Tag Archives: Chelsea

The world’s most expensive gym

6 Jun

My best friend lives in Chelsea and is a member of the Fullham Road branch of Virgin Active – the most expensive gym in the world*.

She claims to have got an introductory deal bargain and says she’s only doing it for three months in the run up to a holiday, but nonetheless regular membership costs an eye-watering, heart palpitating £1,200 a year. Maybe part of the work out is the increased heart rate as you part with that kind of cash?

On Saturday she signed me in as a guest, giving me a glimpse of the rarefied world of the Chelsea set as they work up a sweat.

“You won’t believe the number of YSL gym bags you see in the locker room,” she told me as we walked there.

At that moment a man with a large, live blue parrot on his arm (not stuffed this time – that was last week) passed us before turning into a smart town house.

“That man’s got a big blue parrot,” I stated.

She looked at me, clearly wondering if I could still be drunk from the night before.

To prove the point I insisted on breaking into a run so she could get a better view. This achieved, she had to admit that he did indeed have a big blue parrot on his arm and that I was sober.

Dazzled by the knowledge I was now in a part of town where distinguished looking 60-something gentlemen own exotic pets, I began to imagine what extravagances the world’s most expensive gym would indulge in.

On arrival I was disappointed to note a distinct lack of diamond encrusted trainers and gold-plated water bottles.

That said it didn’t take me long to realise that this gym was different.

If I were a single female looking for a rich hubbie to fund my ladies that lunch lifestyle I’d sign up immediately. It’s a would-be banker’s wife’s paradise.

The main gym is full of men, without doubt they all work in the city. I think you can probably taste the testosterone in there.

As we aren’t in the market for a Gordon Gekko we opted for the ladies only gym, and were greeted by the sight as a statuesque blonde model holding an arabesque pose standing on one leg and admiring herself in the mirror.

There’s clearly an under size 14 rule in operation as everyone in there was toned, tanned and owned thighs that didn’t touch when they put their feet together.

We had a good bash at 20 minutes of interval training to get the heart rate up, a bit of boring cross training and then we went to play on all of the exciting expensive equipment my gym doesn’t have.

The powerplate had me in fits of giggles, I felt like a turkey wobble personified. How on earth is that supposed to help you get fit? Perhaps the mortifying sensation of feeling your excess pounds wibbling for all to see reinforces the desire to lose them?

When I got off a Swedish goddess got on and did a complicated medicine ball twist sit-ups routine while balancing on the powerplate. It was impressive, but it did cross my mind that it must have taken weeks to master, and perhaps there are more important things in life. Then it crossed my mind I was just jealous.

Of course I’m being completely unfair – I’m sure there are lots of pretty toyboys and inspiring women of independent means who work out there too – not least my wonderful BFF – but it’s still the best people-watching work out I’ve ever had, even if no-one spritzed my face with mineral water or mopped my brow with a cashmere towel while I was on the rower.

*This may not be true.

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Skylon, history and hangovers

25 Jan

Running was not on the agenda yesterday, not even slightly.

Boyfriend and I had been celebrating the night before and, truth be told, had become intoxicated.

If it’s any consolation as I sipped my fresh grape and ginger muddled martini shaken with vodka, Manzana verde, fresh lime and apple juice in Skylon overlooking the Thames on the South Bank I did think of Janathon.

Unfortunately not in a “I’ve got to run tomorrow, so this is the last cocktail” way, but instead I was trying to remember exactly what Highway Kind wrote in his fascinating blog post about the Skylon art installation, the Festival of Britain and Winston Churchill.

So Sunday arrived along with my hangover and other half wasn’t looking lively either, but because Janathon waits for no man we got the Walking London book out and set off to explore Chelsea.

He lives there at the moment, but this is a short-term arrangement, so it seemed like a good opportunity to explore Chelsea’s nooks and crannies before he moves on.

The three mile walk started in Sloane Square and looped around past the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where we saw several smart-looking Chelsea Pensioners going about their business, down to Battersea Bridge, along the embankment and then wound back to the King’s Road.

I’d forgotten how densely packed the history of the city is – we could barely move for blue plaques and statues.

Highlights of the walk included the home of one of my favourite novelists George Eliot, the church of critic of Henry VIII and devout Catholic Thomas Moore and the site of his former residence Crosby Hall (anyone who read and loved Wolf Hall will understand why this is so exciting) and the Japanese Cherry Tree in Roper’s Garden dedicated to Koizumi Gunji, who the plaque informed me was the father of British Judo. How Janathon.

The Chelsea Physic garden is every inch the Secret Garden, tucked away behind high walls among the mews, but still plays a role today in modern medical and botanical research. It was created in 1673 by Sir Hans Sloane and the Society of Apothecaries. Sir Hans wasn’t a bad advert for his herbal remedies – he died at the ripe old age of 92, which must have been something of a medical marvel in 1753.

We stopped also to contemplate the idea of Margaret Damer Dawson, a founder of the Women Police Volunteers, a female task force created in 1914 to control the behaviour of young women.

Cheyne Walk had the most varied and impressive claims to fame – you can read some of them here – but King’s Road takes the biscuit in the sheer extravagance stakes. It sounds obvious now I type it, but it was initially only the King’s Road – no plebs allowed – and acted as a means for the royals to drive to Kew without having any upsetting encounters with the great unwashed until 1830.

So to recap: Three miles, dozens of pub quiz facts and zero raindrops – I declare Sunday a success.

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