Almanac Lifestyle: The high price of living for the 21st century urban woman



A few weeks back I was sitting down having a relaxing coffee and a slice of the best ever lemon tart with a friend at a Chaddy* roastery* when my mobile rang.


 9563 713*12… a local landline number. That is weird…perhaps its my home phone number, in which case that would be an emergency.


So I answered it.


 A chirpy voice sounded at the other end….


 “Hey Kate, it’s Jamie……I’m from Your Best Self Health Club…….how ya doin’?…… I just noticed flicking through your records that you haven’t been in for a while…..”.


Agghhhhh, bugger, how would he know that? Isn’t there a privacy act…. and what about client confidentiality, like at the doctors, I thought to myself…and who is this random?


 “Yes…or….no… that’s right… I was in yesterday…… are you sure?……… maybe the barcode scanner wasn’t  working…………., no one at the desk either, ……coz yeah, I have been in……honestly, I have………. but….. holidays….. ….., yeah, really busy….soo busy …… six weeks! ….Is it that long? oh Gosh…. really?…. Yeah………… is that long….?…..I’m sure I went… like yesterday…


 …………….actually…. I can’t really talk now…………I’m with someone……just having a coffee….. ( I didn’t mention of the lemon tart)………yeah ok… 


……..ring me next week, it’s not so busy then…. and we can have a chat…..and meet..


…..Ok….yes, bye…..thanks…..yes, I will have a great day……you too, Jamie” 


Far out, that was quite untruthful.


But I was irritated, who was this high priest of healthiness and good living that I had never met, calling and probing my inner being, scrutinising and trying to scour my conscience, whilst also looking about for a weakness, a confession?…and a sale too, I belatedly twigged.


I pressed end on my mobile and returned to the conversation with my friend, the comforting coffee and the best ever lemon tart. I felt guilty and more like a sinner from the Dark Ages than an urban city-woman living the good life in a 21st century shopping mall.


Jamie, the chirpy voice from Your Best Self Health Club, turns out to have been a PT*. He did call me back dutifully the following week for a chat whereupon many murky layers of opaque truths surfaced.


Of course, it had been six weeks since I last went to the gym, but how long had it really been?


I had lied.


And I had to repent.


My chat with Jamie ended well, surprisingly, and so it happened that I forked out $285 for the top of the range Fitter, Faster & Fabulous: A 225 minute Strength and Stamina Personal Training package.


 I am still serving my penance, atoning for my long held errant ways.


 And suffering, a great deal.


* Chaddy: a colloquialism for Chadstone (Melbourne’s biggest shopping Centre in the S.E. suburbs).

* Roastery: I’ve decide the word cafe is now outdated…too 1990.

* PT: Personal Trainer, almost outdated, soon to be EP: Exercise Physiologist.


Kate Birrell is an artist and writer. She has produced many illustrated stories for the Almanac and, of course, the art for numerous Almanac covers, including The Tigers Almanac 2017. See more of Kate’s work HERE.



  1. Jim Kesselschmidt says

    Love it.

  2. Kate Birrell says

    Thanks Jim

  3. It is funny, Kate, because it is true!

  4. Love the honesty Kate. I don’t need a phone call. 4 hours of humiliation and frustration on the golf course last Saturday had me scouring You Tube golf tips videos for hours on Sunday morning. On the Monday morning drive to work I concluded that my 7 new cures were unlikely to work as I didn’t know what diseases I was trying to cure. $120 for an hour with a coach on the Driving Range tonight has put a spring in my step; better backswing rotation; a shallower downswing angle; and a hole in my pocket (gym memberships are a doddle).
    To be continued – next Monday? Still cheaper than the punt.

  5. Life’s cruel isn’t it Kate? The “good life” kills us, and a hard life kills us too.

    Interestingly I read recently that the generation that lived through the Great Depression had a life expectancy that increased, contrary to what scientists believed would have been the case (and scientists are hardly ever wrong). Why? Because they ate less. And didn’t indulge in, err, lemon tarts and the like.

  6. Kate Birrell says

    Hi Smokie…yeah oh so true.

    and Pete, how are you? I am so dismissive of phone calls…and am never interested in any follow up. I actually thought he was ringing to see to see why I hadn’t used my free pt session when I joined up a year ago.

    Anyway, I have never sent $ to the various agencies out there..but you could say the many $$ spent on tubes of paint and canvas is also a punt. But Hey..I a not regretting the gym expense because it has lifted me out of a movement funk. Life these days is too easily spent seated in various ways, work, leisure all of it. thought it better to shake it up now before the joints fuse.

    that extra set of eyes and extra push makes a difference.

    could be continued..goodluck with the swing

  7. Kate Birrell says

    Like your comment “the good life kills us, and the hard life kills us too” doomed… but, movement is the key, and I think with the Good Life upon us, supposedly, society moves less, hence physical and psychological ailments that currently afflict our world.

    and…. I originally had named my gym for this piece “The Good Life Health Club”…. but that was too close to the truth/the real thing! Hence the ‘Your Best Self Health Club.’

  8. E.regnans says

    Kate – I’m with Jim.

    Lemon tart.
    I’m also with you.

  9. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Oh Kate, that’s $285 you won’t have for coffee and tart!? You could always walk very fast, jog even, to the tart … I have been known to have coffee and tart for brekky and nothing much else til supper. It’s the French way. Culturally specific personal training?

  10. The Lemon Tart Health Studio & Roastery

    I’m in

  11. I hear you Kate. The prime product of sentience is guilt. Bugger. Love an annual slice of lemon tart!

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Kate can I book you to do my share re physical exercise ? ( I will never knock a good salesman )

  13. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    There’s a reworking of Stones song here, Kate. If you tart me up I never stop. Lemon yes, Neenish, definitely. Growing up with a traditional Greek mum I eventually learned to laugh at guilt. Took me a few decades though !

  14. Hi Mickey, yes there’s a whole industry out there cauterising senses to burn the guilt.
    Hi Malcom I’ll hit the Stairmaster in the morning and increase my 3 minutes to 4,,, if you never hear from me again, you will know why.
    Hi Phil most guilt is simply a bad and ingrained habit,, and yes often passed from one gen to another, Catholics are champions at it. My grandmother made sensational neenish tarts…at shearing time,, those shearer’s feasted. Hard to find really good ones these days. Most are commercially premixed with fake cream and dreadful pastry… no flavour.

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