Archives for May 2013


A bad week of tedious sinus-induced intermittently searing tooth and jaw pain. I think it’s becoming a regular event, but this time around it’s late in the year because it’s aggravated by pollen, and spring is late. As a result, today’s was the first ride for a while and it was just a short one in the Sonning Common area to see how I felt – head and legs. Pleasingly, the weather was good enough to make a spin on a fixed wheel a sensible proposition.

Riding around and going surprisingly well, it occurred to me I was riding reasonably drugged-up – painkillers galore. And … it felt good! If at least some of the drugs the professional cyclists abuse are similar, I think I’m beginning to properly understand the appeal. ‘Performance enhancing’ doesn’t have to just be in the sense of making you go faster; having pain blotted out is also going to help. It’s obvious when you think about it and, indeed, experience it, even in a limited way, but thinking back, I’d always somehow assumed the drugs were just about speed.

The next time you’re trying to judge whether the sportsperson you’re watching is drugged-up, judge in terms of pain being endured as well as outright performance.

Colours in the fields

These colours are real, not drug induced!

Closed Circles

A bank holiday weekend and a ride around the roads of Berkshire … and where’s everyone gone? Sonning was empty. The lanes in the general direction of the Walthams were quiet. Even Henley, normally one of those honey-pot destinations on a day like today, was quieter than I’d have expected. There were some people milling around by the river but not that many; there were some traffic queues but not as bad as many a weekday.

Presumably, people have left these shores for holidays in warmer climes. That’s not surprising – last year was a washout and this year’s shaping up to be the same. I’m no sun-worshipper and even I’m craving a few consistently warm days. But it means the circle’s closed: lousy weather leads to more flights abroad which leads to more CO2 – and air travel’s particularly bad for emissions – and so climate change, which is causing the lousy British weather, accelerates. Hey ho.


I suppose it’s childish really, but I still find it somehow nicely odd to be at the edge of a shower cloud – where you see the join between wet and dry. Plenty of showers around today, and the dark clouds against the rape field yellow can look quite spectacular. I’m not sure I caught it that well in the photo but you get the idea.

It’s cold today and yes, there are plenty of classic ‘April Showers’ around. It’s just a shame it’s late May. The shortest day’s just a month away and then we’re on the slope down to winter again.

Rain and rapeseed fields

The grey and the yellow

Look Up

Sometimes I can think I know almost all the roads around here, that there’s little new to notice. And then I look in a different direction or vary a regular route and something new will reveal itself.

Today, climbing the back way up from Henley I happened to look up and the simple fact of all the trees there are in these parts struck me afresh. The weather systems and seasons may be wrecked, but superficially at least, things are looking lush and healthy. Appearances, of course, can be deceptive.

Lush scenery near Henley

Looking Lush (Click for a larger sized version)

England Being English

Blue skies, white clouds, green trees and lambs in the field

England being English

A good long ride on the 16th, largely south of Reading, and with fairly decent weather too – nothing to complain about. It’s not that warm and it’s very unsettled, but of late England is starting to look, well, quite English – it’s starting to be richly green (though some trees are still to get going); there are lambs in the fields, fluffy white clouds against (occasional) blue skies …

And today’s ride up towards Wallingford was reasonable enough too, albeit with greyer skies. Two drivers caught my eye. Both would be listed as ‘normal’ under the R.U.M. categorization, but they both looked thoroughly harassed and miserable as I waved my run-of-the-mill acknowledgements to them. I could imagine they were miserable with me, the irritating cyclist slowing their progress for a few seconds, but in truth the way lines on their faces were so ingrained suggested they weren’t happy bunnies at the best of times. And so, perhaps, I ought be feeling sorry for them rather than thinking of them as miserable sods.

The second chap, particularly, looked thoroughly unhappy … perhaps he was. He was in a new, towards-the-top-of-the-range Audi, late middle-aged, pulling out from one of those expensive not quite ‘gated community’, not quite sheltered accommodation but nearly type of developments … Perhaps it’s all gone sour for him. Perhaps he’d hoped for a nice, secure-feeling retirement but it’s turned out to be terrifically dull. Perhaps he earned his deep-seated unhappiness working hard to buy all that he has, only to find it’s not what he wanted. I passed him. He had to wait behind me for a few yards before a crossroads; he hung back politely; I looked back to wave my thanks; he looked at me blankly and I turned left, he turned right.

R.U.M. Categories and The TK Challenge

A Real Challenge

A short ‘rehab ride’ with Charli on the 12th, a ‘grab the chance while I can’ ride in very so-so weather on the 13th, yesterday was a wash-out and all of a sudden it’s midweek again. If all things are relative, given how much time seems to be speeding up, whatever it’s relative to must be slowing down to a snail’s pace.

Today’s jaunt was just a quick 20 miles – Sonning-Wargave-Henley territory – but it turned out OK; I dodged the showers and there was even a bit of sun, which was something after a dismal morning. The only thing that can be said for weather like today’s is that sometimes the light can be striking – bright sunshine and dark clouds, and everything is greening-up abundantly now.

I was moaning about idiot road users, both the other day and two years ago. I was thinking today that in reality, all road users fall into four categories:

  • the ‘helpful’ – the ones who go out of their way to be helpful and courteous;
  • the ‘normal’ – the ones who just do what they do without causing anyone any problems;
  • the ‘irritating’ – the ones who don’t do any real harm but who are sure to get someone’s back up, at least some of the time; and
  • the ‘dangerous’ – the ones that genuinely put lives at risk – their own or other people’s.

The helpful and the dangerous are quite rare. Most of us like to think we’re in the normal category; most of us would probably benefit from remembering that to others we’re almost certainly irritating, at least occasionally. I think we need a road user manual – a R.U.M. – to explain this, to drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and everyone else. Essential reading along with the Highway Code.

It occurred to me, too, that if it’s true that we’re all often unwittingly irritating to others, then a real challenge would be to try and think positively, or at least kindly, about the strangers that it’s all too easy to find irritating. I think I’ll see if that’s possible in coming rides: the TK (Think Kindly) challenge!


Green trees and threatening skies

Green trees and threatening skies