Just like goths, Wimpy bars and James Corden, the moment when you think you’ve finally gotten rid of a tiresome presence, it re-emerges from the sepulchral gloom.
And so it is at the dawn of a new year. At the very moment that the worst of the panicked resolution-vowing piety has passed (usually by around midday on the 3rd Jan) comes a fresh onslaught of guilt, triggered by the sagging weight of ‘new year new you’ activity, health and hobby based suggestions featured in every magazine from Tatler to Trout Fisherman.
All well and good were it not for the fact that so many of the current in vogue classes and groups are teeth-grindingly awful. Here’s five of the very worst to avoid:
The contortions! The pain! The retina-jarring coloured yoga mats! Doing the downward facing dog and the lazy cobra are not, and never have been, an instant path to spiritual enlightenment. Mainly because you won’t be doing yoga with a wisdom drenched swami on the banks of the Ganges in deepest Rishikesh. You’re in a windowless room in a Battersea gym at 7am giving your chiropractor a years worth of profit whilst listening to a Café del Mar soundtrack and trying not to choke on the stench of incense. You’re then faced with the indignity of having to explain to your closest friends as to why you’re now in possession of a pair of yoga pants that have a lurid colour scheme seemingly designed by Jackson Pollock whilst on a scotch and Valium spree.
Yes we all know the cliché that book groups are really just excuses to see who can drink the most Yellow Tail Chardonnay in a chain bar before leaving their Whole Foods bag on the night bus. But book groups are far more malevolent than this. The tomes never change regardless of location or membership demographic. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, The Alchemist, something by Raymond Bradbury and a doomed effort to tackle Joyce will be accompanied by the braying voice of one beta-male member who will always, always use the word ‘zeitgiest’ when describing whatever book is being discussed. The inevitable result after two months of attendance is that your bookcase will now have one, unread copy of Finnegan’s Wake resting at the far end of the bottom shelf, and waves of physical nausea will be stronger than ever before when you pass a branch of Café Rouge.
It seemed like a good idea didn’t it? Playing improv games to boost your self-confidence whilst also having fun? Except it didn’t quite pan out that way did it? You’re now in the back room of a community centre pretending to be a seagull while a group of deeply unfunny men in skinny jeans with Stewart Lee aspirations and overly loud women who genuinely believe they were the inspiration for ‘Fleabag’ break off from the ‘animal quackers’ game to recite that ‘hilarious Victoria Wood sketch for the seventeenth time this evening. It’s dark outside and you feel very alone.
It takes over a decade of intense training to become an’ itamae’ or sushi master in Japan. So to become even remotely competent at this insanely fiddly culinary art form by taking a six week course in Barnes Village is about as realistic as becoming Poet Laurate after drawing a phallus on a viaduct wall. You need the steady hand of a neurosurgeon and the patience of a panda breeder to make this stuff- and you’ll waste an inordinate amount of salmon in the process. Go home and boil some pasta for goodness sake.
‘Calli’ is Greek for beautiful. And you may well have such pleasing aspirations in mind for yourself when you first join a calligraphy class – indeed, the Duchess of Sussex is said to be a dab hand at it. But the fantasy of being a modern day Boswell or Dorothy Parker, flinging out bon mots by quill and ink from your palatial townhouse drawing room to the delight of bohemian society is a dream borne of sand and clouds. You will use your new found calligraphy skills once, in writing a birthday card to your eight year old niece who will look at your painstaking handiwork in petulant bafflement whilst wonder why you haven’t bought her an iphone. Your calligraphy set will then find it’s natural place in your home, in the third draw down of the living room bureau next to a gin glass full of Italian lira and a 1987 copy of Wisden.