Archives for September 2012

If Only (Again)

Some 27 miles ridden in decent enough weather – over to Henley, across to Knowl Hill and then the lanes thereabouts. Coming back in to Reading, the last three or four miles were in a properly heavy shower – bouncing up off the road, cars with wipers on double speed stuff.

It’s all too tempting to moan. If only I’d set out just a few minutes earlier, or gone a little bit quicker.

On the other hand, I got to smell that great smell that you only get with rain on roads and pavements that have been dry for a little while; I got to talk to a small and seemingly quite old Asian lady in a bus shelter near Sonning as I shared the shelter with her while the worst of it passed over; and I got to feel rain on my face – which is rather enjoyable once you stop thinking it’s terrible.

I don’t think it’s me; I think it’s a fairly common response to grumble about ‘bad luck’ and think ‘if only’. If that’s just human nature, perhaps the most interesting thing is that giving in to human nature isn’t an inherently positive thing.

Chairs lined up on the edge of a field

And if I’d gone a shorter route I wouldn’t have seen these chairs …

Shocking For Everyone

Earlier today, if you’d been around the Bath Road/Twyford area in Berkshire, you could have endured the mildly shocking sight of a fat old bloke riding an old fixed wheel bike. You’d probably have thought something along the lines of ‘he looks like he’s struggling a bit’, and if you could have said as much to him, he’d have agreed. He’d have bemoaned that he couldn’t pedal much over 100rpm, mentioned that he felt just a little bit on the cold side of right, admitted that he was feeling very aware that he was an over-weight ex-smoker, and added that because this was the first time out on a fixed wheel bike for quite a while, it was all a bit of a shock to his system.

If you’d been able to speak to him at the end of the ride he’d also have added that riding a fixed wheel for the first time for ages on a cool day with the added frisson of heavy rain was even more of a shock to his system, because rain it most certainly did for the last 10 miles or so.

Needless to say, that fat old man was me, and that was one very tiring, soggy jaunt. The obvious conclusion, of course, is that I must do it more often.

A Cinelli Record handlebar stem - for readers of a certain vintage

A Cinelli Record handlebar stem – appreciated by readers of a certain vintage

Just Yuk

It doesn’t happen often, but today’s was a grotty ride and I’d have been quite happy not to have done it.

The sign to Bury Down on the Ridgeway, near Wantage

A bad day on the bike. You could have put us out of our misery and buried us just down there.

The intention was a ‘blow the cobwebs out’ trip on the Ridgeway up and around the Wantage area with Charli. The reality was a hard slog on a very windy day with lots of mud and water around after the downpours of yesterday – the ‘worst September storm for 30 years’, apparently. I fell off – albeit slowly and without doing any damage, Charli nearly did and both of us were happy to cut it short and go home. Neither of us had ‘anything in the legs’ as they say – for some reason we were both running on empty.

Hey ho – so it goes. It’s rare that there’s a day I’d rather have not ridden. Of course, as is always the case, a bad day is far more memorable and makes far more impact on your consciousness than all the good ones. That seems fairly natural: that makes it yet another example of natural not always equating to good.

Your Death Is A Low Priority

If the forecasts are anything to go by, today’s ride was the last on a sunny day for quite a while; and the temperature drop is already very real. Autumn’s here. I don’t understand all the riders you see out and about in shorts on cold days: I was always told to keep your joints warm or you’d risk damage.

Talking on my mobile is that important

Talking on my mobile is that important

Talking of damage; today was a day of drivers on mobile phones. I didn’t have any near misses though I saw one between two cars, with the driver of the car in the wrong yakking on a phone she was holding to her ear.

I don’t give a damn if you kill yourself. I do object if you maim yourself as you’ll be an expensive burden on society. What I have real trouble with is the obvious fact that there’s a fair chance you’ll kill or maim someone else if you crash while you’re talking on your phone.

There are any number of reports on how stupid/dangerous it is to use a mobile while driving, including indications that it’s more dangerous than drink-driving. Still people think they know better.

Given the non-urgency or, often, pure inanity of most communication, today I found myself wondering if they could stop mobiles working when they’re travelling at more than, say, 4 miles an hour. If they could it would solve the problem overnight.

Whatever I wonder though, whatever solutions might be out there, I know and you know that nothing will be done about it. Mobile phones are too popular; politicians – the only people who could initiate action – are too callow to lead and show vision, are only able of pandering to what they perceive as the popular mood.

The upshot is that every road death attributable to a mobile phone is a low priority – lower than a politician getting re-elected. They’ll jump on the ‘lower speed limits’ bandwagon if there’s a fatality on a road in their constituency, whether speed causes the crash or not. They’ll always parrot the ‘don’t drink and drive’ campaigns whenever they’re being given any prominence. Expect them to do anything about a far bigger menace? Not a chance.

The only sane conclusion is that we need to re-organize our society so that we get a better class of politician, so we get leadership with vision.

I Don’t Want To Understand

Out on a road ride with Charli today, in South Oxfordshire (though it could have been anywhere), we passed two instances where someone’s come along to a pleasant enough spot in the country, pulled in, eaten and drunk something, and then thrown the rubbish on the road and driven off.

I don’t want to understand that mentality.

Littering is endemic and seems to be getting worse. (And yes, I’ve gone on about it before.)

It’s depressing knowing you’re sharing the country with people who’ll just sling their rubbish down. Today, I found myself thinking that it’s not unreasonable to infer that if that’s their attitude to littering, pretty well all the other aspects of their character aren’t going to be exactly laudable either.

So, it seems we’ve a society with a rising proportion of idiots, people so dumb they’re willing to broadcast their stupidity by dropping litter. I can’t help but think that doesn’t bode well for the future.

An empty can amidst leaves, South Oxfordshire, September 2012

I don’t even want to understand the thinking behind littering

Road Kill Has Its Seasons

It’s beginning to feel autumnal now – there was a stiff north-westerly blowing today that had a distinctly cool edge to it. It made for a tougher-than-ideal ride; the colder air is somehow thicker. And, heading out from the Reading area, trying to ride out into a north-westerly means it’s more-or-less uphill from the start. Uphill into a strong wind: not great fun.

But, that said, it was an enjoyable enough 40-odd miles taking in places like Pangbourne, Upper Basildon, Goring and Wallingford. The views from on high, near Aldworth and Westridge Green, were excellent – of a seemingly huge distance. It made me wish I had a very, very high resolution camera and could make a massive print of the resulting photo to show up every detail. A little digital compact isn’t going to cut it.

This is a Horse Chestnut that isn’t dying, despite appearances.

This is a Horse Chestnut that isn’t dying, despite appearances.

I gather that Horse Chestnut trees aren’t native but there are plenty of them around these parts – both ‘gone wild’ and where they’ve been planted, often on the edge of estates. Seeing some of them today, you could be forgiven for thinking they’re turning with the season already but they’re not – it’s the result of ‘leaf miner’ infection. There’s a lot of it about this year, it seems to me. It looks disastrous but I’ve read** that it’s not as bad as it appears.

If seemingly withering Horse Chestnuts aren’t in fact grim, I guess the plethora of dead squirrels and pheasants is also good news if you’re a Red Kite or similar.

I’ve been seeing a lot of road kill lately; perhaps it’s just the time when this year’s young ones are starting to make their own way – or not – in the world. As Tom Waits said, road kill has its seasons, just like anything. ***

Today I disturbed two Kites up near Aldworth attempting to tuck into a pheasant, and another near Woodcote enjoying a bit of squirrel. They’re so ponderous as they fly up I always feel quite guilty for driving them off.

** Forestry Web Site
*** Tom Waits Lyrics