Pink World

Rolling out at the start of a ride and cycling through Caversham, I saw a young female runner. She had on a pink top and pink-and-black calf-length leggings. She had bright pink shoes and her long blonde hair was tied up with a pink band. She was running with supreme, enviable ease. She had white headphones on, attached to whatever her chosen mobile device was, which in turn was strapped to her arm. In one hand she had a clear-with-pink-bits water bottle while the other was holding a shiny black-and-silver dog lead, at the other end of which was a not-quite-handbag-sized-but–small dog, running along as fast as it could to keep up.

And it occurred to me that this person’s world is just amazingly far away from my own. We can share the same streets, the same town and country but surely we’d have almost nothing in common if you sat us down in a room together to chew the fat.

It’s election time in England at the moment – European MPs and some local councillors. Inevitably, you’ll see some political activists have put up posters for parties and hence beliefs that you simply do not share and cannot understand why anyone else would want to adhere to.

It’s easy to wish for a world in which one’s own political beliefs were universal, but I’d hate it if the world didn’t include runners in pink and any number of other strangers living different lives to me. Which I guess is a way of saying the politics I really want is the politics of consensus – a world where different views are accommodated and respected.

For some, it's a pink world

For some, it’s a pink world

Flood Avoidance (With Route)(Just For Cyclists)

If you’re itching to get out on your bike for a ride but are struggling for a route given all the rain, this loop between north Reading over to the other side of Woodcote might be worth a try. It’s a 20 mile route with a couple of lumpy bits to keep you exercised.

At the time of writing it avoided any major problems caused by flooded rivers or (still) rising groundwater, but be warned – many of the roads are in an atrocious state, and not just the smaller lanes. A lot of care is needed. But that all said, it’s better to be out than in!

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Link To GPX File.
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A Woodcote Cycle Ride (With Route)(Just For Cyclists)

The not-that-great storm yesterday may not have been as destructive as trailed / feared, but nevertheless it wasn’t a day for cycling, around here at least.

Today’s ride was just a short jaunt in South Oxon lanes, chosen mainly because of a very autumnal, strong north westerly wind. Going anti-clockwise and starting out from Caversham, for the most part this offers a classic headwind out / tailwind back trip.

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Autumn Toadstools

Oh yes,it’s autumn

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.)

Comfortable Lunacy

Post war reality

We’re happy with this possibility.

A – for me – familiar circumnavigation of Reading – nowhere further north than Caversham; nowhere further south than Swallowfield.

Going past the back of AWE, the Atomic Weapons Establishment (which has its own web site, complete with address and postcode, but which is still not mentioned on the OS maps, such is the state of British officialdom), and initially, it struck me how insane that establishment is.

I’d say human nature and geo-politics are both as they are. While nuclear weapons may have taken things to a whole new level, I’m willing to be convinced that Mutually Assured Destruction has been a good thing on balance. That said though, if you stand back for a moment, then yes, it’s both easy and tempting to conclude that the fact that a place like AWE exists, quite openly, is insane. ‘Hello. This is where we make weapons that could wipe out humanity’.

But as I rode on and kept thinking about it, then I came to suspect that what AWE actually is, is a measure of collective human nature. If you think that AWE is insane, then by the same criteria we must be insane for developing it, tolerating it, funding it and so on. The reality is that, the relatively small protests against it aside, we are collectively comfortable with that lunacy. That’s sobering.

Wake-Up And?

Wind turbine by the M4, Green Park, Reading

This is quite new. I am not.

A reasonable 30-miler, circumnavigating Reading, taking in Purley, Pangbourne, Theale, Three Mile Cross, Aborfield, Sandford, Sonning and Caversham. It’s a mark of how dismal the year so far has been for cycling, for me at least, that this is the longest ride I’ve done in 2013. With such a badly laid foundation over the winter, the summer’s riding will be harder than ideal.

For large parts of the route south of Reading, the wind turbine by the M4 looms large. Quite simply, that could not have existed just a few years ago. For most of my life, wind turbines like this just weren’t around. It feels very odd to be reminded of the passage of the time in such a blunt way.

Reality, of course, is that reminders are everywhere, from the bikes I ride and the shoes I wear to ride them upwards, and in every other aspect of life. Perhaps it’s the size of the wind turbine that makes it more striking – more forceful as a wake-up call.

Is being reminded that you’re getting old a wake-up call? It probably should be, if only to tell you to make the most of it. The hard part is knowing what constitutes ‘the most’ of any ‘it’ and, indeed, deciding which ‘its’ one should make the most of.