Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Early Autumn...

It seems to have happened so suddenly this year - autumn has crept up on me like a thief in the night, I went on the bike for two consecutive days; both were incredibly beautiful with intense, aquamarine blue skies and strong sunshine. The air was head-clearingly fresh and the light was bright and sparkling. The newly turned soil in the fields lay glistening in long furrows and the grass remains thick and lush on the verges.

I'm heading nowhere in particular - I just had to be out - the day seemed so perfect. I amble along at a leisurely pace - no rush - plus I'm troubled by an annoying clicking noise coming from..... somewhere? - Noises on a bike are so infuriating - there's something about the airflow that moves the sound around, so that just when you think you've pinpointed the cause, you realise it's coming from somewhere else entirely. So it is with this interminable click-click-click. Like all annoying noises it is intermittent. Just when I think it has gone away it will return with a vengence and spoil my ride. Anyway I've decided it is the bottom bracket - most likely a bearing. Or it could be a chainring, or maybe a pedal - I don't think it's my shoes... but you can never be sure. Gary had a strange noise on his bike - it niggled him for months until he finally discovered it was the bit you pull on the zip of his coat that was slapping against the fabric - sounded like a click on the bike though. I'll be stripping my bike down soon - as each day passes I'm looking forward to the day when I sort that click out - I know I'm going to sort it - i'm replacing everything. Only trouble is I might not ever know for sure where the cause lay.

I passed a couple of cyclists who looked like they had a problem. I stopped, of course. They were an oldish couple - he wearing glasses and a friendly smile, she lugubrious and sour. She'd had a puncture. He couldn't fix it. I stepped in - my lycra giving just a vague hint of a superperson, I soon sorted the problem and even pumped up the tyre for them. "I must reward you" said smiley man - "No need sir, just doing my job" I should have said before disappearing in a cloud of dust with a click-click-click and a wave... but it was too late. He opened his saddlebag and passed me..... an orange.

When was the last time you peeled an orange? It’s complicated. It’s fiddly. It’s messy. It’s like your first marriage. These days I think we’d rather eat satsumas, because they’re simpler to get out of the packet, though they don’t taste of much. Oranges were once such a precious, sweet and tart delicacy. The memory and imitation of the sun. Finer than any indigenous fruit.

They were probably brought to this country, along with lemons and roses, by returning crusaders. People built elaborate glass temples to grow them in. A shipload of rotting oranges from seville dumped in the port of Dundee, led to the invention of marmalade. Oranges were candied, and preserved, their skins dried, their flowers used for scent and, every Christmas, children would make pomanders. I remember oranges being magical, like The National Health in your pocket...

On day two of my riding the roads were covered in leaves, crispy like dried out paper. The sun was shining again but there was a little more wind and the dead leaves rattled in it. As I rode on the same route as yesterday, patrolling for any pensioners in distress I started thinking of the term 'long in the tooth' I always thought "long in the tooth" referred to horses, but your teeth do get longer. And toe nails. My toe nails are now made out of a material that could be used to clad the space shuttle: tougher than steel (than scissors, anyway); a browny yellow colour, they're lethal. I could cut roof tiles with my big toe. I rode out through the usual quiet lanes - no one around? - it seemed such perfect riding weather, I had expected to see at least a few cyclists. Then on the way back I passed a club run on the opposite side of the road, maybe 20 or so riders - quite an impressive bunch and moving smoothly - the 'whoosh' as they passed me was loud - they looked serious, down on the drops and pushing hard. Of course I upped my pace as I saw them approaching - it's one of the things we do when we see other riders. They probably did the same when they saw me coming.

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