A Human Pace

And just like that it seems we’re in quite settled, quite warm weather. It changes everything, not least how long I feel like being in the saddle. I’m now doing 30+ mile (50-60 km) or longer rides in Berkshire, South Oxfordshire or North Hampshire.

With the warmth comes a change in pace – if they can, people seem to slow down, or at least want to. Where they can, there are more smiles to be seen; people seem happier and more relaxed.

In the villages (numerous) and small towns (Wallingford- or Watlington-sized, for example) that I’ve ridden through lately it seems palpable. People are still doing what they have to do, of course, but there’s less bustle and less hustle.

In contrast, in larger towns, Reading most obviously, the hot weather seems more likely to generate frustration – people want to slow down but can’t. The heat serves only to increase the tensions that come with the inevitable traffic jams or car park queues and so on. You can only pity the slow-cooked commuters on the trains.

And it seems to me the key thing is that it’s not the case that warm weather makes us want to relax and makes us happier and thus makes us slow down. Rather, it’s that we are wiling to slow down when it’s warmer, and it’s when we slow down that we find the slower pace makes us happier.

Obviously, that’s all just unscientific impressionism – it’s how it strikes me, that’s all. But it did make me wonder whether there’s such a thing as a human pace – a speed of things, a speed of life, that somewhere, somehow, deep down, chimes most happily with our internal body clocks or some other internal, instinctive rhythm.

If that were true, the natural conclusion should be that we ought to be trying to match the speed of our collective lives to that pace. As it is, collectively we seem remarkably willing to let any number of external factors dictate to us how fast we must live our lives: from the non-negotiable demands of the working day to the incessant nagging of social media.

PS: Apropos of nothing, I work with ‘unstated.name‘ – newly launched and which you might like.

Fox gloves in the sun

“Time to stop and smell the …”

Role Models

A good long ride largely south of Reading, essentially a round trip with an opening stint with a tailwind, a lengthy section into a stiff-ish headwind, a stretch with a favourable crosswind and then home again with a tailwind – not a bad way to spend 40-odd miles.

That said, once you get south of Reading it’s not that attractive as countryside goes; it seems the area has more than its fair share of the unsightly – derelict former industry; run-down barely surviving light industry; regularly fly-tipping-strewn side-roads and so-on.

Even as you get beyond that fringe of the town, there’s something, too, about a fair swathe of North Hampshire that I can’t get enthusiastic about; I can see there are aspects to appreciate but somehow it lacks much geographic identity. Perhaps it just needs exploring at a more micro-level.

Near Aborfield I came across a fairly large group of cyclists. I might be wholly wrong and apologies to them if I am, but it struck me as a mixed-ability but perhaps not that experienced group of older riders, largely men, being led by a younger and, presumably, experienced lady.

It struck me that that’s the kind of sporting activity that needs supporting, funding, promoting … it’s likely to have far more positive consequences than anything ‘Olympic’.

The list of what’s wrong with the London Olympics is long and still growing. There are plenty of commentators out there who are explaining all the failings and I won’t repeat the whole sorry litany. The headline aspects of the whole grim spectacle aside though, what I can’t escape is the underlying fallacy of the entire Olympic-sporting ideal.

Elite sports people, of any nationality, in any discipline, have to be policed to the Nth degree. If they’re not they will cheat. They will cheat by any means available – ‘professional fouls’ anyone? – not least drugs. Yes, there are ‘clean’ athletes but that we have to hold them up as shining examples says all you need to know about the rest. And you have to ask, too, whether these shining examples would be ‘clean’ if they didn’t believe they might get caught.

Given that that’s what elite sportspeople are like – to hold them up in any way as some kind of role models to aspire to is quite ludicrous.

Even if I’m being unfair and there are plenty of genuine sporting sports people among the elite, even if 99.9% of them would never cheat in any way, they are nevertheless an elite and, in essence, freaks. They have to have mentalities that are not commonplace. They are no more useful as role models for Joe and Josephine Public as any other freak, any other exception.

If there was to be a genuine Olympic legacy to benefit real people, it would be no more Olympics and the fall of the charade of an Olympian Ideal. It would be the showing-up of elite sports – any and all of them – for what they really are. It would be a new culture of sport engaged in by amateurs for pleasure, happily. It would be money wasted on Olympics spent on grass roots sports. And I can whistle in the wind for all that.

The skip, tired of being so foully treated, evolved into a sentient being

The skip, tired of being so foully treated, evolved into a sentient being and threw out all the rubbish that had been dumped on it.