There were men in the village as wide as the proverbial barn door, men who would pick up a hundredweight sack of corn and stand with it on their shoulder while talking to friends. There were men who would work around the clock and seem as energetic on the second morning as they had been on the first. There were men who would each prodigious amounts of fried food, potatoes, butter, white bread, red meat, full cream milk, biscuits, cake, and anything else that offered large amounts of everything unhealthy, and still be as lean as they had been in teenage years.

From the waking moment, at six o’clock or earlier, there was work to be done. There were cows to be milked, animals to be fed, work enough for two days before the evening came. Only if the weather was bad or darkness had fallen would there be a retreat inside to spend time with paperwork spread out on the kitchen table, paperwork that seemed to increase year upon year.

Despite the massive consumption of calories, despite eating food that people would not be told to avoid, obesity seemed something rare. Certainly, some farmers seemed as wide as they were tall, but watch them pick up something and you quickly realized how much of the weight was muscle. Watch them wield a sledge hammer to knock in fencing posts or move a trailer by hand in order to hitch it up, and the reason for the tightness of shirts and jackets became apparent.

The idea of taking time every morning to drive somewhere to exercise to stay as fit as they already were would have seemed a strange way of using an hour. The idea that you needed to park as close as possible to the doorway of the place so as not to have to walk would have seemed even stranger.

Passing a gym at seven o’clock each morning, it seems odd that people have to dress up to get sweaty. If it is just about exercise and fitness, why does there have to be a certain mode of dress? Why does there have to be mirrors? Why does there have to be music?

Were I looking for farmhands, I would not want to give many of them jobs, they haven’t the barn door build and they seem to spend much of their time watching each other.

Having just had a couple of Mr Kipling cakes for supper, I rest content in being the twelve stone I was when I was twenty-nine. I discovered that the secret was not to go to the gym, but to follow the Darragh Ó Briain diet book. He says it has two pages, the first says, “eat less,” the second page says, “exercise more.”

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