Archives for November 2012

Rotting, Not Wasting

A ‘hard work’ kind of ride – nothing in the legs and not a lot of inspiration or motivation; nature’s closing in and it seems to be making me feel the same.

A dead fox - rotting but being eaten by something

Rotting, but not going to waste.

Where I was today around Shiplake, the Thames Valley floods are all too obvious but away from the noise of the media, what’s going on isn’t anything that out of the ordinary in its own right; floods of this magnitude have happened many times before.

The issue, from a climate change perspective, is the frequency of these events; that and the combinations. We’ve run the gamut of floods and droughts already and the year’s not out.

A bright spot for the day was a close encounter with a Buzzard. He was just sitting on a hedge, no higher than five foot, on the side of the road. As I came up to him he merely looked at me. I stopped, we looked at each other and only after a while did he decide to stretch his wings and languidly take off, to wheel away across the field behind him.

I rode away, he was soon overhead and then ahead of me, crossing over to the other side of the lane before landing higher up in a tree.

The dead fox we both passed can’t have been fresh enough for him – it looks like it’s been there for a while. I guess it won’t go to waste; even at this time of year the corpse will be being consumed by something or things.

The fox is a missed meal from a Buzzard’s perspective if he’d come across it earlier, but give it enough time and there’ll be nothing to show that fox ever died there – just like you and me; just like all those householders battling the flood waters. Sooner or later they’ll lose; sooner or later the water will win.

Road To Nowhere

A track leading off to flooded fields in the distance

On A Road To Nowhere

For better or worse I work from home. Days can go by before I genuinely need to leave the house.

I cycle for pleasure. I cycle to get out the house; I cycle to keep vaguely fit – but primarily I cycle for pleasure. If I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t do it.

There are floods up and down the country. People are losing a lot. People have died.

The floods have reached this neck of the woods and they say it’ll get worse before it gets better. The Thames and all the more minor rivers are full and overflowing on to already saturated ground. It’s that simple.

That my bike riding is curtailed is neither here nor there. Perspective is important; all things are relative. A new, brutally realistic perspective on climate change is going to be very necessary from now on.

Mis-sold Optimism

There was heavy rain last night and more of the same forecast’s for the 24th, so today was an attempt to make the most of it and get a ride in.

This was a mistake.

I was surprised to find low-lying, very cold fog spreading across the fields and lanes the further north I headed. I knew the roads would be filthy and flint-strewn but I still somehow imagined they wouldn’t be that bad. I didn’t expect the subsequent puncture even though it was a perfectly logical outcome. If I picked out five flint shards then I picked out a dozen. Only one of them had gone through, but one’s enough.

The sun’s now low enough to the horizon to not warm anything appreciably, even if the sky might be clear – as it was today. It means there’s little recovery from a deluge; nothing bounces back with the shot of life the sun imparts at other times of year. It means optimism is ill-founded.

That optimism can be ill-founded is fine; that it feels wrong that it should be so is just a testament to the power and pervasiveness of the positivism industry – because industry is what it is. It’s a foul corruption of reality on any number levels. Things don’t always turn out well.

 ‘Sick Life’ graffiti.

The question is, did the person who wrote this do so with a positive or negative intent

Theft And Avarice Abounds!

If you ride around some of the quiet, well-off neighbourhoods – today in Berkshire but this could be anywhere – one of the ubiquitous things is security. It’s generally reasonably unobtrusive but it’s there: alarms, dogs, formidable gates, barbed wire intertwined with thick hedges for discretion’s sake and, with some of the really large houses, watchful people trying hard to look like ordinary staff rather than ‘security’.

A rusting padlock and chain

I might not need it, but you still can’t have it

You could argue that it’s a sad reflection of the inequalities of society, the hopelessly unfair distribution of wealth. Perhaps it is. The indefensible grossness of the wealth gap is no secret.

The trouble is, I’m not rich but I’ve locks on my doors and anyone reading this almost certainly has as well. The need to protect property comes with all property ownership. “All property is theft” might be a resounding battle cry but you’ll struggle to find many who can live by it.

It’s just one of those grotty facts of life: whatever the unjustifiable iniquities of wealth distribution, wholly aside from unchecked avarice as a source of social decay, a lot of people are given to theft if they think they can get away with it, and as a result all of us need some form of security.

Perhaps it’s all just one and the same thing at root: maybe unchecked avarice is just what common-or-garden theft matures into if it gets half the chance.

The Last Thing To Feel

A fairly windy day in South Oxfordshire and Berkshire and leaves everywhere – making some lanes treacherous; here and there being whipped up in swirling eddies; being caught in gusts and giving form to the wind that you’re riding through. There must be a specific combination of factors that are making so many fall so quickly.

I wasn’t feeling morbid at all, nor down nor depressed nor anything negative; I just found myself thinking about riding alone, being off-road in some unfrequented corner of woodland, falling off and not being able to help yourself … and dying there, to be covered by leaves in just a few hours.

It’s not inconceivable. And a solitary life shouldn’t be equated to a lonely life. I can easily imagine a life lived largely alone; a combination of factors that could lead to a happy, contented, solitary cyclist falling off and not being missed by anyone for too long to be useful.

And if that someone were me? I hope I could accept my fate. If I wasn’t in pain, I hope I could resign myself to what was happening and what was going to happen. I hope I’d be able to enjoy feeling leaves fall on my face. That wouldn’t be a bad final sensation.

A public bench, falling apart and covered in leaves.

Don’t sit still for too long.

Civilized, Unnatural Lives

Today was a grey, soggy, fairly cold and unappealing autumn day for a ride. You go out, you feel better for having gone out, but it’s much harder work to get out the door, even though you know you’re very likely to get some benefit from it.

You can only wonder what’s at work there. You know you’ll feel better for a ride, but it’s still a bit of a struggle to do it, just because the weather isn’t great. It’s not even bad weather – it’s just a bit on the dismal side. The reluctance is stupid.

So, why can’t my intellect defeat … what? It’s not an emotional response to a grey day so much as it’s something primaeval – very deep seated. Perhaps it’s a basic human reaction to falling light levels and all the other environmental-climatic changes going on at this time of year. Perhaps, if we’re being true to fundamental, animal ourselves, we actually should just curl up and sleep more.

Perhaps I feel better for having gone for a ride because it’s an – however small – triumph of will over instinct. After all, at root, that’s what civilization is – the triumph of intellect over instinct.

Perhaps the feeling good is real because of the demands of so many of our modern lives, mine included: the exercise, getting out, makes you feel better because an office- and computer-bound daily life is so unnatural.

If that’s true then of course that ‘feeling good’ is only because we’re not being true to ourselves. We’re living a compromise. That’s not inherently bad, but we might benefit from being more aware of it.