Monday, 12 March 2012

Enjoying the sunshine...

What a morning. I love waking on a sunday to find clear blue skies... and warmth and calm. I felt excited to get dressed, throwing on my riding attire as quickly as possible. I simply couldn't wait to get out. As I dress, all the time I am looking out willing the weather to stay. I notice three cyclists ride past - that just makes me more eager to be out there... with them. I can't help myself. I am overwhelmed by happy feelings: the unexpected kiss of clemency and a certain sense of spring. Before I knew what I was doing I was on my way down to the garage to get my bike, and then, at last, I'm away.

The sky is a simple bottomless blue with a few feint whiffs of fluffy white cloud. Immaculate England gently going green before my exhilarated eyes. I pedal hard and fast - I'm almost laughing with the heady intoxication of it all - it just feels great to be out on the road, early, quiet, warm and free. A heron rose off the pond and skirted the woods low, heralding my arrival. All the confusing undergrowth has been removed, just a few handsome specimen trees are left. A couple of huge oaks as old as the hills plus one on its side, host to a hundred kinds of creepy-crawly. Ditches that have sat stagnant are gurgling and bubbling. Nature is active and waking from its slumber.

I freewheel down the long hill to the first village. Quite often the joy of this is hindered by the sure knowledge that I have to labour up this same hill to get home - today it doesn't matter - it can't hurt me - not today. It suddenly dawned on me that everything here, the whole shebang, is always moving – changing drastically. It's a massive green engine, particularly at the moment. The view is different every day and when it rains the whole thing changes colour. I often wondered how Isaac Newton felt when he realised everything in the universe was in motion. "Alles movit," he stated, the greatest ever soundbite, possibly the cleverest two words spoken in history, much snappier than e=mc2, too, even in Latin. Anyway, now I know how he felt.

Clear skies stretch on forever, and I wonder if I should have worn shorts; suddenly, the warmth seems to invite a dawdle. Time to slow down a bit and take a note of that previously inaccessible patch of woodland, or the overgrown spinney, and suddenly the endless, bottomless complications of life and living all unexpectedly make sense; the big machine we live in paying out one of its occasional jackpots. Beguiling scenery; the enchantment of middle age; the transporting smells; the weather all of a sudden overwhelming. The visceral thrill of the throb of nature more than enough for now: Where else would I want to be?

As I dawdle along the worst thing happens. I am overtaken. He snook up on me - came out of the sun - its something cyclists don't like - almost to be feared. But today it doesn't matter. I'm on my old bike and he's riding something slick and carbon. As he goes past he shouts "morning" and I reply with the same. He isn't going much faster and I up my pace - I can tell that I could keep up with him, but I don't care, I ease off and spend time looking at the scenery. It seems utterly silent, perfect,  I work my way along the road at a stately pace, quite alone, tripping along, lost in my thoughts, I caught sight of another vast and stately heron unfolding itself, not with the startled panic of a deer, but calm and statesmanlike. An improbably exotic creature the colour of liquid steel, stretching its wings and walking up an invisible ladder to settle at the very tip of a Scots pine, like a tasteful reinterpretation of a Christmas tree fairy announcing the festivities of the new season. I am sure that just before spring is the best time of year: all sweet anticipation and unfulfilled potential. Promise is always so much better than the real thing.

Up ahead now I spot three cyclists turning into Derby Lane - my route. I wonder if I can catch them? - I up my cadence and give it a go. Soon I'm right up with them - but there're more of them - a club run. As I join up one of them shouts to warn the others to make space for me to pass - but I decline - I'm happy to ride along with them for a while. They are riding out from Nuneaton, a regular Sunday morning crowd. The chap I talk to is an ex-rugby payer who has taken up cycling to keep fit after retiring from chasing the egg. His friend is riding a Specialised single speed machine and goes into some detail about how riding this type of bike has improved his fitness over the winter. It transpires he rode LeJog two years ago and we exchange notes as we make our way towards Shackerstone. Riding with this crowd has increased my overall speed - I don't notice the effort though and soon I'm at my turn off point - I wish them well and turn off for the last long climb toward home. For some reason I notice the complex geometry of roofs, gables and alleys amongst the buildings at the junction – elegant  Georgian houses and farm buildings. And rising above them all, on the far side, the tower of a distant church with a backdrop of wooded hills beyond.

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