Enjoy The Ride

Good grief, if it’s not sinus problems it’s – well, I’m not wholly sure. A stonking summer cold perhaps? Or maybe it’s some kind of late-onset hayfever type thing. I don’t know about the latter but I know it doesn’t feel quite like a ‘traditional’ cold. Whatever it is, the glorious panoply of streaming nostrils, a lumpy throat, watery eyes, sneezing fits and an overwhelming inability to concentrate isn’t a lovely way to feel.

As I write this, I’ve one friend just starting out on a course of chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, another recovering from major bowel cancer surgery and another with an obscure but nevertheless debilitating condition that the nerve-blocking surgery she’s just undergone hasn’t fixed.

If ever I find I’m being pathetic and feeling sorry for myself, it’s all too easy to bring to mind examples of people dealing with health issues far worse than my dismal little ailments, and when I do I can readily feel quite ashamed of myself. Self-pity is always deeply unattractive and that unattractiveness is multiplied by the extent to which it is unmerited.

Naturally enough, as I get older I find it’s much easier to bring to mind real, close-to-home examples of people with health problems far worse than anything I’ve ever had to deal with. No surprises there, but it does make overcoming self-pity much easier – much easier than, say, always remembering the plight of AIDS sufferers in Uganda or any other people similarly removed. I suppose that’s a very dubious benefit of clicking up the years.

Anyway, despite feeling mediocre, I went for a ride anyway and put in 35 fairly hilly miles in South Oxfordshire, and felt far better for having gone out. I didn’t push it and I’ve become a lot more in tune with how my body’s working over the years so I knew I was well within my capabilities. Getting out and doing something isn’t always going to be the right response to feeling cruddy, but it can be.

Stopping at the lights at Streatley, a cyclist I’d overtaken (and said hello to) just a few yards back caught up with me and we chatted as we waited. I was saddened by the way she felt the need to say something about ‘only riding a crappy bike’, or words to that effect. As I said to her, it’s not the bike that counts, it’s the rider.

I felt quite bad about that. Yes, I’m poncing about on a nice Colnago and yes, I’ve always liked nice bikes for what they are – whether I’m riding them or not. I hate to think that that’s in any way coming across as some kind of reflection of a snobby or elitist attitude on my part though. All I hope is that you’re enjoying the ride, whatever you’re riding.

To Not Be Young

Another unseasonally warm day, which isn’t a complaint. It’s excellent riding weather – warm but not hot yet, and not stuffy and dusty either, as it can get in high summer. A short faster run today, on the Colnago again. In retrospect I should have gone for a short fast spin on the fixed but 20-20 hindsight’s not exactly a great gift.

However enjoyable the weather is, I suspect you’d have to be a fool to find the spectre of climate change entering your mind.

The best explanation I’ve heard of what to expect of climate change is that it doesn’t mean totally freakish weather the like of which has never been seen before. Rather, it’s going to be a gradual underlying change, coupled with the more extreme weather ‘events’ the like of which we’ve all experienced before, happening more frequently. Which is precisely what the world is seeing. Thus, floods in such-and-such place might be just like however many years or decades ago. Indeed, there may have been worse floods or whatever before. The point is that, overall, we’re seeing more floods than we were. And the same for unusually hot weather, or unusually cold weather, or anything else unusual.

A cross against a wall

Going to your grave feeling guilty

Couple that with the rapid and relentless rise in the world’s population, growing as it does in a context of finite resources, and I’m glad I’m not young and I’m glad I’ve no children. It’s a very uncertain and very probably harsh future facing the young of the planet. It would be very unpleasant to go to your grave knowing that you’ve brought people into the world who are going to have to deal with that future. Going to the grave be damned – it would be hard to go to bed at night with that on your conscience.

Out near Twyford today, there was an oriental girl – Chinese, Japanese, Korean; I don’t know – walking along reading a letter. She was walking slowly, reading intently. News from home, from a tsunami-ravaged north Japan? Just a round-up of family news from somewhere in China? A love letter from a boyfriend, left behind thousands of miles away?

I read some time ago that even now, in this modern era of commuting and globalisation, the majority of Britons live within 10-or-so miles of where they were born. I do. There’s a vast amount of comfort to be had from familiarity.

The assumption I guess most of us would make about that oriental girl is that she’s over here working. ‘Economic migrant’ is a sneering term in Britain; I rather doubt those who employ it have even the slightest concept of the bravery involved in uprooting yourself and travelling thousands of miles to a totally unknown land to try and earn a buck, and that’s to leave aside the desperation of those who try to get to ‘the west’ the hard way – those in the back of lorries or on unseaworthy boats or whatever.

I suspect that the comfort of familiarity that comes with living close to where you were born all too often merges into ignorance and a far too narrow world view. And ignorance all too easily blends into the arrogance of certainty.

Filtering The Gene Pool

Thirty-three hassle-free miles in Spring sunshine and above-average temperatures on a nicely kitted-out Colnago Master X-Lite. That’s a pretty fine way to spend a couple of hours. It really was unseasonally warm and bright out there, so the blossom in the hedgerows and the urban Magnolia trees looked really quite stunning. And there’s something pleasing about seeing Alpacas on the steep folded hills near Whitchurch – their strange and distinctive shapes against green with a strong blue sky.

I don’t doubt there’ll be some kind of argument being made somewhere about Alpacas not being ‘native’ to England and not appropriate for English farmland blah blah blah, but what’s ‘native’ is relative to a time frame. It changes over the centuries. In much the same way as people oppose fields of rape seed as being not like English fields should be, really what they’re complaining about is change relative to their lifetime or to their understanding of what the past was like. And in reality the introduction of Alpacas or rape seed or whatever else will just be change – neither unequivocally good or bad, with both some positive and some negative consequences.

Alpacas in the sun

You can only welcome immigrants

Unusually, I was able to ride with and chat to two different strangers today, which made the day more interesting. People are, generally, interesting if you listen to what they have to say. With one chap we talked about riding around this area compared to other regions – he hailed from the Fens originally. With the other we talked bikes – he was riding a nice fixed wheel with a two speed kick-back-to-change hub. Intriguing; the idea of a second gear is rather appealing.

Also, earlier, is caught up with a chap riding and said hello, and he had to take the ear-piece of a – I presume – personal stereo of some kind out to hear and reply. Each to their own, but I wouldn’t like to ride not being able to hear things going on around me – either nature, the birds and so on, or the traffic.

Talking of traffic, I’ve seen a couple of incidents recently which have set me pondering. In the first, a delivery van and a Smart car, both travelling too fast along a narrow lane, nearly hit each other. In the second, a motorbike came hurtling down the road, really hammering it and taking the most fearsome risks to get around some traffic. The question to ponder is, if I carried on riding up the lane, for instance, and found the Smart car in the ditch with the driver injured or dead, would I / should I stop? (And the same applies to any other no-question-about-it idiot on the roads.)

I know I would. But I do wonder if I should. If these people take themselves out then isn’t that just better for the gene pool generally? As long as they don’t take anyone innocent with them, surely there’s nothing much to fuss about. Is that harsh but fair? Momentary lapses are one thing; people making a concerted and sustained effort to be idiots is quite another.