly from the changing-rooms, a woman with whom she had once or twice exchanged smiles at the bra-and-knickers stage of proceedings. The woman was sitting at a table, talking to her friends. Passing by, Jane instinctively tapped her lightly on the shoulder. "Hi," she said, gaily. "I almost didn't recognise you with your clothes on."

The woman turned, and in the split second that followed, Jane realised to her horror that the returning volley of banter she had anticipated was not on its way. "I'm sorry?" the woman said, while around her, chatter at the table suddenly ceased. Jane felt her cheeks flushing magenta. "Erm, I normally see you at the gym, erm, getting changed," she said. The woman gave only a half-nod of understanding. "Oh, I see," she said. "Have a good evening."

I can at least be sure that no such embarrassments will befall me, alone with my punchbag.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, 5 July 2015  

George Osborne says benefits should be capped at £20,000 to meet average earnings – but working families take home £31,500

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The BBC has agreed to fund the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s  

Osborne’s assault on the BBC is doing Murdoch’s dirty work

James Cusick James Cusick
Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high