Thursday 31 January 2008

Musing on health and efficiency

14st 9lb; zero alcohol; 1,465; Forties.

Of all the stupid mistakes of which I’ve been guilty in recent years, installing a large mirror in my bathroom must surely be amongst the very worst. It’s part of a more widespread error I made when I dispensed with my London flat and had most of the contents shipped home to Northumberland. As a result, superfluous furniture makes performing the simplest domestic task like negotiating an It’s a Knockout obstacle course. Every time the doorbell rings, I do that hilarious trick with the pouffe which used to be such a highlight of the opening credits of the Dick van Dyke Show (one for older readers only, there).

But nothing is ghastlier than the mirror. It takes up a whole wall right at the end of the bath, and every time I stand up – well, it doesn’t bear thinking about, frankly. It had been hanging around the house for weeks before I identified that blank wall as the only place it could go. And it’s in a very heavy gilt frame that really ought to be housing an Old Master painting, so I had to put in a lot of Rawlplugs and screws to ensure that it wouldn’t land on top of my head while I was lying in the bath, enjoying my usual rapt contemplation of the unemployed. That’s why I failed to remove it when I realized the true horror of what I had done. That, and laziness on a scale that would cause sharp intakes of breath among those cartoon Mexican peasants who spend their entire lives leaning against cactuses, with sombreros tipped over their eyes.

But this morning I accidentally caught a glimpse of my profile and thought I could recognize something resembling a human being emerging from the blubber. I knew in an instant just how Michelangelo must have felt when he made that crucial chip and his block of marble really began to turn into David. I can now actually envisage a time when I shall be able to consider allowing myself to be seen naked by other human beings.

How shall I exploit this new freedom? Going out with women again, or joining a naturist ping-pong club? That’s a hard one, as the naturists hope never to have to say. I think I’ll go for Option A, maybe seeing if I can make contact with an air hostess to satisfy my eager correspondent of the other day. Woolsington, watch out. Incoming, as they always put it in military circles, at any rate on the telly.

All of which goes to confirm the truth of two of my favourite observations by great twentieth century critics: Cyril Connolly’s heartfelt “Imprisoned in every fat man a thin man is wildly signalling to be let out” and Katharine Whitehorn’s very shrewd “Outside every thin woman is a fat man trying to get in.”

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