The days after Christmas are possibly those where one is most in need of a little exercise and reminds me that it's a quarter of a century since I made a modest living out of tennis. So today, I ventured out to Hartsdown at lunchtime and was pleased to see that the sports centre was full of people and the pool was working. Naturally, I tried to go in but the door was locked. “That’s odd” I thought eventually managing to get in through the door marked “Out.”
“Sorry we’re closed”, said a man sitting with his wife at a table by the door. “It doesn’t re-open until tomorrow”. Feeling more than a little unwelcome, perhaps it was the Klu Klux Clan outfit I was wearing? I quickly left, wondering why Thanet’s one and only public sports centre was open but not to the public.
Alright then, I’ll try the gym, with its advertised cardiovascular training, treadmills, steppers, rowers, bikes, recumbent bikes, cross trainers, a wide range of resistance equipment and an excellent choice of free weights and unusually grubby men’s showers, for which I pay £19 a month. No, that’s closed over Christmas week too. I should have guessed. All that's left is what I had to do thirty years ago, go running along the seafront.
A few thoughts now on our recreational services. “Your return is our reward” is the Thanet Leisureforce motto but to be honest we have very little to be really proud of in regard to the availability, costs and appearance of our local sports facilities. The gym in particular can’t truly be considered an inclusive and ‘female-friendly’ zone and while some staff and members are adult or professional enough to grasp the fundamentals of socially acceptable behaviour in front of women, others are clearly not. As an observer, I would suggest we need some changes that might begin with a little imagination, initiative and direction from the top, those three vital characteristics that are frequently most absent in addressing even the simplest local challenges in Thanet.