Archives for December 2013

Previously: Individuals~ Stygian~Certainty

On a miserable December day in 2012, the glimmer of hope was that the future might be kinder to individuals as society fragments. Climate change also suggested a different organization was required if we’re going to find form amidst the Stygian amorphousness of life. In 2011 the last week of the year saw me getting the year’s miles done and thinking about the coming year – the need for certainty when there’s little to be had.

Week 52, 2012: A Future For Individuals
Week 52, 2012: Stygian Amorphousness
Week 52, 2011: Any Certainty Will Do

For The Sake Of It?

The roads are foul – debris strewn, wet, and filthy with both human and nature’s rubbish. If it’s not raining it will be shortly. If it’s not blowing a gale it will be shortly. True, around here – Berkshire and South Oxfordshire – we’re getting away with it relatively lightly (so far at least); there are plenty of places struggling far more with the consequences of all this bad weather. Nevertheless, it’s not as much fun as it could be if you’re out riding a bike this winter.

That all raises a question: what is it a measure of that I still went out today? What does it indicate that I’ve two friends (who are like me, cyclists for pleasure rather than necessity) who’ve been telling me that they’re either going out in the lousy conditions anyway, or are genuinely feeling the worse for not getting out?

Perhaps there’s something about the science of it – the pleasure-related chemicals released into the brain through exercise; perhaps you can get addicted to them. Perhaps that’s tied-in with our ancient ancestors and the fact that at root we aren’t made to live and work indoors. What I do know is that the desire to get out and ride is real – and it’s recommended. Leaving the obviously dangerous times aside, and as I’ve said before, it’s very rare indeed for a ride to be a mistake.

So the next time you see a cyclist out in bad weather, don’t think they’re out riding for the sake of it. Don’t think they’re daft. Think, instead, about joining in.

Winter tree line

And the light at this time of year has a unique quality too

New Year Resolutions

I’ve been told or reminded of a couple of true tales in the last few days. The first is about a former colleague’s arrival in Britain, before the 2WW.

When H. was a child her family had fled from Russia at the time of the revolution and had settled in Vienna; in the 1930s that was not a good place to be. So she became a refugee for a second time.

When she arrived in Britain, her husband left her standing at the back of an enormous queue at immigration with their baby and two large suitcases while he went to find a loo. As she heaved her baby from one arm to the other she noticed a uniformed policeman looking straight at her from the other side of the hall. She said that her blood froze. Life had made her terrified of state officials; she said that no-one brought up in a free society would ever be able to understand her terror of uniforms. Uniformed state officials always meant trouble – always – even if no corruption was involved, as was all too often the case.

She looked away immediately, but when she heard heavy footsteps approaching she “just knew” that they were coming for her. She assumed the worst and started to cry. But when the policeman came up to her he said: “Madam, this queue is very long and your baby is looking very heavy.” Then he picked up her suitcases and took her to the front of the queue. That was H.’s introduction to Britain.

For the second tale: a friend of a friend’s experience in 2013: studying in London and from the Middle East, she’s been stopped twice on London Bridge by the Metropolitan Police, harassed about the legitimacy of her visa and threatened with deportation. Needless to say, she’s on a student visa that’s perfectly valid. That’s the impression of Britain – and Britons – that she’ll take home with her.

As a Briton hearing about this, if you’re a Briton reading this, it seems to me it is our choice as to whether we’re happy with that impression or not, in the same way as choices have been made that have created the current attitude of the police. Very few things about human societies actually have to be the way they are. If you or I don’t like things, however big or difficult they may be, then if we’re looking for New Year resolutions, we could do worse than ‘work to make changes happen’. Merely moaning is too easy.

Happy New Year, thank you for your time to date, and here’s to the future.

Previously: Flint Mapping~Sunshine~Black Wood~Mood-Altering

Last year I was wondering about flint mapping – punctures being fairly predictable by location – and there was a little bit of winter sunshine to be enjoyed, to awaken our innate love of bright colours. A year earlier and nature was looking bleak; and it occurred to me that the positive mood-altering consequences of a bike ride are more reliable than turning to alcohol.

Week 51, 2012: Flint Mapping
Week 51, 2012: A Little Bit Of Sunshine
Week 51, 2011: Black Wood
Week 51, 2011: Mood Altering Experiences

Previously: Big Issues~Nature-Induced Depression~The Taste Of Mud

Last year, riding through Marlow, and seeing a Bentley pass by a ‘Big Issue’ seller, I couldn’t help but think about inequality. Back in 2011, a puncture led to a close encounter with nature, which is all too often depressing. The soggy going also led me to wonder about the taste of mud, which is an ill-advised line of thought to pursue. I mean, what is in mud?!

Week 50, 2012: Big Issues And Bentleys
Week 50, 2011: Don’t Remind Me About Nature
Week 50, 2011: The Taste Of What, Exactly?

A Christmas Common Walk (With Route)

A filthy day for cycling, so a six-plus mile walk starting and finishing at Christmas Common. C’mon, it’s that time of year!

The walk in 3D

As you can see from the profile map, there’s a fair bit of up and down but it’s quite an easy route to follow with just short stretches on roads where you need some commonsense caution. This walk comes with the pleasure of going through a door in a wall that I’d always assumed was there to keep the likes of me out.

(And you pass Dumble Dore too – it’s on the OS map, honest.)

View Route Map
Link To GPX File.
About The Route Mapping

And in turn, something will eat the fungi

And in turn, something will eat the fungi

Beech trees on the edge of the Chilterns

Beech trees on the edge of the Chilterns