Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: I just can't work out the allure of taking gym selfies

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

How disappointing, if unsurprising, to see top golfists Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke posting gym selfies. The motive was vanity, basis of modern civilisation. I can't get my savage head round selfies. Apart from anything else, the photos looked like they'd been taken by someone else.

In the old days, as Scottish comedian Sanjeev Kohli has pointed out, these were known as "otheries".

Male vanity in the gym: it just doesn't compute. Joke. Society raised me to believe males were top gender. But, since attending the gym, I now believe the opposite. Women are best, even if they can't drive, play the electric guitar or put out the bins. They do, however, behave with decorum and becoming bashfulness down the gym.

Men, on the other hand, reveal themselves to be paranoid narcissists. The gym is the joint par excellence for paranoid looks. If you catch someone's eye, they look back in alarm, thinking: "What's he looking at? Is there something wrong with me?"

Stealthily, you can watch people watching other people stealthily. These looks are often of envy or contempt.

Don't let this put you off going. By and large, at the gym you're left to get on with things. And the trainers, because they spend much time physically working off neuroses, are usually rounded and grounded individuals.

As a semi-professional neurotic, I spend one hour a week in the gym, of which 15 minutes consists of setting up the equipment, daydreaming and getting my breath back.

Some young persons just text the whole time. Who are they texting and what? Recently, I saw one young man on the cross-trainer who was texting when I arrived and still at it when I left an hour later, never having had a break.

Mind you, if I were young and socially gauche, undoubtedly I'd use my portable telephone to seem absorbed and deflect attention from my shyness.

Is that what they're doing? Or are they pretending they have friends? Also, where did they get the muscles? They must be like these people who drink at home before going to the pub. They work out at home and come to the gym just to sit and pose.

Mind you, while I've seen plenty of preening in front of the mirror, I've never seen anyone with the gall to pose for a selfie down the gym. Is that just a golfers' thing?

Sunday: Whole lotta love for Led Zeppelin

Once, spontaneously after a bad day at work, I bought the last ticket left for a gig and drove 50 miles in pouring rain to see it.

Inside the hall, finding all seats taken at the back - where normally I'd sit, tapping my feet in a dignified manner - I stood near the front. The band launched into a 20-minute medley of rock numbers that shuddered up my bones, shredding all remnants of stress. That band was Page and Plant, Jimmy and Robert of that ilk, main men of Led Zeppelin. I tell you, these guys were medicinal. So, while his new stuff is softer, I envy those who saw Robert Plant at the Ulster Hall. I envy even more those who saw Zep perform Stairway To Heaven for the first time at the same venue back in 1971. They saw history being played.

Monday: Frozen melted my heart

Some months ago I ordered online the Disney film Frozen, and enjoyed it so much I watched it again next night.

Admittedly, the repeat watching was for someone else's benefit, but I loved it nonetheless and even got some of the jokes second time around.

Being out of the swim, I believed myself among a select band of admirers of the film.

Now I find that, with Christmas approaching, the whole world is in a frenzy, with shops assailed by rampant multitudes ready to kill for a Snow Glow Elsa.

Toys 'R' Us in Sprucefield said the latter were "like gold dust". As a bearded man with several checked shirts, I was discomfited to learn that most demand for Frozen merchandise has come from little girls.

I warn them and their guardians now: I've been down the gym (see exclusive revelation elsewhere). And that jigsaw puzzle for ages 4 and above is mine.

Tuesday: Praise be, the BBC has seen the light

Good for BBC's new-look Songs Of Praise, keeping the songs but doing away with the praise, as nobody believes in that sort of thing nowadays.

For, apart from the gift of life - yawn - what's to praise? "And now a song celebrating the death of hundreds of children in a random accident."

The change has brought a fusillade of protests - well, a few tweets - from various reverends.

But it merely reflects changes in society, not least in the largely atheist Church Of England.

Songs of P was only ever interesting for the communities it depicted.

Losing the religious guff was long overdue.

Wednesday: Log in to remain switched on

The latest health advice has been issued to elderly persons: get on the internet.

The thinking, provided by University College London, goes like this: using the internet helps stave off mental decline.

Hmm, interesting.

Most of us will have felt at times that the internet hastens mental decline.

But we get their gist or pith.

We issue the following health warning, however, to lieges long in the tooth: do not even think about entering the symptoms of any illness you have into Google's search engine.

It's notorious for turning the common cold into cancer, and you will be pronounced dead long before it's time to log out.

Friday: Drawn to Ryan's brilliance

I stand in awe of those who draw, not least Ryan Hazley (16), a pupil at Beechlawn School, Hillsborough.

Ryan can draw from memory, and his prize-winning Landscape of Hillsborough on show at the Ulster Museum is a drawing you can dream in.

Wish I'd that talent. Dream on, I suppose.

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