Real Pessimism

I’ve been cycling, largely off-road, in the rain, but I don’t think any amount of sun would change my outlook at the moment – the sopping state of things is just mood reinforcement.

Rain and mud and real pessimism

No amount of sun will help

Local and European elections have set off a few mild tremors to rock the normally complacent political establishment, but whether that’s for the better is at best moot; a lurch to the right, which is what we’re seeing, doesn’t have a happy pedigree.

Meanwhile, wars in Africa continue; wars in the Middle East continue; there’s a coup in Thailand; large parts of South America are failing; civil war or war with Russia looks increasingly likely for Ukraine and where that will leave the rest of Europe is unknown, and gross iniquities in the West are accelerating. And let’s not forget the Indian sub-continent’s increasingly volatile prospects.

There is the theory that war has led to much of humanity’s advances over the centuries but even if that’s true, that doesn’t mean we still have to descend to fighting now. We have history to learn from. We know that all wars will eventually only be settled by negotiation; we could skip to that stage. It’s easy to feel that if you want a cause for pessimism, even despair, it’s surely our collective difficulty in learning from the self-evident.

Perhaps a more far-reaching, more deep-seated cause to feel grim is how history shows us that, always, a few people get rich from wars and that the people who get rich are right-wing. Now put the current state of the world in to that context. We have wars actual or potential on the world-wide agenda; we have a (manufactured) popular lurch to the right in politics across much of the world too. Some people will be rubbing their bloody, greedy paws with glee at the prospect, and we – the victims – are doing nothing to stop them. That’s a very deep-seated cause for pessimism indeed.

You Don’t Need A Weatherman …

… to know which way the wind blows. Maybe not, but a forecast worth the name can sometimes be useful.

It’s April. In April we have April Showers in the UK. This is not news. April showers are hard to predict – fair enough. Britain’s weather is hard to forecast because of its position on the planet – fair enough. What’s galling is

a) my own stupidity, after all these years, as I still look at weather forecasts for information that I then rely on and which then proves wrong, and

b) in most cases, the fact that these forecasts even exist.

Granted, they’re not all as culpable, but the majority of them present what’s little more than guess work as certainty, and present it with a confidence that still fools me – and any number of other people.

(I’m not even going to be begin to ponder the wisdom of all the expenditure on national weather forecasting when it seems it’s essentially a lost cause.)

If we accept that I’m not a complete fool, I guess there’s a lesson there about how anyone can be suckered if the person doing the suckering is convincing enough.

And then you see photos of the damage caused by the latest lethal tornadoes in the US and a soaking from an unexpectedly-early-in-the-day April thunder storm is placed firmly in an appropriate context.

Wet handlebars and brake hood

No, that is not gloss black handlebar tape

1,004 Words

If a picture speaks a thousand words, then herewith 1,004:

Cycling and walking curtailed by flooding

Cycling and walking curtailed

For The Sake Of It?

The roads are foul – debris strewn, wet, and filthy with both human and nature’s rubbish. If it’s not raining it will be shortly. If it’s not blowing a gale it will be shortly. True, around here – Berkshire and South Oxfordshire – we’re getting away with it relatively lightly (so far at least); there are plenty of places struggling far more with the consequences of all this bad weather. Nevertheless, it’s not as much fun as it could be if you’re out riding a bike this winter.

That all raises a question: what is it a measure of that I still went out today? What does it indicate that I’ve two friends (who are like me, cyclists for pleasure rather than necessity) who’ve been telling me that they’re either going out in the lousy conditions anyway, or are genuinely feeling the worse for not getting out?

Perhaps there’s something about the science of it – the pleasure-related chemicals released into the brain through exercise; perhaps you can get addicted to them. Perhaps that’s tied-in with our ancient ancestors and the fact that at root we aren’t made to live and work indoors. What I do know is that the desire to get out and ride is real – and it’s recommended. Leaving the obviously dangerous times aside, and as I’ve said before, it’s very rare indeed for a ride to be a mistake.

So the next time you see a cyclist out in bad weather, don’t think they’re out riding for the sake of it. Don’t think they’re daft. Think, instead, about joining in.

Winter tree line

And the light at this time of year has a unique quality too

A Swyncombe Walk (With Route)

A late start (too much Saturday night partying for old fogies like us) and heavy rain forecast, so today saw a Sunday walk rather than a cycle, with Charli.

Two road cyclists with punctures at Swyncombe, and three mud-bespattered off-roaders along the way made the decision to walk rather than ride feel like the right one. It’s puncture season, and it had tipped down over night.

The route wasn’t too taxing apart from some slippery mud, and we weren’t rained on until the last half-hour or so. The obviously imminent downfall did lend the jaunt a certain urgency though …

Rain clouds over the hills

Imparting a sense of urgency

Walking versus cycling? I’d take cycling if I had to pick one, not least because it’s a pace I like, but we’ve been walking more of late and the additional intimacy with the landscape that being on foot affords is proving very rewarding. I’m discovering new places and old places take on fresh aspects, even though I’ve lived in and cycled these parts for years. Not only do we need to get out of our cars, we need to get off our bikes too sometimes.

Codgeration now includes walks …

The Route: starting by Swyncombe church, dropping down to Dame Alice Farm, taking in Swan’s Way / The Ridgway and then back up to Swyncombe via Ladies Walk. About six-and-a-half miles. The only mildly confusing part was the start – the first path starts a few yards along the seemingly private road to Swyncombe house, which isn’t obvious from the church-side road.

View Route Map
About The Route Mapping

Autumn’s Light

Autumn – for cyclists, as always, it’s the time for horribly strong and suddenly cold winds, slippery roads, more punctures than any other time of year, and unpredictable heavy rain.

True, you can opt for the ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’ angle, and on benign days over these few months I can warm to that view. And Keats’ ‘maturing sun’ is often particularly apt; there’s a quality to the light around about now, especially as it’s fading at the end of a clear day, that is unmistakably autumnal.

Is there a touch of melancholy inherent in it? I’m not sure. I’m more inclined to ‘grim resignation’ about the impending tougher cycling conditions than melancholy. We need autumn and winter just as much as spring and summer – remember vernalization!

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford

Autumn Hills, here seen from around Hailey, near Wallingford