Friday, 12 June 2009


So all of Hong Kong's primary and kindergarten schools have closed - giving the children a couple of extra weeks off and the parents the joy of yet more time to fill. More time for the children to forget everything they've learnt this year, and more hours to get bored and fractious.

Actually, I have no problem with the schools closing. The government said that if students got sick all schools would close and they've been as good as their word. What strikes me a slightly strange is the trigger for this closure...

Twelve secondary school students have been diagnosed with H1N1 piggy flu!

(Yeah, yeah - I know. The school at which the twelve older students were diagnosed has also been closed, and this is a precautionary measure to protect the [usually more vulnerable - but maybe not with this strain of flu] younger children. I just found it vaguely amusing)

Only on Lamma (?)

Running on Lamma - can be hazardous

Finally the weather (if it’s not torrential rain, it’s scorching hot) combined with the lack of anywhere flat to fun has persuaded me to join a gym again. I used to work in the same building as Pure SoHo which was fantastic. I kept my shoes in the office and could pop down practically every lunchtime (they provide towels, gym kit, toiletries – everything you could possibly need). Even if I didn’t feel like exercising, I could always chill out (not literally) in the sauna and steam room. The convenience factor was instrumental in getting me exercising after a bit of a break since struggling through the Luton marathon.

Since leaving that job – and therefore the convenience of working right above Pure – I have been trying to get some runs in here on Lamma. This was just about bearable in the winter but recently the narrow crowded paths, killer hills and sapping humidity has been completely putting me off. So I’ve bitten the proverbial bullet and joined ‘Train & Tone’ – the Lamma gym.

And what a great experience. The ground-floor gym used to be run in a traditional manner, with a beauty parlour on the first floor (second if you’re American). But it wasn’t profitable and shut down just over a year ago (I think). The current owners run their own e-business on Lamma and went down to see if they could but some of the old equipment. One thing led to another and they ended up taking over the running of the gym.

With an average membership of just 35, a conventional business model was never going to work here. The time and/or wages to have someone on-site during opening hours simply cannot be covered by membership fees. So the gym (uniquely in my experience) is run not just as a private members’ club – but completely unsupervised.

Such is the trust shown in their members that before I’d even arranged my first payment, I was handed my key. Members are encouraged to limit their use of the gym to the hours between 5 am and 11 pm (in deference to the local residents) but otherwise it’s ‘open house’. Users are responsible for the lights, air-con, dehumidifier and windows (apparently it’s a favourite hangout for the local cats if their left open). A water cooler is kept topped-up and glasses provided (to be rinsed after use), and there is a none-too-shabby stereo for playing CDs or hooking up iPods. There are even spare towels in case you forget your own.

I’ve talked about the common view of Lamma as being a place that washed-up hippies gravitate towards, but I honestly can’t think of (m)any other communities where an initiative like this could be so successful. The owners (Rick and Soli) say they run the gym purely as a non-profit service for neighbourhood and it’s true that I’ve never used such a friendly gym. Sure, some of the equipment is a bit suspect – or missing entirely – but I think it’s great. Colour me very impressed. And boy has it made running a more pleasant experience!