Barry, Kev, Tina and Trudi

Today and yesterday saw rides in very changed weather: autumn has arrived in a rush. The winds have been strong, from the north, and the temperatures have dropped very noticeably. Last Sunday I was still wearing shorts … not this week.

Yesterday – annoyingly, without a camera – I passed a Volvo called Barry. I kid you not.

On the back of it, someone had taken a lot of trouble to add to the normal maker’s letters and numbers (Volvo V40 / XC60 / XC90 or whatever) the word ‘Barry’, in metal letters that seemed, at a glance at least, to perfectly match the official ones. You can only admire the trouble that the owner had gone to.

Whether the car was called Barry or whether the owner was and this was his version of a personalised number plate, will necessarily remain a mystery.

Today I rode by two road signs in quick succession that someone had written names on – Kev, who I hope is a cyclist …

Kev the phantom cyclist …

Kev the phantom cyclist …

… and Tina and Trudi, who ought to ride horses if they don’t already.

… and Tina and Trudi, the two horsewomen of the apocalypse

… and Tina and Trudi, the two horsewomen of the apocalypse

I have no idea what motivated the writing on the road signs or on the back of the Volvo. Is it all just for a laugh, or completely thoughtless – neither here nor there in any possible sense? Is it all evidence of how some people struggle to assert their individuality in a loneliness-inducing, alienating culture – consciously or otherwise?

It’s disconcerting to suspect there’s meaning in everything, even something as insignificant as a marker-penned name on a temporary road sign. If you accept that there is meaning in everything, it’s perhaps even more perturbing to realise how ineffective in its consequences so much of that intended meaning actually is. Someone’s crying out to be recognised as an individual – to the utter indifference of the milieu that cry’s being made in.

Mud, Inglorious Mud

I guess where ever you chose to ride off-road in the UK today, you’d have been faced with an excess of mud. In the Forest of Dean, you’d have experienced mud, swamp-like areas where there’s more water than mud, and more mud. Thankfully, there are also reasonable hard-pack trails.

There’s also a very, very large chair which, if nothing else, brings a smile.

Other sculptures on the local ‘sculpture trail’ there, I confess, left me cold and the descriptions or ‘artist statements’ that accompanied them seemed by and large banal.

I suppose it’s a comment on something that the fact that these works of art didn’t strike a chord with me, makes me examine my reaction just as much as I looked at the sculptures.

The – to me at least – interesting question is, what’s that ensuing self-examination a comment on? My perhaps feeble lack of confidence in my opinions about ‘culture’, as if ‘culture’ is for experts? The success of the art establishment (what- or who-ever that might be) in making me doubt myself, however mistaken that doubt might be? My liberality and open-mindedness? I don’t know. There probably isn’t a definite answer.

Forest of Dean chair sculpture

Dull, obvious, unchallenging art easily appreciated by idiots?


Today was a bit of a slog. My legs weren’t good; the lanes were busier than I often get to enjoy them and everything about the route and the ride felt a tad tedious.

I did get to see a notably large group of fallow deer, in the middle of a large open field not far from May’s Green. I would imagine they’d been in the nearby woodland and had been startled by something or someone. If they can’t enjoy deep cover then being vigilant in the middle of a field where no-one can sneak up is probably the next best thing. I’d say there were at least 30 of them, and they’re large beasts too.

I suppose it’s unfamiliarity that makes it an automatic reaction to think ‘that’s nice to see’ or something similar. That, and some kind of fairly ingrained attitudes about ‘nature’.  I suspect it must have been part of 60s/70s middle class education somewhere along the line; that and/or the culture of that era – the kids’ programming on television or whatever.

I could tell pretty well everyone I know amongst my contemporaries what I saw today and they’d react along the same lines. None of us are natural history enthusiasts or anything; we’re just going to react positively to ‘wildlife’. The degrees of enthusiasm will vary but we’re collectively unquestioning and ‘in favour’.

Which is pretty ignorant really.