Though I voted for this government and believe much of the criticism to be merely the latest bout of toy-chucking from a group still struggling to come to terms with Brexit and/or Corbyn losing, there is a whiff of sweat-smelling opiate of the masses in this new hyping of exercise. Having shut up her charges for months and made them fat on purpose, Nanny now wants them back at work so must make them fit for purpose.
I can see both sides, having for most of my life taken inspiration from the words of Winston Churchill: “Never stand up when you can sit down. And never sit down when you can lie down.” Then, last autumn, I joined a gym, hired a personal trainer – and absolutely loved it. At the age of 60 I was (finally!) getting into shape. And then the lockdown happened.
I miss it of course, but not enough to exercise alone. As it is with everything I do, it was the social aspect I enjoyed most, and jumping around by myself would strike me as ludicrous.
Exercise may well cheer some people up, but these are generally those who lack an inner life of their own. Perhaps if they had one, then reading a book would work just as well – with the added benefit, never to be sniffed at, of making them entertaining company.
We’re always hearing that exercise is good for the brain but if that were true, then personal trainers would be our greatest wits, instead of unfit drunkards, from Oscar Wilde to Christopher Hitchens to me.
Personally, I don’t believe we’ll be a civilised society until the churches and the pubs are open once more. Exercise is optimistic but futile; it can postpone death but never defy it. Faith and drinking are fatalistic but hopeful; the only certainty is death and we can either embrace the idea of an afterlife or anaesthetise ourselves so that our mortality no longer bothers us.
Luckily, I like to do both and have thus far had a splendid lockdown. But to do them both once more with like-minded companions will give me an endorphin rush, the like of which the blank-eyed joggers on their road to nowhere can only dream.