On Codgertating …

A letter, out of the blue, from a fellow Codger. It’s always good to know you’re not alone.

from a fellow codger

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.

Pensioner Rage

Bright sun, not too cold in theory but a strong and chilly easterly wind: two out of three is about the best you’re going to get at the moment, so a bike ride just had to happen. ‘Make the most of it’ is the only way to respond to the weather these days – and for the future. British weather was never easily predictable or reliable, but it’s becoming ever increasingly less so as the world’s climate gets ever more unstable.

Hey ho, at least I can ‘make the most of it’ on most occasions and dictate my own working hours. I do realise how fortunate that makes me.

Riding through Henley, I suspect I saw the future: two ‘mobility scooters’ coming head-to-head on a footpath too narrow for them to pass side-by-side. (One had to take to the road.) It’s only going to happen more frequently. Presumably, sooner or later, there’ll be a pension-rage incident as a result, the population at large will thus be disabused of the notion that all old folk are lovely old dears and the nation’s feral youth will be treading in fear of the nation’s feral oldies.

A Problem Of Consciousness

Rendered nonchalantly gung-ho by temperatures in the balmy mid-40s (F), today I merrily went for a short-ish spin winding my way up towards Woodcote, having failed to take the strong wind into account.

A headwind for pretty well all the climbing soon makes one realise the stupidity of gung-ho actions.

I could have studied the weather forecast or studied the trees, but I didn’t. It wasn’t windy immediately outside of my front door so no alarm bells rang.

It’s a trivial example, but nevertheless it did make me think about consciousness – the question of how much you can be conscious of; the breadth of things in life you can ‘in tune’ you can be to any meaningful degree, at any moment in time.

I was predisposed to be thinking on those lines after two recent parties – nearly 100 people coming together to mark Charli joining the ranks of us 50-plus-ers.

Many of them were people we don’t see very often; often a year or more can go by with no contact other than, perhaps, an email or two. Years slip by easily. Then you bring a roomful of friends and family together and you’re conscious of that passage of time, of the friendships, of the reasons why these people are people you like to spend time with.

You know there are cancer sufferers there and cancer survivors; people with heart problems and mental health problems and all sorts of joint problems, not to mention money problems and any number of other problems you’re not aware of, but they’ve made the effort to be there despite it all.
And there are people who would have been there but have been called away, by their work to the Middle East and to the Far East and, more prosaically, to different bits of the UK; by other unexpected commitments – not least caring for the sick. Life intervened to ruin their plans, but you’re conscious of them in those circumstances precisely because of their absence.

You know there has to be some chance that you might never see one or more of those people ever again because that’s just the way the world is.

And you know you can’t keep them all in your consciousness but these are the times you feel you ought to be able to. But you can’t, so you just get on with it in the same way as you just get on with riding uphill into a headwind. The tailwind downhill makes you smile.

An over-sized garden chair - great for big thoughts

A big seat for thinking big thunks.

You Can Only Wonder

Red Kites in the sky

Several Red Kites…

Incongruities abounded:

  • A retirement ‘event’ at a garden centre;
  • Red Kites wheeling around a tractor hunting … worms;
  • A South Oxfordshire country lane and the strong smell of … WD40;
  • A old-ish, very middle-class-looking couple, seemingly stealing firewood from a forest;
  • Hoodie-wearing kids on bikes politely apologising for inadvertently getting in my way;
  • A pair of mud-bespattered and scruffy-looking middle-aged women wandering out into the road; loudly exclaiming with cut-glass incredulity as they saw me.

You can only wonder at the extent to which things aren’t as they seem.

Tractor working the soil

… were following this tractor, hunting worms.

Thirty Years

Over near Twyford, I was overtaken today by a young cyclist; she was really shifting, in a superb aerodynamic position that I can’t contemplate getting down to. My head is the highest thing when I’m on a bike; on her I suspect it was around about her 10th lumbar. (And despite her speed she was able to offer me a friendly not-at-all-out-of-breath ‘hello’ as she passed.)

Thirty years ago, when I took going fast on a bike vaguely seriously, aerodynamic positions such as she was in just weren’t on the agenda. Things move on.

Seeing her ride by, it was perhaps inevitable that I’d end up thinking about expectations, ageing. Thirty years ago I could at least day-dream about riding fast, even if I knew all the while that I was never going to be a champion bike rider.

Now? Now I don’t even have that day-dream. That’s not quite right. It’s more accurate to say that now I don’t even have the ability to have that day-dream. I don’t know if that’s the result of wisdom or disillusionment. I don’t think I’m defeatist. Is it just a sense of realism? Perhaps it’s stupidity; there’s nothing that says age is guaranteed to bring wisdom.

Just how long is that palm's lifeline?

Just how long is that palm’s lifeline?

And if I can’t day-dream because I’m too old to? I don’t know how important dreams are. What’s salutary to remember is that it’s not unreasonable for me to expect to live until I’m in my 80s – another 30 years or so. If the folly of youth is gone, it had better be replaced by something equally inspiring, something equally sustaining. There’s been a lot of change since my 20s; there’s an awful lot more to come.