Try taking Carole Caplin without the pinch of salt

Health secretary John Reid’s idea of making lifestyle gurus available on the NHS isn’t new, for absurdity is an ancient and venerable affliction.

The Government’s plans to enable each and every one of us to enjoy the services of a personal lifestyle guru on the NHS, though pooh-poohed by the foolish and ignorant, is greatly to be welcomed.

For it is not sufficiently appreciated that lifestyle gurumanship, far from being a recent creation, let alone a New Labour fad, has a history dating back to earliest times.

The first known evidence appears in cave drawings discovered in southern France. Dating back to Neolithic times, these depict an early hunter-gatherer spearing a bison in the eye. Experts believe that this primitive man, though savage in many ways, was deeply caring. He killed the animal, prior to disposing of its remains in an environmentally sensitive way, to remove from his fellow cave dwellers the temptation to devour red meat.

In 38 BC, the Greek philosopher Misogynes first codified the ethical precepts by which lifestyle practice was to be governed. Some of these rules have survived to the present day, most notably the injunction that no practitioner should strive strenuously to prolong bowel movements beyond their allotted span.

The Romans are believed to have discovered colonic irrigation as long ago as 5 BC, and indeed fragments of lead piping used for the purpose, were discovered among the ruins of Pompeii.

This knowledge was lost until the flowering of learning, art and culture in the Italian Renaissance, when lifestyle gurus flourished, particularly in the glory that was Venice. The Medicis, for example, scrupulously followed the wise advice of Syphilis the Greek and ate at least five portions of vegetables a day. In Rome, Pope Julius II had a personal trainer, and the sight of His Holiness jogging around Vatican City surrounded by a retinue of plain-clothes Swiss Guardsmen was an inspiration to the entire Christian world, whose faith in life on Earth everlasting was confirmed.

But it was not until the Age of Enlightenment in England that lifestyle study and learning really took off. In 1682 a little-known Shropshire scholar, Edmond Pike, discovered the press-up. At first he was scorned and rejected by the authorities, but eventually his achievement was recognised by the Royal Society and his portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds hangs today in the Wimpole Street headquarters of the Royal College of Lifestyle Gurus alongside that of Benjamin Thwaite, who discovered quality time in 1703.

The industrial revolution brought such wonderful mechanised inventions as the steam- powered detox scrub and Silas Arkwright’s horse-drawn cellulite remover.

Of course we have come a long way since then. Not that lifestyle has been without its blacker episodes, most notably towards the end of the 19th century when the activities of the so-called resurrectionists scandalised Victorian England. Men such as the notorious Dewhurst twins raided abattoirs at night, seizing the corpses of dead cows, which were eaten in large numbers by an ignorant and unsuspecting public.

It was not until our own time that these vile and unnatural practices were brought under proper control and the public made aware of the dangers.

Today, due in no small measure to the wonderful work put in by Carole Caplin, we know that sugar, salt, tobacco, alcohol and indolence are bad for us and that avocado bathroom suites are so Seventies and to be avoided.

Until recently, however, the services of a personal lifestyle guru were beyond the means of most people. But, thanks to health secretary John Reid, as fine a specimen of a healthy human as one could wish to set eyes upon, Carole Caplins are to be for the many, not the few.

Just by calling a helpline you can summon to your side a lifestyle consultant who will bring you fully up-to-date with the latest rules and regulations concerning compulsory healthy living.

And not just health. Lifestyle is for life and is holistic. Your local guru will be able to advise you not just on a range of suitable fruit and nuts to eat and how often, but also on whether blue silk drapes match your upholstery. Most gurus will offer a one-stop shop: a single consultation should be able to cover everything from when and how to get your leg over, to the latest styles in tattoos and nipple rings. On your way out you can pick up a selection of informative leaflets, printed in 16 languages, on such topics as “Five Easy Ways to Modern Urban Chic” and “Essential Roughage for You, Your Partner, and Kids, Bless Them”.

If you are unsure when and how to brush your teeth, no need to be shy or embarrassed, just ask. Don’t know whether you have struck exactly the right life/work balance? Help is close to hand.

But a word of warning: stay clear of so-called “alternative” lifestyle gurus. These dangerous quacks offering superficially seductive remedies such as choice and moderation, have been known recklessly to expose people to advertisements for junk food and to push substances such as Mars bars, Hobnobs and Pepsi-Cola.

Anyone approached by one of these dangerous individuals should stay well clear and inform the authorities immediately.

Remember, together we can build a better Britain for tomorrow, save the planet, achieve equality for the many not the few, and rid our nation of the scourge of obesity and cerise flock wallpaper.

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