Friday, 6 June 2014

(Not) on the Road Again

No cycling for me today!
Image credit: Paul Downey
I used to be a regular, enthusiastic, cyclist. By ‘regular’ I mean five times a week and by ‘enthusiastic' I mean at least 15 miles a day. I would see the children out of the front door on the way to school, hop on my bike and do all my various errands. I’d cycle to a supermarket (not always the same one and quite often one on the other side of town). I might pick up someone’s new glasses or return some library books or meet a friend for coffee and I’d do it the long way round. Come rain, come shine - though if it was wet AND windy I might think twice.

It was a bit over the top, I suppose, and in the end I couldn’t really justify the time so I started going to the gym instead - much more efficient. There I found my gym buddies and began to meet them, five days a week, come rain or shine. And so the cycling, so to speak, fell by the wayside.

This morning, on a beautiful sunny day, I got my bike out of the garage, pumped up the tyres and, all set to go, gave the brakes a quick check. And that was the end of my bike ride as somehow something had caught my front brake as my bike rested quietly in the garage - and ripped it right off.

As I sat drinking my morning coffee and musing on my frustration, it dawned on me that one of the reasons I used to love cycling so much was that it had a hugely enhancing effect on my creativity. I might be cycling for a couple of hours a day, mainly on quiet paths where not  lot of concentration was required.

I saw things I don’t normally see. I saw a man standing on the bank of the river practising tai chi. I saw squirrels and birds and (occasionally) rats. I may have seen a mink (or an otter). I looked down into people’s back gardens as I whizzed past on the old railway. Once, over a period of several weeks, I saw a woman sitting in the same place on an old railway platform. Every time I passed she was there, just sitting. Middle-aged, smartly dressed, she was always there when I cycled out and gone by the time I came back. Then one day she wasn’t there and I never saw her again. What was that about?

And all these things - and my cycling, of course - tied themselves up into ideas and scenes or even just flash images which appear in my fiction. Some are stories still to be written, characters still to be created.

I don’t want to abandon my gym buddies, but I think I might have to get back on that bike.