You were my kilo comrade. How dare you, traitor!
Jamie Briggs is a mongrel.
As my on-air debating partner, Jamie - the Liberal Member for Mayo - and I both cut tubby figures with rubbery jawlines. We were comfortable in our overweight skins. We happily pontificated about politics and confirmed every prejudice about politicians being overfed and under-exercised.
Watching us, the viewing public rested easily knowing that life was predictable and the universe was aligned.
All was well and serene until one day Jamie went on a diet. He also started to work out ... a lot. Now he looks fit, healthy and cuts a dashing figure. In the process he has utterly betrayed me, leaving me high and dry in the realm of sugary indulgence, excessive cholesterol and multiple chins.
I have always known Liberals to be a fickle, unreliable lot. But even for a Liberal, I could not have imagined such treachery. He may be a thoroughly decent fellow and a nice guy, but unilateral and aggressive weight loss is not nice.
In fact the more I think about it, Jamie Briggs is an utter, utter mongrel.
Needless to say this has left me in a difficult position. I have as much interest in working out as repeatedly beating my head with a large atlas. At the same time I don’t much enjoy the prospect of sitting next to Jamie on TV and have my jabber jowls go up against his chiseled jaw.
And so, with reluctance, I am now a daily user of the cross-trainer.
But, adding to my difficulties, is my job in a foreign affairs portfolio which has me regularly traveling. Thus, maintaining the discipline of daily exercise has introduced me to the gyms of the world and their different foibles.
I enter the international hotel gym with my protruding gut, wearing white runners and my latest airline slumber gear (so as to save on packing). I am as much at home in this environment as Sir Les Patterson is on a catwalk.
At the Addis Ababa Hilton, you are met with the beat of fast music echoing through the room. As you start to stride, before long you notice that you are striding to the beat. And so is everyone else. The thud of the ensembled feet, without knowing it, leads you to become a part of collective performance art.
One morning I entered the beating gym to discover it filled with large men, packing heat, who were not training. They wandered around the equipment trying to look nonchalant and unobtrusive. But it didn’t work. There to protect the Somali President they struck an intimidating pose. Keen to escape and hoping that fast striding would somehow make the half hour go quicker, I did more exercise in that one session than I did in a week. When it comes to a workout, music is good, fear is better.
Croatian gyms are filled with tall athletic women who effortlessly make the rowing machines hum. These Amazons leave you with a sense of inadequacy and a desire to keep up. You may feel pathetic but the shame produces results. In Bulgaria it is short muscle men who are the role models. Doing one arm chin ups in tight body shirts that threaten to rip at any moment, the look may be different but the resulting shame is the same.
If you are a member of the non-fit, and wobbly bodies and excessive perspiration is not the way you would choose to be displayed, then Changi Airport in Singapore is not for you. There, the gym is located in a main thoroughfare, opposite the airport transit hotel. Large glass windows add to the viewing public’s pleasure. Toiling away in the heat of the public glare you are afforded an insight into life as an inhabitant of a zoo.
Despite the rich culture of the international gym, exercise is not something that I enjoy. After two months, I have perpetual pain in my legs. I stand on the scales hopefully looking for reward and, so far, I am not sure it is worth the purchase price. Two months of repetitive aching movement has given me a measly reduction of three kilos.
Yet it is three kilos that I would not otherwise have lost. And as unsatisfying as it may be it is enough to suggest that I should persevere.
In search of added motivation my subconscious has provided the answer. Often when you are in the midst of strenuous exertion, a single phrase starts repeating in your head. In my case that phrase is simple and it has most certainly kept me going: Jamie Briggs is a mongrel, Jamie Briggs is a mongrel ...
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