Monday, 20 February 2012

Sunday sun day....

How could I resist? - a beautiful, sunny sunday, cold but spring-like and inviting.

I have noticed blackbirds are now singing at dawn and dusk as they start to mark their spring territories. Even when the weather remains cold, the lengthening hours of daylight continue to bring birds closer to breeding condition. Gradually the birds will sing for longer periods each day as spring moves closer.

Weeping willows are beginning to put out fresh green leaves, only two or three months after losing last year’s - which still lie like small purple fish on the ground or in the water beneath them. Small flowers like silvery buttons are appearing... the white bells of snowdrops are nodding on innumerable verges.

As I pedal I make a conscious effort to look around - I'm not too interested in going fast - today it's about looking and seeing and enjoying a few hours out in the fresh air. As I approach Newton Burgoland I stop at a farm gate and dismount for a while. I take a drink and lean against the gate to survey the landscape. There is an extraordinary stillness almost a suspense. It is a charming characteristic of English weather that at times, one season borrows days from another. Spring from summer, winter from spring. And it may be that these milky days of winter which seemed borrowed from March or April are filled with the sadness of things out of their time. Or it may be with ourselves, with our sudden nostalgia for sunlight. There is a remarkable grace about the trees here, a laceiness, a pattern. From afar they have the permanence of steel, they save the land from barrenness.

I mount up and move on - the sun feels warm. There are lots of people about today - ramblers, dog walkers, cyclists - I even saw a man on roller blades. The sunny warmth seems to have tempted everyone out. Badgers are spring-cleaning their setts - in the autumn they take in bracken and leaves to make a warm, steamy chamber for the winter, but now they are pushing out the old and replacing it with new moss and early plants - their cubs will be born soon and they will need plenty of fresh, clean bedding. The cubs will not be seen above ground until April or May, by which time they will look like small versions of their parents. I pass a field that contains at least a hundred molehills. As the sun catches them they resemble a minature mountain range.

I am often surprised how my mind drifts when I'm out on my bike - sometimes I'm totally lost somewhere and suddenly realise I've travelled the last x amount of miles without being fully aware of where I am or where I'm going. Today I found myself mulling over the idea of how unnatural products pass through the marketing department and are presented as wholesome and natural. Early cars had names that suggested grace and speed and nature - Swallow, Jaguar, Alvis Silver Eagle, Singer Gazelle, Humber Super Snipe etc. They were the precursor of the present rash of 4WDs, SUVs - we have a surfeit of acronyms these days - We had better pass over the Jaguar SS.

When I got back I sat down and enjoyed watching the Cycling World Cup on TV held at the new Velodrome in London. It was exciting stuff - the speeds are incredible but the most striking thing was the size of the riders' thighs!!! - huge, particularly the German riders for some reason. Take a look!

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