S and I recently decided that we needed An Activity. An Activity that we could do together, that we could bond over and have shared experiences. I mean, we do lots of things together, aside from simply living in the same house; we do fun stuff on weekends like art trails and drink coffee in our neighbourhood cafe and go for walks and swear over shelves that won’t go up the way we want them to. Then we maintain a healthy balance in doing our own stuff; he has his mountain biking, and I have my trapeze and dance, so there are some evenings where he’s throwing himself off a Welsh hill and I’ll be hanging upside down, cursing my hip flexors’ inability to rotate.
We thought, though, that it would be good to have a sport that we did together and could enjoy as a couple. Finding this has proven rather tricky. We tried swimming, which is OK but our local pool is, how shall I put this delicately, not the most hygienic of places, and the thought of having to plough up and down amongst other people’s floating plasters isn’t really appealing. We did sign up for a badminton court once which was fun, even though my racket is so old the grip started to disintegrate and turn my hand green, making it look as though I had some nasty infection. But the badminton court is a 25 minute drive away and we are also far too disorganised to book a regular slot.
So bouldering was the next idea on the list. There is a local indoor centre where S had been before, back in the Summer on one of the freak days when it was actually warm, and despite having to do it in his work shirt because he’d forgotten his kit, (and looking like he’d been swimming in it afterwards) he really enjoyed it. I’m always nervous at the thought of trying a new physical activity (a flashback from the humiliating days of PE at school, no doubt), but after two years of trapeze I hoped that my arm strength was at a level where I wouldn’t be embarrassed by not being able to climb even the beginner’s wall, so I agreed to go along with him. I roped in a friend (hah! unintended pun) as another complete beginner, and we joined a induction group to have a tour of the facilities and a lesson from an instructor.
It turned out to be a lot of fun. The only bad thing were the shoes – you deliberately have to have them quite tight, but mine had me hobbling like a Chinese lady from the last century. Add to that the sweat from the previous occupants and the overall pedial experience was, to put it simply, gross. But manky footwear aside, it was great. Because you don’t climb very high and there is a cushioned mat in the climbing area, there’s no need for safety equipment or to have someone belaying you, which makes the whole process a lot easier and more fun; similar to how surfing is so much quicker to set up for than windsurfing and the palaver of kit that entails. Two hours later our palms were shredded and our chests wheezing, but we were proud to have climbed up all of the routes our instructor showed us and had even been complemented on our technique. For someone who couldn’t even climb the bars in the gym when a teenager and was always the last person to be picked for a team (ie: me), this was a huge ego boost.
So one cup of coffee and a thumbprint registration later, I was a fully paid up member of the bouldering centre, and it looks like S and I have found a sport in common that we both actually enjoy. In fact, we’ve been again since and plan to make it a regular thing.
Of course, what S hasn’t realised is that my enthusiasm is partly based on the fact that bouldering is where the fit men in the West Country hang out. The number of blokes in there with their shirts off! And they’re the kind of men that it’s a positive delight to look at without their tops on, unlike the majority of people who flash their flesh in the hot weather. There was not a beer belly or thick gold chain sight, just lots of good-looking men flexing their muscles whilst getting up close and personal with a climbing wall. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happily engaged and all, but it’s a nice incentive to exercise when you’re surrounded by climbing Adonises (Adoni?). At the very least it makes up for the shoes.