“Civilise the mind but make savage the body” the old adage has it. A simple principle, and one that I feel has served me well since commencing reading voraciously with exercising nearly 20 years ago. It was in my quest to improve the latter element that led me to bid on eBay for some barbell squat stands, which was duly accepted.
After the usual preliminary messages to ascertain a mutually agreeable date and time between myself and the vendor, I made my way up north to Burnley, a woefully unimpressive mapstain dumped unceremoniously between Manchester and the Yorkshire Dales, with only the rampaging marauders of nearby Blackburn to keep the recalcitrant Burnley-ites in check. As I drove up the A682 I couldn’t help but feel that even the most inherently optimistic, chirpy, “Childrens TV presenter” of a character would soon experience their life’s resolve wither and die in a lake of pessimism.
I pulled into my destination, making sure to leave ample room as I circumvented the two disused shopping trolleys obstructing the road. I parked up and surveyed the surroundings – construction debris and litter lay scattered juxtaposing large iridescent pools of oil. Brooding, overcast skies bore down on the dilapidated roofs of seemingly endless rows of near condemned dwellings. The street looked like the aftermath of a wedding between two Rangers supporters. If the kingdom of god is within you, as the bible informs, then the kingdom of satan is without; Burnley truly is a pus-filled wart on the backside of town planning.
I knocked on number 25 and waited. No answer. Again, but louder. No answer. I was about to write the excursion of as a waste when a rather large Muslim gentleman, replete with Thobe emerged from a house 4 doors away. I nodded a polite acknowledgement before opening my car door.
He asked me if I had come from eBay for the squat stands. I stated I had, but that I was given the incorrect door number – I was told 25. He laughed….number 25 was his gymnasium, he owned the entire road he explained through laughter. I looked up and down the street, there must have been about 70-80 houses on the road. Locking the door to his house he let me into number 25…
It looked like he had ram-raided Total Fitness. It soon became apparent that he had converted the entire house into gym. The floor was strewn with various implements and weights machines – the sum total of which were probably worth 6 times the value of the house. I pondered that if he saw fit to convert an entire house into a gym, what other activities had he dedicated an entire pad to? Eating? Watching porn? The world was truly his oyster.
We made our way outside to shake on the deal when a boy of about 7 emerged from the house opposite. My companion yelled at him to get back inside, to which the boy duly observed. I jokingly enquired as to whether that was his house, to which he nodded with a huge grin. Beckoning me to follow him he unlocked the door to reveal that the house was essentially a fully converted Jungle Gym. Walking through the house I saw there was a ball pit in lieu of the kitchen, huge stalagmite like foam bolsters dangled from the ceiling and an aerial slide was situated over the stairs. My companion stated that this was his nephew’s house and that other than to attend school and the mosque he stayed here alone.
Before disembarking south I asked him how he came to own an entire street. He replied that his father bought house after house in the early 1980’s and seeing as they were sub £4k, he just carried on until he was, in essence, the real life Monopoly Man. I decided it would be churlish not to ask the question: why didn’t he sell the street and move into a plush residence that would absolve his need to carry 8lbs of keys about his person?
He preferred it this way, he said. He felt like a king.
I pulled away in my car – a pair of squat stands to the better, and an understanding of Islamic psychology to the worse.
© Shibusa 2017