Money in Mind

This week I’ve been feeling smug (surely not?) about never having had a gym membership or a personal trainer Not just for the same reason disliking jewellery makes me smug – because I can add up all the money I’ve never spent – but because I’ve realised that gyms will soon be mere folk memory.  Or, in fact, no memory, unless we find a way to upload it all to our gadgets. Which may not be far off.

Gyms and personal trainers seem oxymoronic to me: why drive to the gym, when you could just go by bike to wherever you’re going and get your exercise that way? Why hire a personal trainer, when there are acres of neglected gardens everywhere, waiting to be dug and weeded? 

And there’s another area of human capacity that’s becoming much more in need of exercise  than our abs and pecs. I used to think I minded Mr Fixit’s TomTom and iPhone because they give him an unfair hold over the children’s affections, and a licence to bore on day and night about the Aladdin’s cave that is the AppStore. Now I realise it’s much more basic; they’re rotting his brain.

You can use your iPhone to tune your guitar. We used to use our ears. Does this mean we soon won’t need our ears? But then where will we go next for botox and liposuction? If we don’t have bodies, there won’t be any need for the beauty industry any more. Then it’s curtains to Cosmopolitan and Elle. It doesn’t bear thinking about. (To its credit, the beauty industry is worried about this, and is already moving on from knee lifts and shoulder implants to  skull re-shaping presumably on the basis that while we have brains at all, we’ll need a place to put them).

Yet the urge to own gadgets that are smarter than ourselves seems unstoppable. There are apparently £1.25bn worth of unused iPods and digital cameras in this country, silently reproaching their owners from inside their shiny packages for being too stupid to engage with them on equal intellectual terms.

Add to this a generation of prosperous baby boomers terrified, not of heart disease like their parents, but of Alzheimers and the next money mint just leaps out at you. What we need is not body gyms, but mind gyms. Mind gyms and personal mental trainers replace the sweaty, noisy, aesthetically challenged world of weights and exercise bikes with intellectual excitement – one of the few pleasures that consumes neither money nor calories. Ideas really are carbon neutral. You don’t have to eat more, or even differently, to have a well-exercised mind  (though probably the odd kipper doesn’t hurt).

Currently, this trend has manifested itself in relatively primitive forms Soduku and Dr Kawashima’s Brain Trainer. But these are clearly unsatisfactory, in the same way as gyms are. Where does solving some meaningless number square get you, compared with parsing a line of Virgil or memorising an entire pantomime?

Suddenly, my new career is madly waving at me from the shelf of etymological dictionaries in my hut. I will be able to amortise a lifetime’s investment in obscure languages and arcane interests by inflicting them on terrified fifty-somethings in return for stupendous fees with no overhead, and no carbon footprint (like any self respecting trainer, I travel exclusively by bike). I will grow rich, simply by indulging my inner lunatic 

Latin classes will be chic again. So will crafts, pickling, tatting  and indeed any activity that involves using new bits of the intellect. As any brain surgeon will tell you, there’s a pretty much limitless number of these, all needing a regular going over to keep their owner fit for work in a post-pension society.

Excuse me while I go and dig out my Linear B thesaurus