Thursday, 13 February 2014


The Elizabethans took a dim view of the winter season. Understandably - it was nigh on impossible to stay warm. People would be sown into their clothes in autumn - and not emerge from them till spring. Only the great frost fairs, held on the solid frozen river Thames in London offered any respite from the unyielding greyness - crammed with stalls and attractions as far as the eye could see.

These days we are better insulated. Our homes are warmer and we can pile on cold-defying clothes. We can enjoy the mercurial landscape, the frosty tableaux, the rural hoar frost ..... the floods.

I ventured out on the bike recently for a 20 mile spin - it looked pleasant enough - a hint of sunshine even - but the wind... oh my lord - it was fierce. A roaring gale, powerful enough to fell trees and send water the wrong way - up stream. The sky was the colour of fresh liver as I headed out on my usual route - but with an additional loop to take in the climb up to Bosworth. The wind was unrelenting - vicious, strong and forceful. It was laughable how it was able to hold me back, despite all my efforts and pressure on the pedals I couldn't move forward. The effect, combined with the cold left my fingers and feet numb.

As I struggled, laboured, up into Newton Burgoland I heard a dull crash - I thought it might be a car crash or a tree falling - as I approached the junction to Swepstone I could see what it was - the fingerpost had been blown over, the earth at the base black, rich and fresh. It sat, wedged on the grassy bank - I paused to take a photo before soldiering on.

The fallen sign
Talking of soldiering I am sure you won't need reminding that we are in the centenary year of the start of the first World War. My Grandfather was part of it - seems unbelievable but he was. He fought at Vimy Ridge and was shot through the face, the bullet passed straight through from one side to the other. He survived though and lived to ripe old age. I am prepared for the inevitable glut of documentaries to mark the event - I wonder if any of them will provide a fitting memorial for this centenary of the 'Great' war that, almost uniquely, resulted in nothing positive whatsoever. There was no silver lining in 1918, no lesson or benefit. Certainly nothing that mitigated its appalling cost in human life.

As I struggle back up the final hill towards home I think about those men in the trenches, on the front line, the mud, the stench, the death. My generation has had it easy really. Suddenly the ride seems different. I might be struggling, hurting, tired - but it could be worse.

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