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Smallville: Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

There's a message in Peter B Farrell's hilarious account of his adventures with mirrors. If you have just bought an exercise bike, make sure you cannot see your own reflection before pumping those pedals!

Some ten years ago, my wife and I had just moved into our home, a Victorian property. A feature of the cleverly designed bedroom was the wall of mirrors from floor to ceiling, which served to hide the wardrobes.

“Mirrors do tend to make the rooms look much larger, spacious.” This was the estate agent speaking, but my observation that they also doubled the amount of furniture in the room went straight over his head.

We were gradually becoming aware that the house had stylishly been brought up to date; unfortunately the date in question was redolent of the early 1960s. No matter, we planned to rectify the problem and bring the interior of the property more to our liking.

“They’ll have to go.” Some years later my wife came to a decision. It was early one Sunday morning and having just awoken; she gave me a dig in the ribs.

“You mean the mirrors?” I stared as usual at our reflections. It had become a habit to converse directly with the ageing couple opposite, not at their best first thing of a morning.

“Yes, I get quite a shock sometimes.” I had to agree. If one of the wardrobe doors was slightly ajar the couple opposite became a foursome; something to do with reflection, refraction or the theory of light.

In the course of the day I managed to unscrew the mirrors from the wardrobe doors and remove them to the workshop without any mishap, storing them carefully.

“You never know, could come in useful.” A well used phrase. I thought of a small dance studio, for practise. Our friends were keen, but there was hardly enough space and I would also have to invest in a wooden floor.

I then toyed with the idea of converting part of the workshop into a relaxation room. Many years ago - when lithe of limb - we had ventured into the world of Hatha Yoga. My wife seemed to have a natural ability to bend and twist. A wall of mirrors might assist in adopting the correct pose. But I couldn’t even pronounce Salabhasana, let alone master any posture without toppling over sideways.

Nevertheless I covered one wall of the Workshop with the mirrors, better that, than trying to dispose of half a ton of plate glass.


Recently amongst the junk mail landing on the doormat was a magazine headed Mobility. A charitable contribution to Age Concern had apparently led to me being targeted for walk-in baths, stair lifts and motorised wheelchairs. This was enough to remind me of the importance of keeping fit and active. Running round the block or cycling would help but the roads are far too dangerous these days. I had thought of a joining a gymnasium but was put off by the thought of driving five miles, and what of the cost of the annual subscription?

“Why not buy the exercise cycle; perhaps we could both use it?”

I considered my wife’s suggestion. I had deliberated over buying a machine from the local sports shop, having tried out this method of exercise recently at a leisure complex. Provided I could get over the monotony and boredom…

“Delivery on Wednesday sir.” The sales assistant in the sports shop swiped the credit card. I remembered the date of the battle of Omdurman and entered the year in the Chip-and-Pin machine. This secure and foolproof method depended on my list of famous battles of the British Empire. I also had it cryptically cross-indexed under Fuzzy Wuzzies.

“Sign here Guv.” The sporty and elegantly designed cycle ‘delivered direct to your home’ duly arrived. I was left with the largest flat-pack I had ever seen and spent the rest of the day checking the myriad parts and instructions, after locating the English Language section.

Storing the large cardboard box in the garden shed I wondered how on earth it was possible to return the cycle in it’s original condition within 28 days, in the event of not being completely satisfied. How would I get it to the Post Office?

The following day after numerous phone calls to the suppliers, great care and attention, trial and error, the machine was assembled.

To master the training computer calculate
Mark (F) = 6 – (10 x (P1 –P2)/P1) r

I quickly turned over the page and decided to stick to the basics, pedal for a short time, at least it worked and I vowed to start a program of exercise the very next day.

My first exercise session ended and an audible warning from the computer indicated I had consumed 270 joules, but I remained baffled.

“How did you get on?”

“They’ll have to go.”

The reflection of a balding old man, red faced and sweating profusely had given me a shock, not exactly Lance Armstrong storming down the Champs Elysee.


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