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Hemingway Adventure

Paris, France (fourth day)

Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureI have only boxed twice in my life, and both occasions were in the same school tournament.

Having disposed of someone as inexperienced as myself in a messy first round scrap, I found myself catapulted into the final to face the only other competitor in my weight, a Junior Schools champion. He was a compassionate man who hit me so hard early on that the rest of the bout felt like having a tooth out under local anaesthetic.

So it is with mixed feelings that I find myself at a ninety-year-old iron-framed gymnasium off the Avenue Jean Jaurès for the early evening boxing class. This takes place in a room off the main gym, which is presently full of middle-aged ladies with their hands in the air. This is the daily aerobics class for senior citizens and it looks much more suitable for me. But it’s too late now for, with a charming smile, the boxing teacher, Monsieur Chiche, begins to squeeze me into a pair of recently vacated, exceedingly sweaty, boxing gloves.

Monsieur Chiche is small and built like a barrel, but he must be in his sixties, and I worry that I might hurt him more than he hurts me. This proves not to be a problem as he is only putting on the gloves before turning me over to his son, who is also small but built like a whippet.

Apart from Monsieur Chiche senior I must be one of the oldest people ever to have climbed into this ring. All around me are young, wiry lads, many of them African, who look lithe and mean as they rain punches at each other.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Paris, France (fourth day)
  • Country/sea: France
  • Place: Paris
  • Book page no: 84

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