My daughter sent me the dreaded text. DO YOU FANCY ZUMBA TONIGHT? The thoughts going through my brain when I’d received it are unprintable. I’d been out partying all day on Sunday celebrating a friend’s birthday and the Pimms had been flowing thick and fast. It’s a bit of a standing joke that I just can’t take my alcohol anymore and takes me days to get over a hangover. On Monday my brain was decidedly foggy and my mouth felt like the bottom of a budgie’s cage, and yesterday I just felt so dreadfully tired and was almost dragging my feet behind me.
So I replied to her text. OOH, NOT SURE, STILL RECOVERING FROM SUNDAY, HA HA. I thought that would be the end of it, mission accomplished, so to speak, but no, Nicola didn’t give up that easily. At 5.00pm she rang me. ‘Ooh, I just thought I’d pop round for ten minutes before I go to Zumba.’ Groan! I knew what she was up to.
‘Why don’t you just put your trainers on?’ she said.
‘You’ll love it when you get there.’
‘I’ll fill the water bottle up while you put your gear on.’
I was like a petulant child, flinging on my T-shirt and leggings and whimpering, ‘But I’ve got a headache and I’m dehydrated. If it had only been 45 minutes that would have been fine, but an hour, I can’t do an hour! How about next week?’ (That little chestnut!)
‘It’s not on next week.’
She later grinned as she told me it actually is on next week. Ooh, she knows me too well!
I haven’t been to Zumba for ages, mainly because I’ve been commandeered into ‘doing a Mrs Titchmarsh’ for this impending wedding. I’ve been weeding, spraying nettles, mowing the lawn (I get someone else to pull the cable, otherwise it puts my back out, then I just have to keep going for hours until I’ve finished) , putting in bedding plants, watering, watering and more watering. I’m forever saying to Rachel, ‘You know you said you were going to help me in the garden…’
‘Ooh, yes, I will do, Mum, but I’m just off to meet my friends. Byeeee.’
When she was little I used to call her ‘In a minute Carver’ because if you asked her to do anything, her reply was always, ‘I will, I will, in a minute.’
So, off we went to Zumba. Nicola insisted on driving, as if she was delivering a naughty child to school. When we got there, the guy behind Reception said, ‘Zumba? It’s not on in here, this week.’
‘Oh, yes, there is a God,’ I thought to myself.
‘Not in this building, anyway. I’ll take you there.’
Oh, thank you very much! When we got to the gym, we couldn’t get in, as all the gym bunnies were already in there and there wasn’t a handle on the outside of the door. I started to giggle. This was obviously a sign that I definitely should not be doing this class. Unfortunately Nicola insisted on knocking on the door as if her life depended on it and someone eventually opened it. Uh oh, no escape now!
And then something strange started to happen. As soon as the music started blasting out, my arms and legs seemed to have a life of their own, kicking, swaying, twisting and turning and I suddenly realised how much I absolutely loved Zumba and how much I’d missed it. I loved the beat of the music, the wild abandonment, the crazy moves, the fact that nobody cares what you look like as sweat pours down your face and body, the camaraderie, the exhilaration, the sheer joy of being alive. Nicola gave me a knowing look and grinned. Thank goodness she’d dragged me along. Apart from the obvious physical benefits, it makes you feel young again, as if you could dance the night away and never, ever stop.
A few years ago on New Year’s Eve, a friend of mine had a dinner party at home. At about 11.00pm, one guy, who’d previously been a DJ, put all his musical equipment on the dining room table and ‘got the party started’. I was probably dancing ‘til about 3.30 the next morning, because I really do just love to dance. It’s good for your soul. It makes you feel good.
The next morning a guy who was a real fitness freak and ran marathons at the drop of a hat asked me how many times I went to the gym. I nearly spat out with my cornflakes.
‘Err, let me see…none,’ I laughed.
‘But you were dancing for about four hours’ non-stop, Helen.’
‘Yes, I just love to dance,’ I quipped.
And that’s the thing with me and exercise. If I don’t love it, I don’t do it. When I was riding in my youth, I had to exercise my horse in all weathers, come rain or shine, but it was worth it for the sheer thrill of competing at hunter trials and the like. I joined a gym at the start of the year, to get me doing something on dark, wintery nights, but now that the nights are lighter, I’d rather be weeding (did I just say that?) than pumping iron, because I’m in amongst nature, not a sweaty gym, surrounded by people staring at TVs with a glazed look on their faces as they ‘go for the burn’. But, as with the Zumba, if you get out of practise, you forget how magical exercise is. It really does give you that feel-good factor. It puts colour in your cheeks, creates a youthful glow and gives your spirits a lift. And, above all, it’s fun, fun, fun! Ooh, for heaven’s sake, what’s not to like?