Nearly Killed

Let’s not mince words: today I was nearly hit by a Range Rover travelling at speed around a blind bend on a narrow lane. Range Rovers being as they are – high, square – it could easily have killed me. I heard and saw her/him before s/he was aware of me, took the few remaining inches of tarmac to the left and squeezed by – handlebars in the hedge; s/he swerved but too late to be of any use to me.

I could go on about moronic Range Rover drivers but that’s surely a tautology. I was riding in the Windsor area and, this being Ascot week, the roads were filled with the bloatocracy in those ‘top end’ vehicles that, everything aside, are just plain pug-ugly: the very expensive Mercs and BMWs; those hopeless Porsche 4WD efforts and, inevitably, lots of Range Rovers. The percentage of them that are driven badly is always far higher than other classes of vehicle, and that includes ‘white vans’. These are vehicles that can hold the rich and corpulent comfortably but have no other merits. Money doesn’t buy taste. As someone else said, if you want proof that God despises money, look at who he gives most of it to.

But anyway, I could rant on and on about all that but sod it – it would only blight my day and possibly yours too. So, instead, here’s a picture of some trees in summer – a quiet lane just perfect for cycling. If you ever find ‘Codgertation’ falls silent and it transpires I’ve been wiped out while cycling, find a way of planting a decent sized tree or two for me.

Beech trees in summer

Plant a tree for me

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.

Rotting, Not Wasting

A ‘hard work’ kind of ride – nothing in the legs and not a lot of inspiration or motivation; nature’s closing in and it seems to be making me feel the same.

A dead fox - rotting but being eaten by something

Rotting, but not going to waste.

Where I was today around Shiplake, the Thames Valley floods are all too obvious but away from the noise of the media, what’s going on isn’t anything that out of the ordinary in its own right; floods of this magnitude have happened many times before.

The issue, from a climate change perspective, is the frequency of these events; that and the combinations. We’ve run the gamut of floods and droughts already and the year’s not out.

A bright spot for the day was a close encounter with a Buzzard. He was just sitting on a hedge, no higher than five foot, on the side of the road. As I came up to him he merely looked at me. I stopped, we looked at each other and only after a while did he decide to stretch his wings and languidly take off, to wheel away across the field behind him.

I rode away, he was soon overhead and then ahead of me, crossing over to the other side of the lane before landing higher up in a tree.

The dead fox we both passed can’t have been fresh enough for him – it looks like it’s been there for a while. I guess it won’t go to waste; even at this time of year the corpse will be being consumed by something or things.

The fox is a missed meal from a Buzzard’s perspective if he’d come across it earlier, but give it enough time and there’ll be nothing to show that fox ever died there – just like you and me; just like all those householders battling the flood waters. Sooner or later they’ll lose; sooner or later the water will win.

The Last Thing To Feel

A fairly windy day in South Oxfordshire and Berkshire and leaves everywhere – making some lanes treacherous; here and there being whipped up in swirling eddies; being caught in gusts and giving form to the wind that you’re riding through. There must be a specific combination of factors that are making so many fall so quickly.

I wasn’t feeling morbid at all, nor down nor depressed nor anything negative; I just found myself thinking about riding alone, being off-road in some unfrequented corner of woodland, falling off and not being able to help yourself … and dying there, to be covered by leaves in just a few hours.

It’s not inconceivable. And a solitary life shouldn’t be equated to a lonely life. I can easily imagine a life lived largely alone; a combination of factors that could lead to a happy, contented, solitary cyclist falling off and not being missed by anyone for too long to be useful.

And if that someone were me? I hope I could accept my fate. If I wasn’t in pain, I hope I could resign myself to what was happening and what was going to happen. I hope I’d be able to enjoy feeling leaves fall on my face. That wouldn’t be a bad final sensation.

A public bench, falling apart and covered in leaves.

Don’t sit still for too long.

