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Better shape up April 8, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Now as the title of this blog suggests, I am not a rich man. But I’m not really broke, of course. I mean, often a bit knapp bei Kasse, but rarely facing starvation. In fact, since living in Russia and having got used to not being loaded here, I have a complicated relationship with poverty. I wouldn’t recommend it by any means, but then I don’t think it’s so bad either. I sometimes snigger when I think I might even qualify for some ‘official’ definitions of poverty. I don’t know what the German yardstick is, but if we do qualify, then I would be seriously concerned that my social justice tolerance indicator might lower a tad. For if I do qualify as poor, then poor just ain’t that bad. I have a roof over my head, heating, hot water, food and sometimes even booze and fags. A shirt on my back. Shoes on my feet. Bling on my fingers. (OK, that’s not true, but I’ve only just learnt the word bling and wanted to bandy it.) We have a number of household appliances. Computers. Mobile phones. A regular phone. TV. Fridge. Washing machine. Etc. Etc. Etc. I pay tax. I have health insurance. I go to England occasionally. Even to New Zealand, for fuck’s sake. I just can’t complain.

I do complain, of course. But I shouldn’t.

Anyway, the BiB household is a little bit LESS skint than usual these days. With rueful consequences. For the second we stop having to pay closer attention to what we buy, all concerns for health seem to go out the window. There is a poverty/regular-body-shape index and my curve has definitely shot off in majorly the wrong direction. It’s not all in the purchase, though. Poverty-reduction measures have entailed more sitting-on-arse in front of computer and less going-for-satisfactory-body-shape-maintaining walks. But there is the cheese. The cheese. When we’re properly poor, we might discard it altogether. But when we’re richish, we have it by the fridgeload. Different sorts. Goaty sorts. Bovine sorts. Creamy sorts. Crumbly sorts. Rubbery sorts. Just to make sure I look as ludicrous as possible, we found some lovelily friable Halloumi yesterday and fried it up with an oodle of bacon for extra calories. Woe are we. Especially me.

Yet I am not fat. Just ludicrous. I am now an utterly repugnant combination of fat and thin. I look a tad like Otto Dix’s pregnant woman. (I was actually looking for a far more grotesque picture than this but came across this one and thought it would do just as well.) Ludicrous skinny little arms. Two twigs of legs with big nodey knees. And then that unforgivable roundness of cheek and chin. And even more unforgivable sag of chest and stomach. My nipples are on far better neighbourly terms with my elbows than they ought to be. And I’ve gone beyond pretending that these jeans must have shrunk in the wash when I heave to fasten them. My weight has gone from a pleasing mid-to-late *ties to the disappointingly round number above.

None of which is to blame ‘wealth’. I have nothing against money. Nor is it strictly to blame cheese. The only good thing to say about having been relatively poor is that it enforces discipline. And in the first flush of wealth in a while, the anti-cheese will-power has been severely lacking.

So, it’s either time to shape up – by knocking the cheese on the head – or to… erm… shape up, by knocking the cheese on the head and doing some sport. But sport. Can someone recommend a version of it for the least sporty individual on earth? I’ve never darkened the doors of a gym in my life. I have been known to lift 10kg dumbbells in this very abode, but was disappointed that I wasn’t Dolph-like within weeks, although my nipples may have had to bid a fond farewell to my elbows and perhaps my arms didn’t look precisely like stringy bits of dead chicken. (Never did anything for my beanpole legs, mind.) But that tradition has gone into abeyance. Swimming makes me eat at least forty times my bodyweight the second I’ve swum more than half a metre, so that might be a mixed blessing. And I can’t do team-sports for various reasons: a) homosexuality, b) anti-socialness, c) (related to a) inability to co-ordinate leg/arm-ball movements.

So recommendations please. I am genuinely disgusted by the shape I’m in for the first time in some years. And I’m not willing to surrender to the steady decline of middle age just yet.



1. Bowleserised - April 8, 2006


And more cheese.

ps Sometimes I wonder if the Russian has, unbeknownst to you, his own blog in Russian, which he works on while pretending to do internet shopping for light bulbs.

2. daggi - April 8, 2006

That would be interesting. His blog. Why don’t you confront him? When he sends you to Spandau to get those lightbulbs, he’s probably writing some particuarly long posts.

I sometimes snigger when I think I might even qualify for some ‘official’ definitions of poverty.

