Park life

Like any other teenager aspiring to be a rock star, I never thought it necessary to keep fit or learn to drive as I assumed I’d be dead by 27. Now I find myself sat here greying around the temples and about to write about health matters, something triggers in me that wishes I had choked to death on somebody else’s vomit way back when. I missed my window of opportunity to board the Stygian ferry and fast decline was only abated by vanity, or at least stymied in order that it would be a slow decline instead. Once you get past a certain age, exercise is absolutely mandatory if you love yourself as much as I do.

Buttes Chaumont is my favourite park in the world and definitely my favourite place to go for a run. I actually live about fifteen minutes away from it, mostly uphill; I’m six away if I’m feeling ludicrously fit and have drunk some strong coffee of a morning and about nine away on a normal day. I used to run around it when I visited Paris and I’m lucky enough to live near enough that I can do that again, and I have on most days so far. I usually run through Parc de Belleville on the way, which is smaller and full of dodgy men clad in black, smoking weed in the sunshine. Buttes Chaumont is much more frightfully middle class, though there’s one area where you’ll find people in cutaway army shorts and headbands doing press-ups or practising martial arts, and men who look like latter-day Sean Connerys dressed like Wacaday-era Timmy Mallets doing squat-thrusts, and ladies in spandex star-jumping and skipping.

I thought these people were odd. In many ways I still do, though after checking out the prices of gym memberships it makes perfect sense. Being a member of a health club is so extortionate that you’re forced to do this kind of thing in parks dressed up with a red bandanna tied around your head in protest, unless you want be a big lumpy person a la Gerard Depardieu. That’s the penalty for having such unbelievable bread. Lumps.

In London I’ve been with gyms for years and my last one in Tottenham was ludicrously cheap – £10.99 a month with no catches other than that you had to live in Tottenham. Here you can expect to pay €80 or €90 for average facilities. The first time I actually joined a gym was in 2005 at the behest of my then girlfriend (she threatened to dump me if I didn’t), and it was something I managed to keep as my little secret from friends for a while, such was the stigma. From what I can gather, an indoor keep fit culture isn’t even nascent here, and the only people who use gyms are posers and wankers like it used to be in the UK. Parisians retain slim bodies by running and smoking and cycling everywhere, and sometimes all three at the same time. YES I’M GENERALISING. YES I KNOW YOU CAN’T RUN AND CYCLE AT THE SAME TIME.

Having given up the fags five months ago I don’t miss them nearly as much as I thought I would, though you can add ‘having muscles’ to HP Sauce and Lucozade as things I miss about London.

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