Big Kid

Wet weather and general autumnal foulness meant any route today, road or off-road, was going to be a bit iffy. In conditions like these, a good approach can be to ride an off-road bike on a largely on-road route. There is a method to that.

So, today’s ride was just a fairly short jaunt on lanes and tracks between Caversham and Henley; uneventful and enjoyable enough, despite the rain.

For a part of the ride I was trying to decide whether I was feeling like a happy child or a stupid adult. I was wet and mud-splattered, and all quite unnecessarily. Just for fun – like a toddler stomping in puddles – I’d gone out and got properly muddy.

A very respectable-looking middle-aged woman walking a dog near Shiplake did say as I neared her, “that looks like fun”. I replied that it was … and thought that her comment a) makes my mind up for me and b) represents a big shift in attitudes: no, there’s nothing stupid about a 50+ year old enjoying getting muddy, just for the hell of it. And, surely, it’s significant that others think that too.

I don’t and can’t know, I wasn’t middle-aged back then, but I’m pretty sure that just a few decades ago the idea of a chap or chap-ess my age faffing around for fun on a bike, in the mud or otherwise, just wasn’t on the agenda. If it wasn’t actively frowned upon, it certainly wasn’t a commonplace.

If you look back, it seems recent decades in the West have seen a process of keeping young people young for longer, and not imposing anywhere near the same amount of ‘adult’ constraints or expectations on ‘grown-ups’ as there used to be. Underlying that, I guess, is the fact that for a lot of people, life has become a lot easier. Splashing about in puddles doesn’t have to just be the preserve of little kids anymore because there’s less to worry about, less uncertainty, less pressure, more leisure time and so on. Life is less of a struggle.

As to whether this is a good thing … hell yes, of course it is! As the old joke has it, youth is wasted on the young.