I gave up smoking five years ago this December. Caroline and I read Allen Carr's book on how to quit smoking. He encourages the reader to smoke while reading the book, until the final chapter. Caroline had the Dutch version, which is at least 70 pages longer. Being a nicotine addict at the time, I was quite happy to draw on yet another cancer stick, until she caught up.
Five years later, I have given up using the excuse that my gain in weight is due to me stopping smoking. I put it down to happy, married life. Before, I would eat on the run, party all night and have the metabolism of a gang of hyenas. Now, I eat good food, every evening, am more relaxed, less stressed and it is l'habitude to drink wine with every meal.
Then there is the work I do. Since I started using my computer regularly, I tend to sit most of the day. We down mouse each day for a round of chopping, sawing, biking, walking or other odd jobs around the house, but it isn't enough. The Gascon diet centres around duck and other hearty stuff. And I love my food. I also like my wine and armagnac. I never put on weight. Perhaps it's my age. Oh dear.
Caroline brought up the uncomfortable subject of weight, one evening at the dinner table, just as I refilled my glass. It was painful to hear. But holding my stomach in, in front of her and the mirror, is not the solution. It's time to tone up and shape out.
I received a racing bike from our neighbours a while back. Since then, I have added a new derailler gear, new tyres and last Saturday I bought a complete cycling outfit. Helmet and all. I look the part at least.
Today, the weather was so inviting, I stripped off and zipped myself into the black leotard and bright orange top and climbed aboard my red stallion. Caroline was there to witness this inaugaral voyage, camera at hand. Darn.
Mr Wobbly Wheels sets off
I took it easy at first, but which ever way you cycle here, you always have to climb at least a couple of killer hills along the way. The upside being that some of the route is also downhill! An hour later, I finished with a flourish (having spotted Caroline working in the garden) hot, but happy. The tyres are so much thinner than those on my mountain bike, and can be hairy on fast descents over pot-holed back roads covered in mud. Dodging the odd farmer's dog running out to bite you and avoiding an old Papi who has just had a good (liquid-lined) lunch, pottering along in his rusty, white Peugeot, certainly keeps one sharp.
The aim is to get out at least twice a week, not eat and drink as much and get away from the computer more often. So when the summer comes, I can saunter around at something closer to my old fighting weight.
"Where are the gears on this thing?"