Think Old

After an unseasonally strong storm yesterday, today was merely very windy – not too bad to ride in with a carefully chosen route. I was surprised more at the lack of tree debris strewn around than the amount of it – after the storm I expected it to be far more apparent.

Dropping down one of the back ways from Woodcote, the hedges provided good shelter from the cross-wind and it was fine to cycle in – despite that being about the most exposed part of the ride. You needed to remember as you came to a gap in the hedge that there’s likely to be a sudden ‘shove’ from the wind, but that’s about the only unusual thing to bear in mind. You only need to experience that once to remember it.

Later, rolling in to Peppard Common from Stoke Row, and with my ‘noticing seats’ mindset, I saw an outdoor bench commemorating the Coronation – 1953 and not ’52, despite this being Royal Jubilee Year. Let’s not quibble: it’s a sixty year legacy, give or take. The seat is something lasting; something that has been and is being used; something that’s been cared-for. Presumably, some of the many who’ve sat on it have consciously appreciated it too.

Public seat in Peppard, commemorating the Coronation in 1953

A positive, lasting legacy

The 50s were tough times; to imagine we’re experiencing austerity now is to do all those who endured  those years an insulting disservice. War time rationing didn’t completely end until ’54. It’s likely that the cost of erecting that bench would have been significant for those who chipped in. Their efforts were worthwhile: they created something lasting and of value to the public, to absolutely anyone who cares to make use of it.

It’s not hard to imagine that sort of cost-sacrifice and effort being sneered at today; that would fit in with the zeitgeist all too readily. I couldn’t help but wonder what positive, lasting legacy those who’d sneer will leave.

I can’t help but wonder, too, whether thinking about issues such as lasting legacies is very much a function of getting older. Given that we’re living longer and we’re forever being told that what was an old age isn’t any more, perhaps there’s a side effect of a lack of people thinking about positive, lasting legacies; nowadays there’s never a ‘right’ age to start thinking like that. Allegedly.

This Day Is Your Last

More Mayflies today, and the first (what I think were) House Martins of the year too – feasting on them not too far from Sonning Common. If many Mayflies live for just a day, and if there’s a fair chance of a predator eating you before your day is up, then that all puts the need to get the most out of life into a fairly harsh perspective.

If there were such as thing as reincarnation, I can think of a few people who merit no more than a day back on the planet. On the other hand, perhaps it be more fitting for such people to be condemned to be born again to a long life, albeit of suffering and misery.

It was very windy today; the Red Kites were keeping low. I saw another bird of prey up near Christmas Common that wasn’t a Kestrel, but I’m not sure what it was. A Sparrowhawk perhaps, or a Hobby.

Photo: The River Thames at Sonning

A full River Thames, here in Sonning

Today’s was a longer ride that crossed the Thames a couple of times. I like to think of the river as just a big ditch – which, fundamentally, is what it is. After all the rain it’s a very full ditch. I guess quite a few of this seasons’ river bank nests will have been washed away. I don’t know how resilient the birds in question are in terms of trying again.

I hadn’t quite realised just how windy it’s been lately either – there was a fair bit of wind damage to be seen, broken branches and the like. Some low lying fields were flooded but only the usual suspects; it’s not dramatic yet and here’s hoping it stays that way. Drama is pretty well always misery for some.

I see on the news that a chap has died in his car trying to cross a deep, fast-flowing ford, not too far from here. Everything else aside, what often strikes me about a death like that is that it was surely the furthest thing from his mind when he set off to go wherever he was going. There’s a starkness to that, a bluntness, that I’m never sure how to react to.

I don’t know if you can, or should, live as if every day might be your last. It’s easy to say it but living it in any practical way … ? I don’t know. Or perhaps that’s just laziness.

I think I hope if a genuine, freakish accident happened to someone close to me that I could more-or-less shrug it off as just that: surely it would be something that there’s nothing to think about; something that just happened. I know that that’s how I’d like others to think if I was the victim.