With the money lived on in Germany but not living in Germany, but in England (with me?), yes, you might qualify. But not here. Don’t worry. That became clear when you mentioned your rent level (or are you about to be forced to move), the balcony, and the, ahem, heating. But before this turns to a pre-Monty Python sketch about how much worse/old/shit everything is, I’ll shut up.

Anyway, you’ve got to remember the differences between absolute and relative poverty. Just because you’ve got a telly it doesn’t mean your’e not poor. If the (in Berlin necessary) box was provided by a charity, you almost certainly are poor.

3. Mark Holland - April 9, 2006

When we took the train out to the Wansee I noticed it was heaving with cyclists. And why not, it was a lovely area thick with forests and beautiful views.

So cycling is my recommendation. True I’m biased -it has been one of the most important things in my life since I was 18 – but there are lots of good things going for it. Fresh air, get out into the countryside, super exercise, doesn’t impact on your joints like running, doesn’t discriminate.

Granted, it depends on where abouts you are in the city. But maybe a spin around the Tiergarten could be fun.

4. leon - April 10, 2006

I find rowing (NB the thing one does on a machine or in a boat, not the thing one does with one’s partner, siblings etc) to be pretty effective to get up to a basic level of fitness. I combine it with some resistance stuff / weights a few times a week and a weekly yoga class to stop my muscles clenching up completely and it seems to work OK…

5. Wyndham - April 10, 2006

I find eating Kit Kats does the trick. you have to eat plenty, mind. At least a dozen a day – all the fingers!

*wyndham slopes off down the gym*

6. Anonymous - April 11, 2006

I have to say cycling. I ride to work along the river in the morning (this will be difficult for you). The most beautiful is an autumn morning with mist rising and the ducks are on the river. Yes it sounds wanky but is wonderful, rather more reliable than the train (obviously I don’t live in Germany), is cheap, saves money, is green and keeps me fit.

Actually my recommendation is to try a number of things and find what fits your lifestyle. Gyms bored me witless. Swimming was boring and hard to get to. Team sports weren’t my thing – the height of my school sporting career was 3rd board in A Grade Chess!

Walking is of course another option – flanneur is the word isn’t it, even if that pace is rather slow. Maybe set a pub as a goal and go for it.


7. BiB - April 13, 2006

Darlings, thank you for all your recommendations. And I’m so glad that I can still have the cheese and kitkats too. I’d forgotten about cycling. I must be the only Berliner without a bike. I did have a phase, in London, of cycling to university and swimming EVERY DAY. Didn’t last long, admittedly, and I did slightly mind the dicing with death in central London and I don’t remember homosexuals instantly flinging themselves at me, unable to resist my heightened perfection, but still…

I love the idea of the Russian having a secret blog. It might help me get to know him. I’m still none the wiser after over 6 years. Well, that’s not really true, but the odd cultural difference does leave me floundering occasionally, like when he suggests washing up in coffee, for example. Not washing-up liquid. Coffee.

Daggi, on the poverty front… Yes, English statistics wouldn’t work in Germany. The UK does this 60% of the average salary thing. I don’t know what figure that comes up with. In any case, I have never seen the poverty here that I have in the UK. Living in Pankow, which has 20% unemployment, I see quite a lot of unemployed folk mooching around. Obviously, they’re not loaded, but I don’t think they could qualify as poor either, at least not in a sense than any non-western European/North American/other rich world person could fathom. In Russia, I saw a type of urban poverty that REALLY shocked me only once. (I don’t mean because it’s so rare, just because I only once went into that type of flat.) Fucking incredible conditions. Most Russians would be shocked by it, I’m sure. Similarly, while many ordinary Russians might lead a fairly grey life, or one where making ends meet is a bit of a struggle, many wouldn’t also qualify as poor. Yes, not luxurious, but not really poor. Anyway, I think the thing is, having witnessed a certain type of grim poverty, and having lived less than luxuriously in Russia and here, I’m less scared of ‘poverty’ than I might have been before. And I am always mystified when – this doesn’t happen often, admittedly, but occasionally – folk think I am being incredibly monastic by not having tonnes and tonnes of ‘things’. But bugger things. I have more than enough.

8. BiB - April 13, 2006

Leon, and what I forgot to say was, “Phwoooooaaaaaaarrrrr.” Rowing AND weights AND heterosexual. Sounds flipping marvellous.

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