Harriet Walker: The Aqua Zumba cure for a broken heart


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To the Lake District, where every road is littered with sheep poo and those wand'ring lonely as clouds search for happiness, meaning and gingerbread with the help of their inward eye.

It was against a backdrop of Britain's Got Talent and rolling, craggy fells silhouetted against dark, early spring skies that I attempted to heal my heart. With wholesome things, such as crisp sandwiches and Easter eggs, with walking, gym visits, novels and the occasional low-impact exercise class.

One thing that Wordsworth and his ilk might not have tried during blustery Lakeland days of yore was Aqua Zumba. It's like normal Zumba, but with added Aqua. For those of you who haven't heard of it, get your nose out of those fusty poetry books immediately and direct it towards the internet. Zumba is officially a Phenomenon – it said so in the Daily Mail. It's a sort of Latino dance craze that combines baile funk with bodily fitness and allows you to become pleasingly trim. When you do it on dry land, that is.

When you transpose the hip-slinging, and flamenco turns of Zumba to Aqua, you end up – as I did – standing in a row of mid- to late-life ladies sloshing around the shallow end of a pool, gazing helplessly at an instructor ably Zumba-ing at you from the dryness of the poolside.

"Keep those knees bent!" she kept shouting. "Really move those arms! And turn to the right, turn to the left, left, right, quick-quick step. And TURN!"

The pool was so frothed by this point as to resemble a cappuccino. The woman next to me in a red swimsuit was engaged in a fierce battle with what looked like a pair of buoys but turned out to be her breasts. Elsewhere, people slid around, lurching like soggy marionettes, three seconds late to every beat.

"Do you think she realises we're in water?" my sister said urgently as we negotiated a 360-degree turn peppered with pelvic thrusts without drowning ourselves. "Oh I give up," answered my mum, content simply to bob around a bit for a while so that her coiff (the source of all her power) didn't take too much of a drenching.

But I kept going. The thing about having a broken leg that is no longer broken but remains intransigent about doing very much at all is that being in water makes it forget about the time it snapped in three places. It behaves a bit like a normal leg, and you feel like a normal person again. It seems to be true of a broken heart too. You're just a normal person again, trying to dance like Ricky Martin in a vat of tepid water.

It was as good a way to pass the time as any, I thought. The alternative was lying down and looking at the ceiling, after all. This became my motto for the week. Take out the rubbish? Sure! Get up early and buy some bread? Absolutely! It's the most handy and biddable I've ever been – perhaps all those busy and efficient people I'm so in awe of are also simply desperate to fill their time rather than sit around moping about stuff.

I was fairly stiff the morning after Aqua Zumba. In fact, I was fairly stiff after the entire holiday – my brain was like old porridge and my limbs creaked with use. But it's for the best, because it's the limbs that will hold me up while I wait for my brain to solidify again. We won a pub quiz. We climbed a mountain and got a lift home in the rain.

The only thing I didn't do in the Lake District, in fact, was to wander lonely as a cloud. And clearly neither would Wordsworth have done so, if he'd just realised that the key to being cheerful is never, ever to spend too much time in your own company, and to do plenty of Aqua Zumba.

Once home, my return to real life meant a visit to a sex shop. Not, you understand, to shop for my newly single existence, but to buy all manner of tat for my friend's hen party.

The night itself went off perfectly, from the barely solidified vodka jelly that I spilled all over my kitchen to the coating of bridal vomit that ended up down my arm as we left the club.

In among the armfuls of balloons and heart-shaped plastic, I also picked up an "Inflatable Perfect Man" thinking he might make good company once the hen night was history. When I removed him from his box, I found he was only 12 inches tall, which is at odds – I'd say – with almost anyone's notion of what a perfect man might be. Nevertheless, he bestrides the sitting-room doorknob like a colossus, clutching his plastified roses and a box of chocs. And he doesn't hog the remote.

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