The Porcelain Gentleman

A definitive guide to the land of lavatories

Virgin Active – Minories

VA Front entrance

The setting:

The rather humorous twist with life is that there is in effect a very small slither of people that are so very beautiful their mere presence allows one to understand why poetry exists, why we really go to war, why we tend to make love cloaked in darkness. Yet this is often cited as a curse to these individuals, one can only imagine this being down to the fact that everything other than their aesthetical wonder must always be a crushing disappointment, to themselves and to those around, and thus much like some sort of avid collector’s figurine, the desire for it to remain perfect becomes a trap.

Then, at the opposing end of the spectrum there is a very small slither of people with whom their looks are so unfortunate that they are at best ignored but sadly and most commonly, a point of ridicule. These individuals are assumed to be unhappy, yet one can imagine stepping off the arduous treadmill of attraction politics brings the purest sense of freedom.

The humour though, lies in the fact that for the large majority of everyone else that sits within these two tiny pockets, is the prospect of effectively occupying the wildly variant yet paradoxically similar stance of being ‘not bad’ or ‘quite decent’ reaching a crescendo with ‘pretty hot on their day’ or ‘scrubbing up well’. What this appears to constitute is periods of anonymity followed by the occasional day were it all falls in to place. ‘Falling in to place’ is again, an extremely variable concept and can mean having an afternoon where your hair happens to fall well, wearing a shirt that just happens to look ‘fly’ with the chosen trousers, or something as simple as listening to your favourite Jamiroquai song and walking like you left the clothes hanger in the jacket you are wearing.

Age be a cruel mistress though and thus these days of elevated sexual potency become fewer and fewer as metabolism slows, youthful exuberance makes way for wistful bitterness and soon that absolute banker on the top of the bus that always gives you a second look is suddenly fixated on her trashy novel. Unflinched. At this crossroad one can either give in, accept the paunch and try to make enough money to procure objects of beauty to offset their own slothful slide, or embark on the fateful battle to upkeep the façade, give plurality to the eye of the beholder and ‘look good’.

Sadly this predominately involves joining the gym.

Virgin Active 10

Virgin Active 1Virgin Active 7

The Establishment:

The Virgin active in Tower Hill is set out like many a gym I have come across, which starts with a rather austere, clandestine like entrance, this, one can imagine, is to stop the already umming and erring majority from running for the hills and eating a bowl of salad cream whilst weeping.

Once inside the cave like entrance opens up to the usual fare of bulky men in tight polo tops standing alongside vending machines that sell energy drinks with more calories than you shall get near burning on your workout that will entail effectively walking from machine to machine and nodding.

After you say hello to the remarkably friendly receptionist it hits you; the combination of either being naked downstairs or sweaty and out of breath upstairs means that this will be the last word you usher for at least 40 minutes. Nice. The appeal then starts to grow – silence, but with a friendly atmosphere.

As each moment passes the conditions start to resemble an after hours club; some pangs of intimidation and ineptitude (residing completely in your own head), garish house music pumped through the speakers, a hint of flirtation that lingers amidst the condensated sweat –  but is only acted upon by the regulars.

These svelte regulars have the amazing ability to make you want to be come a regular yourself and yet be repulsed by the whole thing in equal measures and at the same time.

Virgin Active 3Virgin Active 5 Virgin Active 6  Virgin Active 4

The Toilets:

The toilets are where the parallels with a nightclub cease. Yes both have the heavy scent of lynx Africa hanging in the air, but at Virgin active it isn’t handed to you by some chirpy attendant. Nor is there the usual coy small talk amongst the men in club loo’s with a cursory glance in the mirror to make sure you don’t have food on your face but don’t look long enough as to give away the façade that ‘men aren’t vein, they’re men’. In the gym toilets looking at oneself is the norm what with this being in effect a palace of self sculpture.

The toilets thus are very clean, adopt a very flattering lighting scheme and being very much about the mirror. One can only imagine the amount of people entering the toilets, top off, hoping that after the one heartfelt workout they managed, a 6 packed Adonis is waiting for them only to have hope thrust from them by the same reflection as before albeit slightly more out of breath. Status quo is the cross we all have to bear at some stage.

On occasion a chap walks in fully nude, or with the small flannel the gym offers you over his bits which is indeed worse than fully nude because then you cant help but look. I suppose in this regard the toilet/nightclub parallels continue though these nightclubs are near a specific roundabout in Vauxhall.

Virgin Active 11

The Porcelain Gentleman:

Its only upon exiting the gym that you start to realise that it wasn’t that bad and was actually fairly enjoyable. Perhaps years of people fearing that someone will want to ‘spot’ them or even converse with them, have meant they have evolved to appreciate space, both physically and metaphorically.

The freakish amount of mirrors in the loos and everywhere you step also go from being intimidating, to resemble some low budget documentary shot about your life as a hunky triathlete from Norway.

In light of the whole experience being tolerable from start to finish – 6/10

Virgin Active 9


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This entry was posted on September 19, 2013 by in Misc..

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