Last summer I spent a few weeks living alone in a farmhouse in the Tuscan countryside miles from civilisation and carless. The first time I ventured out on a bike was to be the last. It was all tally-ho fun to begin with, flying down one curving incline after another, with my shirt catching the breeze and billowing out behind me (it hadn’t yet occurred to me that I would have to pedal back up all these fun slopes: I rarely dwell on the likely consequences of my actions). I bumped and flew past the small lake at the foot of the valley where cattle were drinking and began to feel a bit thirsty myself. The thought of a bar became my oasis though I knew it was still at least six kilometres away from any outpost of civilisation. Then I hit a series of uphill slopes, one after another and finally had to get off the bike and walk it. A sign announcing that Paganico, the nearest village, was still five kilometres away and the sight of another steep incline ahead finally defeated me and I decided the only thing to do was to head back. For a while I sauntered back down slopes with butterflies fluttering in my flight path and lines of white gulls waiting for the fields to be sown again but after a while arrived the relentless uphill part of the journey. Even pushing the bike exhausted me and several times I had to stop to catch my breath. When I could finally see the eccentric little yellow house across the valley I was virtually hyperventilating and feeling sick. The flies buzzing in my ears I told to fuck off and even the sweet smells of the wild roadside flowers began to smell like mockery. When I reached the house of the neighbouring farmers I began retching - in full view of their windows and I bet they had a giggle at my expense. Finally I dumped the bike and staggered home. When I could smoke again I made a vow – from now on, I said to myself, I will limit my forays into the realms of physical exercise to carrying my dictionary from one side of my room to the other.