Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A close shave....

Once again the wintery weather deflated my plans to get out on the road last weekend. I did manage a short ride of 15 miles on Saturday afternoon - in the rain, actually sleet - but it was a half-hearted effort, to be frank I didn't want to be out there, it was miserable, windy, cold and I got soaked through. It should be warmer now? - The last few years have produced some remarkably warm and sunny days in early spring and this winter seems to have dragged on and on.

One thing though, during my ride I was encouraged by my speed - I opted for a hilly route around familiar roads and the miles passed quickly - I'm not sure if it was because my mind was on problems at work, I sometimes find that solutions to specific problems pop into my head when I'm out on the bike. There have been a number of occasions when I've needed to stop to tap something into my phone so that I don't forget it - today was one of those days and I felt mildly satisfied that despite the inclement conditions something positive had been produced. Perhaps because of that my riding pace had increased, the euphoric moment had somehow upped my performance?

Then on Sunday Gary sent me a text to say he'd had a close shave with a 4WD and a trailer - I called him and he told me that he'd been out around the lanes close to home and on a particularly nasty 'S' bend had been overtaken by a 4 wheel drive pulling a trailer - a car came in the opposite direction forcing the 4WD to push into the side and driving Gary off the road - then as the vehicle passed him, the trailer actually hit him! - thankfully he was okay and somehow managed to stay on his bike, although shocked and shaken. The vehicle didn't stop but Gary got the registration number and (like me) tapped it into his phone - a while later he spotted the same vehicle heading towards him from the opposite direction - he attempted to flag the driver down - but the vehicle carried on. After another 15 minutes or so he spotted the same vehicle again, obviously the driver was ferrying something backwards and forwards on the trailer - this time Gary stopped him and some choice words were exchanged! In essence the driver said that he didn't hit Gary and that Gary had stopped to let him pass!!! - Gary's bruised shoulder and damaged jacket tell a different story - and I understand that the police have now been informed - we await to see what course of action they will take (if any) - here is an example of the benefits of a helmet camera - recorded evidence!!

Anyway, this incident could obviously have been a whole lot worse - and serves as a timely reminder that even the quiet lanes are dangerous - there are plenty of arsehole drivers out there! - be careful.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Looking at the snow....

It's Sunday - Mother's day. My Mum is spending the day with my sister - I'm off the hook until next week when I've arranged a second, delayed, celebration which will involve a trip to a big garden centre and the purchase of a suitable leafy shrub followed by a cosy pub for lunch. I had planned to make the most of a Motherless Mothers Day by getting out for a long ride - instead of paying twice the price for a pub carvery I could be getting in some much needed miles.

It was a good plan - but scuppered by the return of blizzard like conditions here in the heartlands. There was a silence as I woke this morning - I thought for a second I'd woken in the middle of the night - but the light suggested I was wrong. I struggled to the window and gazed out on a white morning. A scene of wind scattered snow, of wildness and bleakness - wonderfully invigorating but hopeless for cycling.

A cup of tea whilst lying, staring at the ceiling got me thinking..... at the close of 2012 I think I switched from a process of slow but gradual improvement to one of managed decline. This new outlook I believe is one much more attuned to reality. I wasn’t, I realised, getting better everyday, in every way - in fact I was coming apart a little each day - like old coir matting.

Alongside the familiar infirmities and complaints I nursed through 2012, I aquired several new ones, so little understood by modern medicine that I felt obliged to name them myself. I list them here in the hope that once you read them you will acknowledge them too - in 2013 we’re all going down together.

Phantom phone: I have a creaking tendon in my upper thigh activated when i shift weight from one foot to the other -it leads me to believe my phone is vibrating in my pocket - "Sorry" I say to whomever I’m with - "this might be important". Only to find that the phone isn’t even switched on. It’s a malady of the 21st century - the advent of the silent-ring mobile has transformed what once would have been a harmless symptom of age into a psychosis characterised by the belief that people are trying to contact me. I imagine that a lot of sufferers are reticent in coming forward because they are reluctant to tell a doctor they hear voices in their leg.

Lightbulb neck: A painful and debilitating seizure of the muscles running from the left ear to the shoulder blade, which strikes without warning whenever I am handed a step ladder and it is suggested that I might like to change the broken light bulb in the dining room. The only thing that seems to relieve the agony is a quiet sit down in a darkened dining room - which is lucky.

Gunshot alarm disorder: Several times a month I am awoken from deep sleep by a noise that sounds like someone blasting a hole through the door with a shotgun. I sit bolt upright in bed, breathing hard and listening for the follow-up shots. Hearing nothing but the rapid thudding of my heart. It seems logical to assume that the sound occurred in a dream but it always seems too loud to be a product of my unconcious mind. It’s either a manifestation of some, so far, unaddressed anxiety or it’s the small picture, that is held to the wall in the kitchen below by blue-tack, dropping off again.

