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Couch potato? I'd much prefer crisps

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Crisps are much better than exercise

Crisps are much better than exercise

Crisps are much better than exercise

'Perhaps we should join that gym," murmurs my wife dreamily from beside me on the sofa where we're beached amid a debris of post-Halloween sweet wrappers.

"Which Jim would that be?" I burble, bloated - deliberately mishearing. "Jim Belushi? Bit late to be joining anyone at this time of the night, I should think. Unless he has snacks. We need more snacks."

"Just for six weeks," she says, ignoring me. "Just to get in shape for Christmas. I think there's a membership rate for couples."

I'm about to consider this, or at least conjure up an expression that makes it look like I'm considering it, when the remote control slips down between us, triggering a snow storm on the screen.

I wriggle on my back for a moment to get up, like a stuck tortoise, then think better of it and call the youngest in from the other room. "We have a television problem," I yell. "We need the assistance of a child."

"A bit more exercise," continues my wife, "and a little less to eat. . ."

"Where's the remote?" sighs the youngest, shuffling in to the room impatiently to sort us out.

"I think your mother accidentally ate it," I say.

"Your father sat on it and now it's lost in the folds of his fat," my wife retorts.

The youngest rolls her eyes, kneels behind the TV and begins stabbing buttons manually until the picture returns. Then she gets up and heads back towards the door.

"Not so fast," I grunt. "Pay the toll."

She stomps out, returning with her Halloween bag and chucks a packet of Smarties in my lap.

"Look at her," observes my wife after the door closes. "Not a pick on her. Perhaps we should just eat the way they eat."

"You mean a giant bowl of some sort of chocolate puffs for breakfast, then half our bodyweight in biscuits before dinner?"

"I mean," she says, "not still sitting at dinner on our third or fourth helping after they've all left the table to go argue about the washing up."

I know that by 'we' she means 'me'. I pat my stomach. "That's my favourite time of the evening," I tell her.

The gym, as it turns out, is an easy 10 minute walk from our front door. And so, next day, we decide to drive there.

"Look," I say excitedly, as we pull in to a parking space. "They have a special on."

"Really?" says my wife. "Where?" She squints at the sign for the gym.

"Over there," I motion with my chin to a sign in the window of a nearby supermarket which says something about chocolate-covered jam biscuits by the box load.

The gym, as it turns out, is on the first floor, up three flights of stairs. "This is the first test," I huff, leaning on one knee at the top and cocking an eyebrow at the bemused young man behind the counter there.

"We've come about the couples," announces my wife. "Oh?" says the young man, looking slightly worried.

We corner him at the end of the counter behind a small row of bottles of protein shake.

"You DO couples, don't you?" I whisper conspiratorially.

"Of - of course," he says, slipping past, arms lightly raised like a hostage. "I'll show you around."

We file after him into a large room and I suck my stomach in, nodding to a scrawny teenager who's clearly struggling to lower a set of handlebars to his lap and raising a single slab of metal on a winch.

Not wanting to seem quite so painfully out of place, I put on a slight swagger, stomach still sucked in and lower my voice by an octave.

"You got TV screens for these babies?" I blurt, swatting the saddle of some sort of cycle machine. "Me, I like to watch the news."

I wink in what I think is a friendly way but it clearly comes across as creepy, lascivious even, and my wife winces slightly and wilts.

"Um," says the young man.

"Looks great," my wife cuts in cheerfully. "How much is membership by the month?"

He tells us the rate for couples, then the cheaper rate per person at off-peak times. "There's a €50 processing fee," he says, "but join on the website and it's half that. Less paperwork, see."

"So, if I fill in my name on a piece of paper right here, right now," I say, squinting at him, "it'll cost me €25 more."

"Correct," he smiles pleasantly.

"Must be bloody expensive paper," I mutter.

"We'll go away and think about it, thanks," my wife cuts in again.

We shuffle back down the stairs. "I don't know about this place," I whisper hoarsely, motioning to a row of vending machines on the landing, full of protein bars and health drinks.

"What?" says my wife, looking.

"No crisps," I say.


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