My wife surveyed the contents of her extensive shoe-shelf, "You know, I think I might buy myself a pair of really expensive trainers to make me go jogging!"
I was immediately filled with the Proustian rush of déjà vous.
Long ago during the Dark Ages - the time before the internet and mobile phones - I was a student. We called it 'The 80s' and studying for a degree was a very different experience than it is today (and not just because it was free either).
Not for us the luxury of typing an essay title into Google, pressing Ctrl-A/Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V and altering a few adjectives to achieve a 2.1. No siree!
The only people with computers back then were called programmers or schoolchildren. I did have two friends who boasted 'access to a typewriter', but their typed and tippexed manuscripts were considered generally to be an affectation.
No, our essays had to be handwritten, which made cheating almost as much effort as doing the bloody work in the first place.
Without Wikipedia to guide us, our only source of information was books. Books in the library. Some books in the library.
Our problem was this: a reading list, containing six or seven 'must read' tomes, was helpfully distributed to the 180 students on my course during the first lecture. However, the library contained just four copies of each. With the odds of getting your hands on one looking slim at best, the more cunning among us developed sophisticated acquirement strategies (say, feigning illness during the initial History of Political Ideas lecture, then pegging it to the library to ensure a 15-minute head-start over everyone else).
Thus was I able to get my hands on a rare copy of Immanuel Kant's much sought after Critique of Pure Reason.
I was so pleased with myself, I went straight down the bar to celebrate.
And here we get to the point. You see, I never did discover what Kant's issue was with pure reason. I was suffering from the delusion that the acquisition itself was the achievement: that books somehow conferred knowledge; that having the book was the same as reading the book. So I never got round to reading it, returned it late and paid the fine.
It's a common affliction, but wearing the kit is not the same as using the kit.
Queuing at the post office this morning, the man in front (mid-thirties, 5'8" tall and about 18 stone) was resplendent in a brand new black and gold Adidas tracksuit (XXXL) and faux Nike Hi-Tops. I wondered what had inspired 'the look' he'd put together. The outfit screamed "I live a sporting life!" yet the notion that he'd jogged here and, once he'd finished paying for stamps, would be running off to his next appointment, was betrayed by the giant cornish pasty and full-fat 660ml Coke he was enjoying, whilst he took a breather.
During my now thrice* weekly visits to the gym, I am struck by how often the quality of the sportswear is in inverse proportion to the quality of the body inside. Last week, I watched a lady, wearing a brand new white Ellesse ensemble with blue décolletage, park her car, amble into the gym, get on a treadmill, walk for eight minutes, get off the treadmill, return to her car and drive home, no feeling pretty good after such a rigorous work-out.
Now, we've all got to start somewhere, but does the road to vitality have to begin with buying the most expensive trainers and tracksuit you can find? Hey, why not try walking to the sodding gym and back without going in instead? Save yourself a fortune.
Taking all that into consideration, I returned to the situation at hand and said to my wife,
"This is just a thought, but why don't you going jogging first and if you find you like it, then buy yourself a pair of really expensive trainers?"
Were those wise words heeded?
Well before you decide whether or not to bother read this column ever again, you might like to note that there's currently a pair of nearly new (i.e. worn once) formerly 'really expensive' Nike runners available on eBay at a fraction of the price their 'one careful owner' paid for them .
* Alright, twice.
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