Wednesday, 8 January 2014


So here we are in the first week of a new year. Here, in the Midlands of England, we have escaped most of the devastating storms that have decimated some areas. We've experienced some rain and wind but generally we've had it easy. It's mild considering the time of year and for that at least I expect we should be thankful.

Last weekend was spent with my youngest daughter who celebrated her 16th birthday - it went well. She wanted a bookcase for her bedroom and a watch - and money of course. And in the evening both daughters came over for a night of movies and food. Crispy Aromatic Duck, Chicken Satay, Mashed potato with bacon bits and peas and Southern fried chicken popcorn. And for desert Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Not exactly fine dining - but that's kids for you.

My Sunday ride out was a toughie - it was cold and windy but I needed to make the effort. The light was bright, a kind of spring half-light, not shadow and not sun, a soft and rather treacherous glimmering from behind threatening cloud. As I made my round my usual 15 mile route I was thankful I'd picked my number 4 gloves. These have the benefit of a double lining; a glove within a glove and the extra insulation was most welcome. There was a continuous dancing of branches as I idled my way round the course, with nothing of benefit in the way of windbreaks as I laboured slowly up to Newton Burgoland and round to Shackerstone, on the verges the thin, speary tussocks of grass flattened by the wind and rain into a kind of brownish mattress. The land is bare and empty and I am surprised by the lack of signs of life. There is no one around - no cyclists, no walkers, barely any road traffic. It is as if everyone else has decided to stay indoors, feet up, in front of the fire.

The return loop is marginally easier, the wind is behind me for a stretch and I enjoy the respite. It is quiet now, the constant whistle and moan of the wind is gone and everything feels good. With wind aid I blast through to Congerstone before turning up the long drag to Barton in the Beans. There is a canal bridge at the bottom of the rise which as a short incline of what feels like 25% - it never gets easier no matter how fit I am or how good I feel. Today it feels steeper than ever and at the apex I'm struggling to turn the cranks. I take it steadily up the rise - it's around three miles to home with most of it uphill.

The last two hundred yards are the best - the prospect of a warm log burner, a cup of tea and hot buttered toast is enough to stimulate a last burst burst of energy.

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