Cycling’s Challenges

You can get closer to a lot of things cycling – to the weather, the lie of the land, the area’s natural history, your fellow road users (for better or for worse) and so on. You also get a bit closer to death than you otherwise might.

Today, on a short-ish ride taking in Caversham, Sonning Common, Checkendon and Woodcote, I rode by this sculpture, as I have many times before. This time though, I’d not long ridden by a dead badger on the road side. That put death in mind, and so this time I stopped to photograph it.

A sculpture of skeletons embracing

Death’s embrace, presumably

Today was cold and the badger’s corpse didn’t smell, but on hotter days you can often smell something rotting long before you see it. That experience always emphasises that ‘the stench of war’ must be stomach-churningly grim – likewise any other site of mass death if it’s not cleared quickly.

What I’ve never decided is whether I would – should – stop if I’m cycling along and can smell something rotting but can’t see it. What if it’s a person? Stranger things have happened. I don’t know how brave I am – if I’ve the stomach for it. So far, I’ve never actually had to make that decision; the source of the smell has been visible. But one day …

Is it a case of would, should or could stop?

The challenges that cycling can create aren’t always the obvious ones. Climbing hills is one thing; investigating the smell of death another.

(Of course, in truth, I’ve no idea what was in the mind of the artist who created this sculpture – to be found near Woodcote / Exlade Street / Checkendon – but let’s assume we’re looking at death’s embrace. The crumbling building makes a perfect accompaniment.)