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 …”

A South Oxfordshire Stroll (Walk With Route)

A reasonably lumpy walk that’s just over six miles, starting and finishing at the reliable and very popular King William pub at Hailey, near Wallingford in South Oxon. You can always cycle or walk to the pub to start, but if you drive you’ll find they’re very walker’s-car-friendly. Just be sure to eat and drink there to repay them.

Going anti-clockwise, a few things to note are: the road section by Braziers Park is normally quiet (but on the 5th May 2014 they are having an open day, so that might change). The road by Ouseley Barn has a path by the side of the field you can use. Take the second path off to the right, not the first, for the climb up Hammond’s Wood. Lurking in the woods between Checkendon and Garson’s Farm there’s a short sharp climb to tax any aching legs. As you come down towards Well Place, make sure you come out of the field on to the road, then take the path that’s sign-posted almost immediately on the left. You need to do this to drop below the line of trees in the field – as you come down the hill it’s tempting to think you can just keep on going.

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3d Rendition of a South Oxon walk

Hailey-Checkendon-Hailey – just over 6 miles.

From The King William (Walk With Route)

With as much rain as we’ve had in recent weeks, it’s hard to find enjoyable (or even passable) routes to cycle or walk.

We did this just-on-four mile walk and it wasn’t too bad, all things considered. You’re not going to be too happy in a pair of light-weight trainers, but decently shod you should be fine, with just a couple of spots that needed some careful negotiation. (And we were passed by a chap on a cyclo cross bike, so perhaps we’re just being a bit wimpy on the cycling front.)

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Hailey - Homer Walk

Nothing too strenuous

Money Talking

On America’s Independence Day, yesterday, I found myself reading a New Yorker article about how the billionaire Koch brothers work to ensure their personal wealth and power, based on fossil fuels, isn’t threatened by any action to combat climate change. In a nutshell, they buy politicians and they buy inaction; and they fund disinformation to keep their particular wheels turning.

The New Yorker

It is as ludicrous to tar all Americans with the same brush as it is any other group of people. And after all, the article is written by an American, published in America: there are plenty of Americans outraged by what’s going on.

That said though, from a ‘rest of the world’ point of view, America as a state, as an entity, is the biggest per capita contributor to climate change, but is doing little to change its ways. America is by no means alone in having home-grown, entrenched, powerful people orchestrating opposition to climate change, but as the world’s most powerful nation, if the world were a sensible place, it would be leading the way in reacting to the threats climate change poses.

Cycling today, taking in Goring, Wallingford, Swyncombe and thereabouts, in suddenly very hot weather that no-one was forecasting even just a few days ago, I found myself wondering about any number of different aspects to that Koch-created reality – about how they sleep at night; about how the people they’re buying-off live with themselves; about how to react to it; about how can ‘the nice guys’ fight ‘the nasty guys’ with as much aggression and force as the nasty guys will muster without themselves turning into nasty guys; and so on.

But the thought that stayed with me the longest today was how far America, in practice, has drifted away from any hopeful, noble founding ideals. Whatever many Americans may feel and wish for, the future legacy of America is very unlikely to be positive. And that’s assuming there are people still around to assess it.

Red poppies, a blue sky and white clouds

An English red, white and blue

England Being English

Blue skies, white clouds, green trees and lambs in the field

England being English

A good long ride on the 16th, largely south of Reading, and with fairly decent weather too – nothing to complain about. It’s not that warm and it’s very unsettled, but of late England is starting to look, well, quite English – it’s starting to be richly green (though some trees are still to get going); there are lambs in the fields, fluffy white clouds against (occasional) blue skies …

And today’s ride up towards Wallingford was reasonable enough too, albeit with greyer skies. Two drivers caught my eye. Both would be listed as ‘normal’ under the R.U.M. categorization, but they both looked thoroughly harassed and miserable as I waved my run-of-the-mill acknowledgements to them. I could imagine they were miserable with me, the irritating cyclist slowing their progress for a few seconds, but in truth the way lines on their faces were so ingrained suggested they weren’t happy bunnies at the best of times. And so, perhaps, I ought be feeling sorry for them rather than thinking of them as miserable sods.

The second chap, particularly, looked thoroughly unhappy … perhaps he was. He was in a new, towards-the-top-of-the-range Audi, late middle-aged, pulling out from one of those expensive not quite ‘gated community’, not quite sheltered accommodation but nearly type of developments … Perhaps it’s all gone sour for him. Perhaps he’d hoped for a nice, secure-feeling retirement but it’s turned out to be terrifically dull. Perhaps he earned his deep-seated unhappiness working hard to buy all that he has, only to find it’s not what he wanted. I passed him. He had to wait behind me for a few yards before a crossroads; he hung back politely; I looked back to wave my thanks; he looked at me blankly and I turned left, he turned right.

R.U.M. Categories and The TK Challenge

Nature Notes

On the receiving end of good luck again: some drenching showers – including hail – in Reading, while I was riding in the completely dry area bounded by Reading, Nettlebed, Wallingford, Goring, Woodcote and then back in to Caversham … where the roads were wet but nothing was falling out of the sky.

It might have been dry but it was a hard ride today – the legs weren’t working in the autumnal chill. And it is autumn: if the trees still aren’t – in the most part – turning, another sure sign is the appearance of fungi, which seem to be cropping up a fair bit now.

And in other ‘nature notes’ for the day:

  • I’ve long noticed that a lot of common or hedgerow birds don’t fly away if a car goes by (if they’re out of harm’s way), but will be startled into flight if, say, a cyclist or walker nears. When Red Kites first started to become relatively common, they were timid in the face of anything – cars, cyclists, horses, whatever. Over the last several months though, I’m sure they’re starting to behave more like other birds, ignoring motor traffic and only taking to the wing if people not in vehicles are about.
  • On a quiet lane today there was a bit of dry, dead bracken in the road. From a distance I mistook it for a dead young pheasant – as common as dead squirrels this time of year. I guess that amounts to a simple but effective demonstration of the effectiveness of a pheasant’s camouflage (even if it offers them no protection against vehicles).
Fungi on dead wood - another sign of autumn

Damp rotting wood in autumn; perfect for fungi.