“You should get yourself to pilates,” a friend of mine told me in a pub last week after I’d complained about getting old and feeling generally unhealthy.
“It’s good for you and, best of all, it’s really easy,” he said.
Let me say now that my friend is a liar.
You see I took his advice and accompanied Mrs Canavan to her weekly pilates session, partly because I thought it might help the calf strain I picked up while walking in Northumberland recently and partly as there was a two-for-one offer on at the pilates class.
The first problem was selecting what to wear.
Mrs Canavan, who goes to the gym a lot, appeared from the bedroom wearing an orange Lycra outfit so bright that it left me more dazzled than the time my friend at primary school dared me to stare non-stop at the sun for a full minute (I collapsed with tears streaming from my eyes after 49 seconds and had sharp stabbing pains in my eyes for three weeks afterwards).
“Hurry up, we’re going to be late,” she shouted, as I reached for my sunglasses. “Put your Lycra shorts on.”
Now she is right.
I do own a pair of Lycra shorts. I bought them in a rash moment before a cycling holiday several years ago.
However, I never actually wore them as, upon trying them on, I quickly realised Lycra is not something a man should ever be seen in, well not unless he wants to run the risk of being arrested on a public indecency charge.
So I went for a simple shorts and T-shirt combo, and off we headed to her pilates class at a small church hall in Freckleton.
The class consisted of myself and 17 scantily-clad women, which was a little daunting though not unpleasant, and the instructor was a very likable and enthusiastic lady called Jackie.
She was great, though she did have a slightly disconcerting habit of, without warning, singing along to whatever song was on the CD player.
‘Right, we’re going to get you in the mood by starting with - can’t read my p-p-poker face - some gentle stretching,” she shouted.
“So just gently raise you right arm over the top of your head and let it drop down the left side of your body until it touches the floor.”
It was at this point I realised I was in trouble.
I got my arm down to about level with my waist before it steadfastly stopped and refused to go any further. No one else in the class seemed to have any trouble, so I tried to push further but felt a stab of pain so intense that for a brief, panicked moment, I thought my shoulder had fallen off.
“Feels great doesn’t it,” shouted Jackie.
“Right everybody, next we’re - never mind, I’ll find, someone like you - going for the Superman.”
Which I assume is called Superman because only Clark Kent, using every bit of his super-powers, could possibly do it.
It involved a press-up, then taking one’s right arm and left leg off the floor, while moving one’s left arm and right leg into a position akin to, as Jackie put it, “half past three on a clock”.
I got, shakily, to about three minutes past one before my arms gave way and I collapsed, panting and gently sobbing, on to my mat.
I turned, expecting everyone else to be in the same prone position, but to my astonishment saw even the two women in their late 80s at the back of the class not only carrying out the manoeuvre without any problems but having a full-on natter while doing so.
“Do you know Enid,” the grey-haired woman at the back was saying while her legs and arms jutted out at angles I’d previously thought it wasn’t possible for limbs to jut out at. “Our Bert has terrible sunburn around his groin. Fell sleep in the back garden with only his underpants on, daft sod”.
Meanwhile I was hyper-ventilating on the floor and begging for an oxygen tank.
For two days afterwards my arms were so sore that I couldn’t even lift them to wash my hair in the shower.
However, I have to admit that I secretly really enjoyed it and will return, though I may just sit out the Superman bit next time.
Chris was one of Fylde coast’s finest
Some of you will have known Chris Hull, who died suddenly while on holiday in Italy at the weekend at the age 64.
Those who didn’t missed out. He was a great chap.
As well as running a well-known funeral director’s business in Poulton, Chris was, for 30 years, the PA announcer at Bloomfield Road.
It is where I got to know him, in 2002, when I moved to Blackpool to become football writer for The Gazette.
He had a zest for life that was infectious and is one of the few people who could phone and, even if I’d not spoken to him for a couple of months, have me laughing out loud within 10 seconds.
He will be sadly missed by all who knew him, but especially by his family- who despite, I imagine, feeling little but grief at the moment, should take great solace in the fact that Chris such a funny and kind individual and a true gentleman.
One of the Fylde coast’s finest and a big, big loss.