Thursday, 16 February 2012


I haven't been out much. The cold snap and a spate of busyness at work meant that I a) didn't fancy it .... and b) couldn't find the time. Pathetic excuses, I know. However, it feels warmer - the days are most definitely longer - and there's more optimism in the air.

Last weekend Gary and I organised a quiz night for a village fundraiser. We managed to include a few cycling questions and the event raised around £180.00 in total. The evening reminded me that, a few years ago, we regularly played in pub quizzes in the area. I particularly remember one quiz, our answer to a question was 'The Starship Enterprise'. It is an indication, either of our lack of knowledge or the deviousness of the question setter, that the correct answer was 'The Flying Scotsman'.

 So, It's Wednesday afternoon, I'm wrapped up and out on the bike - which looks like it's been used to plough a field - really must get it cleaned. There's a slight breeze but in general it's bright and fresh. The lanes drift away into the gentle mist - this landscape is that of my childhood - of books and tales of Robin Hood and merry men dressed in green. The hedges are being cut at the moment, the debris is considerable and the tiny steel-hard barbs that are strewn along the road are a cyclists worst enemy. It suddenly occurs to me - those thousands of miles... or hundreds of thousands of miles of hedge that have been destroyed since the war - I’m damned if i can see where they went? - Olde England must have been cluttered in an endless maze of prickly hawthorn.

I pedal on, surprised at my speed - I'm moving along at around 20mph - feeling good, strong even. I feel myself smile - it is so enjoyable getting out again. My imagination moves to the months ahead - the soft breath of warm air, a cockerel crowing, the cry of a blackbird, shorts and short sleeves...all quicken the mind into re-creation.

The mantra of modern culture that most of hold close to our hearts is "Lord, grant me instant gratification” but, released from the bondage of riches and avarice, the reward for those who seek out the simple pleasure of riding a bike will be worth more. This simple, utilitarian, ubiquitous machine, little changed since the birth of the mechanical age can still hold its own. Even though millions of things have been conceived, manufactured and used - millions and millions of gadgets, great and small. And our lives are awash with the efforts of ingenuity and physics. But how many of these things have made the jump from utility to culture?

I'm approaching home now - all that is left of the day’s brightness is the vivid yellowy orange of the sun sinking low between skeletal black trees with distant, bleak mauve hills against a grey sky. I flick on my lights as the day turns darker and I arrive home. I'm still smiling as I push my bike into the garage.

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