My gym just died. It's been a slow and lingering thing. The death of a thousand towels.
When I joined in 2007, it was a fun little gym in the hotel around the corner. It bustled, but with the cosy bustle of a popular newsagent.
A couple of years ago they changed their direct debits. My accountant pointed this out. "What's this?" he asked. "Who are Debt Finance Ltd? Is this a loan?". That was a worrying sign. The recession was partly to blame - they had nearly a 1,000 members, but only about 200 ever came in. This was, it turned out, not an unusual statistic. People happily pay for gym membership because it makes them feel better about themselves. At some point during the recession, suddenly that £30 a month seemed like a luxury.
I offered to put leaflets through the doors on my block, but the gym owner gave me a look. "We don't really want that sort... you know..." as though I lived on an estate full of poor white trash just dying to combine their crack habit with cardio.
Last year, the gym had about 100 members. Which seemed enough to keep things ticking over. But you'd notice a few things. First equipment broke down. Then it started to disappear. Then the soap dispensers went. And finally the sauna became a chilly wooden box (a particular shame, as I was once delightfully molested in there).
A week after the water cooler stopped working, men turned up with tape measures. I've worked in enough doomed offices to know what that means. A week later the personal trainers vanished like memories. First went Costas (huge arms, smelly protein shake poos). Then the nameless hulk with the tattoo of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer on his shoulder (sadly, a naked Buffy). And finally lovely Manel and Daria. And then a notice appeared "We are closing forever at the end of the week".
In some ways this is a sad thing. But change is good. Turns out there's another gym down the road. It's a fiver more, but it's huge and has lots of equipment. And all of it works. Even the sauna (crosses fingers and waits for a prince).