Let me get one thing straight.
In spite of my buffed appearance, I am NOT a gym bunny.
I loathe exercise more than I loathe Facebook updates about exercise. I loathe exercise more than I loathe the new iWatch. I loathe exercise more than I loathe the idea of shitting on the pavement in full view of the world's media, which is also to say that if I'd been the one running the London Marathon in 2005, shitting on the pavement would have been the highlight of my race, Paula. All of which makes my recent love affair with an exercise bike, frankly, disturbing.
It all began a few weeks ago, during an episode of PMS so severe that not even smashing the kitchen up - normally a marvellous stress-buster - would have worked. So, having read that exercise was good for regulating hormones, I approached the exercise bike gathering dust in the study.
"Hello Mr Bike!" I said, brightly, hoping he'd forgive the years of neglect. "Are you pleased to see me or is that just a massive head tube?! Way-hay!!"
The exercise bike wasn't talking. But I could tell from the way a light went on as I brushed against his flanks that he was up for it. He even made an excited beeping noise as I straddled his seat to begin pedalling. At first, things were awkward, even strained. Nobody wanted to admit that this felt good, real good. But then, as I was approaching the summit of a virtual mountain pass, I could no longer ignore the prickling sensation in my solar plexus: the rush of wellbeing, spreading everywhere.
I pedalled harder, faster, and at higher resistance levels.
"Go me!" I shrieked euphorically.
"Beep beep de beep!" beeped the bike.
Soon I was entertaining a succession of endorphin-fuelled fantasies in which I was a normal, productive human being. I imagined waking up at 6am driven by a heady excitement about the working day. I imagined being able to hold down a nine-to-five job without falling headlong into a bottomless pit of despair. I imagined phoning editors and television commissioners to pitch writing ideas, as in actually PHONING, not emailing!
By the second day of my love affair with the exercise bike, I was able to proceed to the next transformational step of my, uh, transformation. Following thirty minutes of a kickass programme entitled Switchback Trail, I ticked off multiple items on my To-Do-List, including "Call Auntie Eileen TODAY to thank her for the birthday money". And all this whilst hoovering! I was growing new skill sets. I was on an accelerated schedule. I was powering through this shit like I was Angela fucking Merkel.
I should have known it wouldn't last, however. On Day Three, I was tired and a little bit emo. It was all to do with not going to bed on time the previous evening - 11.23pm instead of 10.30pm - causing a catastrophic 53-minute sleep deficit. The bike, meanwhile, was looking dishevelled but ready for action; an empty water bottle complete with lipstick traces, sitting at a rakish angle in the cup holder.
"Beep beep baby!" he said, drawing the beeps out, wantonly.
I felt awful, guilty, and slightly nauseous. I couldn't look him in the screen or touch his outstretched handlebars. Pedaling slowly at first, I tried customizing the settings to introduce mood-elevating variety, careful not to allow my hands to drift onto the metal plates that measure heart rate (because who wants to be reminded that the ageing pump in the middle of your chest could explode at any minute, right?) But it was no good. I wasn't feeling it. The bike gave a protest beep when I slowed down again.
"Sorry" I said, climbing off. "I'm not in the mood."
The lights on the screen grew dimmer. There was a film of moisture on the handlebars that I'm guessing was, maybe, tears. The empty water bottle suddenly looked, well, empty: a relic from happier times.
"It's not you. It's me!" I said. "I have a low boredom threshold."
"Me? Boring?!" he suddenly blurted, beeping hysterically.
"I'm gonna put you on ebay", I said, interrupting. "We'll find you a buffed gym bunny. Someone with an iWatch, I mean Apple Watch, with one of those built-in activity apps. It'll be like a ménage a trois. You'll be happy."
"But what if she gets runner's trots and accidentally shits on me like Paula Radcliffe?"
"Now you're being silly," I said.