I was - slowly, reluctantly and resentfully but surely - coming to grips with the fact that getting fit is a gradual business. I had dreamed of occasional blazes of glory. A slab of fat suddenly falling away to reveal a perfect sextet of abdominal muscles here, a quick tautening of glutei maximi there, so that one's buttocks - in Victoria Wood's matchless words - no longer skim the carpet, a wholesale flushing of the body and spirit with confidence and wellbeing, perhaps. But, in my clogged and inefficiently pumping heart of hearts, I knew how it would really be; a matter of small - nay, infinitesimal - gains, physical improvements all but invisible to the naked eye, and a mental outlook located firmly in the deepest dales of resistance but making occasional day trips into the verdant fields of optimism and hope.
And so it proved. I still have no visible musculature, but I do have the ability and willingness to run for a bus that I would once have simply watched pass by without the thought of increasing my pace to catch it. I can ride the bike all the way to the park without having to ask passing pensioners to help me walk it up the slope by the golf course. And while I haven't taken the shroud off the bathroom mirror yet, I do feel noticeably less like opening a vein when I have to get changed for the swimming pool. Actually, I'm lying about the swimming pool, but I do feel as though even that may change in the fullness of time.
Best of all - and really, a measurable success by anyone's standards - was that this week, forced by the heatwave out of my jeans and into the motley collection of cotton rags from Primark that pass for a summer wardrobe (the paucity of which will be clear from the fact that the forthcoming indicator of my success is known simply as "the skirt"), I found that the skirt fitted. Last year, dear friends, this was not so. This feat might, of course, denote only the extent of my dehydration rather than weight loss or muscle tone proper. However. Let us not dwell on that possibility, but rather rejoice - if only momentarily - in the fact.