31 Jan Classes
I was astonished to find, on my first visit to Bedar in 2016, that this little pueblo in the hills with its whitewashed houses and higgledy-piggledy streets has a well-equipped gym. Almost the first building you come across as you enter the village, it’s an unbecoming, flat-roofed, breeze-block box rendered white. Inside, at street level, there’s a room full of weights and straps, various contraptions that could be (and perhaps are) instruments of torture, bicycles and treadmills, mirrors and loud music.
Downstairs is the ‘studio’, the coldest, darkest place in Spain by my reckoning. It looks like it was once a garage for at least a couple of large vehicles. It has a metal up-and-over sliding door at one end that’s permanently closed but I know gives out onto the back of the property where the land falls away to sunny slopes of oranges, olives and almonds and the odd straggle of bamboo. Inside, you freeze until the action starts. For, the studio is where you congregate Monday to Thursday mornings at 9.30 and occasionally in the late afternoon for an exercise class run by Peni. I go to Peni’s Pilates (I know, thank goodness for the apostrophe) and to her yoga class; the Boot Camp I avoid. Given my recent injury, I’m temporarily classless, which is a great shame, but it gives me pause for thought about class and classes.
The gym provides a sort of social commentary – albeit based on scant data, relatively infrequent observation and, thus, generalisations. Upstairs it’s a man’s world; women occasionally use the weights and the bicycles but the main users are men. In the day-time the older men who attend seem to be British. The few younger ones are usually Spanish; they attend in greater numbers in the late afternoon/early evening. No surprises there. You’d find much the same age profile in local gyms in the UK though the gender balance would probably be different. The classes, on the other hand, are populated almost entirely by expatriate women, mainly Brits. The age profile is, at a guess, 40-70. I’ve yet to see a Spaniard of either gender attend these classes; this year there is one brave Englishman joining in.
So, you wonder, where are the Spanish women? All at work? If you wander the streets of the village or pop into Clara’s shop (Superclara) on weekday mornings, between say 9 am and midday, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the whole village is made up of women and that a large percentage of them are widowed judging by the prevalence of black clothing. Occasionally you’ll come across an older man, sitting on a bench perhaps, dressed simply in the style of a campesino – a dark thick cotton jacket and a brimmed hat or a cap. You rarely see men of working age during the day except if you happen to see them at work – repairing the roads, refurbishing a house or occasionally out in the fields. I suppose most of them are somewhere down in the valley working in one of the bigger towns (as are some of the women, I’m sure) or on the road in a white van. Spain is possibly more White-Van-Land than Britain; the white vans here come in a wider range of makes and sizes.
The village has a small primary school; if you pick your time and your route through the narrow streets you can hear the children at playtime. I wonder, whether those little girls will go to classes at the gym when they’re in their middle years. There are two different cultural divides here in this village where traditional society clings on. One is the obvious one: the Spanish and the non-Spanish. The other is a generational one represented somehow most vividly by the gym classes where Spanish women do not go.