This story has its roots in the upbringing that my brother and I had in Sutton Coldfield in the 1960’s before Birmingham got its grubby mitts on the town and turned it into a outlying district of the metropolis. You see when I was little (some say I still am – Ed), we used to collect Triang Minic ships, wee diecast metal models of the real thing: battleships, destroyers, frigates, submarines and minesweepers, we had quite an impressive set between us. The ships cost around one and six each (that one shilling and six pennies to you younger folk) all of which meant, given that it wasn’t that long after the war and money was still tight, that we had to save our pocket money in order to build a navy. There was no tick, and our mother never, ever, ever wavered by diverting some of the weekly housekeeping money on our military pleasure. It was save to buy in every sense of the word. Even now, when someone’s showing off their new flash motor, a wee light goes off in the back of my mind and I think to myself “yeah, and how much do you owe the finance company: by the time you’ve finished paying that off, it’ll be worth less than you owe…” and so it goes on. You see, I’m old school when it comes to values. I’m dinner before pudding; work before play, and most definitely homework before FIFA (perhaps I should explain at this point, I don’t do FIFA, but all the other males in this household do…)
So what’s that got to do with LifeCycle?
Well on Wednesday, I took a day off the bike. I’ve done that only twice since I started: once last December because I was going down to England (to see my mother) after work on the Stella Express and once back in May because I was getting Dunco off a train from Inverness on the day of Highland Bike. This occasion was justified on the basis that my middle lad, who’s in 6th year, was heading off to an open day at West Of Scotland University in Hamilton (Bell College to us old timers) in the late afternoon and I wanted to be there to have a shufty and offer some fatherly support and advice…
However because I’m an old timer and because that nice Mr Salmond gave me a bus pass, I can get into work for nothing. But in order to do it, I have to leave the house at 5:30am. The bus from Stewarton connects with the number 4 at Kilmarnock bus station (before most people have even got out of bed) and on a cold, dark, wet Wednesday morning, that’s quite an enticing prospect: not.
So there I was, on this bus, heading up the A77 at what seemed like mega miles per hour, rain swishing on the windows in the darkness with only the occasional lights of the vehicles on the adjoining motorway to light the way. It looked as miserable as sin out there!
And I felt like a complete fraud.
I sat there thinking “that’s my cycle lane over there, that’s where I should be getting soaked in spray n stuff and loving it in a weird, masochistical sort of a way”. I was most definitely feeling like a fish out of water. In fact the more I think about it, fraud doesn’t even come close to describing that feeling that I had: cheat would be more appropriate in the circumstances. But maybe I actually needed that moment because for the rest of the day, I came to realise that all of the pain, all the suffering, all the commitment and all of the willpower is what defines this challenge: and on that day, it was missing. On the day with the really rubbish weather, there I was with my arse on a nice warm bus. I tell you what: I’m not comfortable with that. Neuroblastoma doesn’t do nice warm comfy days so I need to get back out there doing my stuff for those kids.
What makes it worse is that Monday was the Glasgow September holiday so not only did I miss Wednesday but I missed Monday as well. Setting out on the bike on Thursday morning felt so weird I really didn’t have a clue what day it was. How can this possibly be Thursday when I’ve been off the bike two out of the last three days? It was the most weird, weird feeling.
Anyway, I made up for it today because the weather was as wild as a wild thing. Windguru told me that it was going to be a bucking bronco ride into work and as I lay in bed listening to the wind in the wee small hours, I was planning my route to maximise the miles on what I know was going to be mostly a tale gale. On a normal 5:15am start, I can usually bang in 22 or 23 miles without smashing my legs. This morning I whacked in 27. But I also knew that I was going to be back on the bike five hours later (because this was half day Friday), probably in lashing rain, going the other way: time for a calculating head. I’ll be honest, I don’t like going into Friday with as little as 88 miles on the board. It’s not what I’m used to and it feels like rubbish. So today I set my stall out to at least make these three days respectable.
On the homeward run into the wind, the key was to get level with Stewarton with gas still in the tank. That would allow me to keep heading in the same direction then swing round and pick up the wind at my back for the run home: 27 in and 31 back: 58 on the day… nice. And on a day lashed by wind and rain, that makes me feel a lot, lot better, I can assure you. On any other week, I’d happily take 146 in three days because it lays the foundation for that mythical 250 that I’ve not achieved yet on this trip. So I’ll take 146 and move on to next week with untired legs: excellent!
But back to Wednesday and that visit to Bell College. This was the young gun’s first real experience of what’s required out in the big wide world. This is what we expect, son: this is what you have to have in your locker if you want to come and study at our University. And you know what… FIFA wasn’t one of the things they were looking for.
Work before play.
That was the moral of Frauday morning….