Noticing Smells; Appreciating Drivers

Making the most of it – another reasonable road ride before the weather takes a turn for the worse, from tomorrow onwards. For no conscious reason, I was noticing the smells.

  • A faint odour of sewage as I neared Sonning – not as bad as it has been, but there.
  • The distinct smell of stagnant water, also near Sonning, as the floods recede, and again near Remenham church.
  • The stench of diesel from a bus on the road to Wargrave. As I understand it, the only reason for an engine to belch diesel smog is through poor maintenance. That seems likely – cutting maintenance costs would please accountants, and they run the world for short-term gain these days.
  • A nose full of two-stroke from somewhere, something, along the A4.
  • An unpleasant, thick, over-strong fug of cooking fumes being churned out of the fans on the side of The Little Angel, on the corner of Remenham Lane. You really wouldn’t want to live near that.
  • The unmistakable smell of cigarette smoke coming from an open car window – the car stuck in the normal queue to get in to Henley. It is surprising how rarely you smell cigarettes these days. As for seeing or smelling a pipe or cigar – I can’t remember the last time I’ve come across either in use in public.
  • And, several times, a faint smell of gas. I don’t know if each whiff is a leak that I should be reporting. It seems unlikely: it happens so often on a cold day.

There was also the distinct sense of cold air but that’s more a nasal sensation than an odour.

Now, I know my sense of smell isn’t great – too many years of being a smoker myself, and too many years stuffing sinus ‘cures’ up my nose – but what is, perhaps, most surprising about modern life is how few smells there are. Over the course of the entire ride there were those instances but otherwise, nothing.

I couldn’t find a way to photograph today’s smells, so here’s a clichéd image of someone holding their nose.

I couldn’t find a way to photograph today’s smells, so here’s a clichéd image of someone holding their nose.

And talking of specific instances … Over and above all the perfectly appropriate interactions with traffic – which must number in the hundreds over a ride – three incidents stand out.

A chap driving a ‘Volume/Print Ain’t Dead’ van gave me all the slack I needed to safely negotiate the huge pot-hole craters along the road to Sonning. A lady driving a blue ‘people carrier’ type of vehicle also gave me lots of room along the narrow lane up near Crazies Hill, and an unbranded blue-grey bus hung well back so as to not hassle me as I had to wait to turn, just outside of Henley.

These are people going out of their way to make my life as a cyclist easier – it’s appreciated and I often think it needs mentioning specifically. Too many cyclists are too quick to moan about bad driving but they never mention the opposite; they also all too rarely mention bad cycling.

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