Acute back end data loss - I first noticed this when I came across my youngest daughters math’s workings out on a scrap of paper. They looked like something mysterious you might find carved on a stone tablet in a Lord of the Rings movie. At that moment I felt the remnants of an entire branch of knowledge - lets call it algebra - leave my brain forever. It’s as if my mind has decided to rid itself of anything hazy and incomplete - in order to concentrate on two pin numbers and three internet passwords. I’m shedding information in the way a glacier calves icebergs on a hot july afternoon. It’s not painful though.

Cameron Syndrome: For reasons that are unclear whenever I find myself faced with intractable difficulties I think: "what would David Cameron do?" - I realise it’s neither advisable nor wholly sane to adopt the moral compass of a man who changes his mind like the wind changes direction - but you’d be surprised at how many of life’s problems can be resolved with the knowledge that a U-turn is just round the corner.

That’s enough for now ..... sorry, there goes my leg - I should probably take this.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Feels like spring...

There's the feeling of spring in the air and although pleasant there is still something ominous about it, quiet and calm, too soft perhaps. There is a metaphoric lion sleeping, here we need to treat weather patterns as though a fitful beast - inconsequent, unreliable, treacherous and ever changing. Stormy and sweet, hot and bitter - there really is no way of knowing what is coming next, the days are fickle, the seasons swirl and drift. And so, waking to a blue sky with the sun fresh and bright, a beautiful spring morning offers a rare opportunity to embark on a longish ride.

I rush to dress, eager to get out and lose myself along the lanes. Although the view from my bedroom is  encouraging the reality is that it is, in fact, still cold. I set off and immediately realise I need thicker gloves. No matter though - I decide that I'll acclimatise and the effort of a couple of sharp hills will warm me soon enough. There is a sense of tranquillity and soundlessness as I meander through familiar villages and empty lanes. I notice the paradox of silence and movement, of stillness and life as I work my way through Shakerstone and Snarestone before making a rare detour towards Twycross. The silence is broken by the uneasy cries of a flock of rooks and I notice a slight swirly breeze drifting over the barren open farmland.

After the long slow rise to Twycross I turn left back towards Congerstone and from there the sharp, steep rise up to Market Bosworth - this is a hill I detest, it would be fair to say i detest all hills, but this one is always tough - there is a brief respite prior to the summit, roadworks! - temporary traffic lights give me the chance to catch my breath before the final push to the town centre. I pass through the town, already bustling with people shopping, carrying bags and browsing round the market stalls. I head out towards Cadeby and from there through Sutton Cheney towards Dadlington and then Stoke Golding. I am enjoying the wildness, the bleak landscape and trying to remember how it looked just a few months ago with the trees in full leaf and the fields overflowing with crops. There is a particular spot I always enjoy during summer, a junction where, as I turn to drop down between two rows of farm buildings, there is a distant view of patterned fields and rolling hills - it looks totally different at this time of year but I realise that it won't be long before the scene in my mind becomes once again a reality.

I pass the pub I like in Stoke Golding and head out of the village towards Upton, There is a Hare at the roadside, stationery but totally alert. The first I've seen this year. As I approach he rises and steps tentatively into the road - and then suddenly he bursts into a ferocious run along the road ahead - I hope that there are no cars around, and then he twists off through the hedge. I look for him as I reach the spot but he's long gone.

I'm warm now, the past few miles have been under the welcoming warmth of the sun and I feel content and happy and glad to be out. My legs are complaining slightly and I am unable to sustain any long bursts of speed - but it doesn't matter, I'm content to linger and enjoy the morning, the freshness and the light. I pass through Upton, overtaking a rider even slower than me - this manoeuvre necessitates a burst of sustained speed to ensure a good distance is gained over my victim - sad, but that's how it is out on the road!

I turn left through Shenton and from there wind my way through Far Coton and then towards the water park at Bosworth - then a puncture! - damn! I pull in to attend to it, removing the wheel, tyre and tube - suddenly there is an endless stream of cyclists passing by from both directions - all shapes, sizes and ages - each one offers consolation and help - I acknowledge them and speed up my repair process - i want to get back on the road as quick as possible.

The last five or six miles are slow - the puncture repair has left me cool and my legs feel tired. I claw my way up the last couple of hills towards home, by now i'm thinking of a reward - the prospect of a hot mug of tea and a bacon sandwich provide the appropriate spur and I up my cadence as the church spire in my village moves ever closer.

34 miles covered - longest ride this year!