Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day.....

So there it was, Christmas Day, all the frantic build up, the weeks of anticipation, the queues, the overspending, the overeating, the blatant commercialism..... all gone in a flash.

But I'm not complaining. I love Christmas despite what I know to be its short-comings. I don't care - and I do my best to make it last at least a week. Since as far back as I can remember I've dreamt of being able to stop time at Christmas - to hold on to its magic. I imagined never having to go back to school (or work) - that somehow, some mighty power would step in and that Christmas would just carry on, a perpetual state of everlasting happiness and comfort. Sadly it never happens.

Today I got up and decided to get out for a ride. It was a misty morning but  no sign of rain, cold but not freezing. 15 miles would be good. I had been tinkering with the old bike, I'd changed the battery in my mileometre and sprayed some oil over the drive chain area. I set off with two or three layers, warm leggings and number 2 gloves. It became immediately apparent that the mileometre wasn't fixed - I decided not to worry about it - The route is a familiar one - I know its distance off-by-heart.

The roads have a bright glassy sheen over them and as the low lying sun breaks through the mist the entire road becomes a giant mirror, unbearably bright. I am reduced to looking down, to the area just in front of the front wheel, with an occasional glance to the further distance. I pass a man on a bike who is out with his dog - he has the dog running loose in the road while he cycles - dangerous. He sees me approach and I hear him shouting to the dog who moves obediently to the side of the road - nevertheless a foolish practise I think. I cycle onward and revel in the tranquility and a feeling of wildness. It's quiet, no traffic at all, my hands are cold and I think number 3 gloves would have been a better choice. The sun is behind me now and is no hinderence. I see a large group of walkers up ahead - 20 or 30 people of all ages, as I close in I can see they aren't ramblers. They display none of the costume of the seasoned walkers - no boots or expensive clothing, no rucksacks or maps - perhaps a group from one of the villages getting together to walk off some of the Christmas excess? - as I pass the main party I see further smaller groups ahead - faster movers, split off from the main pack. I pass them all with shouts of "Morning" and "Happy Christmas".

I pass a field sprouting winter wheat, each blade tip has a bob of moisture which catches and reflects the sunlight - it's like natures own magnificent display of Christmas illuminations - the field glows and sparkles as if laid with a net of fibre optics. I turn to start the return loop and pass yet more walkers, perhaps part of the entourage from earlier, a flock of starlings rise from a field to my left, disordered, dipping and fetting across the open land.

I'm not feeling good by now - tired and lethargic - my fitness must be at all time low - at least since I embarked on regular cycling. This route I have cycled hundreds of times and yet feels strangely alien,  each slight rise is felt in the legs and I am aware that i am moving at a snails pace. As I approach home I'm relieved that I'm back - the last few yards require some effort and I feel as though I've been out all day. Once in the garage I strip down the faulty mileometre and change the batteries again - this time double checking all the connections and resetting the handlebar mounted unit. This does the trick - it flickers into life. All I need now is to put some miles onto it.

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