December 19, 2008
‘You,’ said the other half, greeting me at the door, ‘are insane.’
It’s hard to argue with him, frankly. But you see, the thing is, I haven’t been on the bike all week, what with one thing and another, and I’d already chickened out of getting the bus home from Bigtown on Wednesday because it was raining and I’d stupidly gone out with neither umbrella nor hat, and the walk from the bus stop is 1 1/2 miles. So, come hell or high water, I’d promised myself I’d at least get the paper on the bike today. And of course today duly arrived complete with high water, or at least persistent wind-blown rain, which is bad enough (hell would at least have the advantage of being warm). But I’m nothing if not stubborn, and despite having second thoughts when I stepped outside and saw the sheets of rain driving across the hillside opposite, and third thoughts when crossing the minor burn that our driveway has become and fourth, fifth and sixth thoughts as the rain penetrated my trousers, my shoes and my socks before I’d gone half a mile, on I went.
It was … unpleasant. For a start, I quickly got to the point where I couldn’t – as I thought – get any wetter, whereupon the rain kept proving me wrong. The wind was blowing it into my face so hard it stung, and the roads were quickly flooded so that on the way back I kept finding bits of me (inside left ankle, anyone) that previously had been merely damp and which – after sailing through a puddle that was deeper than anticipated – soon became drenched. My leather gloves, previously impermeable to most rain, quickly became sodden. My feet were blocks of ice. Only my hat really proved its worth and kept the rain out – you can keep your goretex, waxed cotton is the way to go. And – while I may have to rethink my attitude to waterproof trousers – I’m only doing so if they prove more waterproof than my supposedly waterproof jacket.
Apparently the emotion that most people link with cycling as a mode of transport is joy. Yeah well, not today it wasn’t. Or at least not for me. The other half – while being very sympathetic to my predicament and all – couldn’t stop laughing when I arrived in full-on drowned rat mode at the door.
Hmm. Maybe ‘drowned rat’ could be the answer to my new nickname quest?
December 18, 2008
For a while now, I’ve been suffering from a split identity. When I first started blogging, I adopted the name ‘Disgruntled’. This suited my blog, and to a lesser extent my state of mind, at least during the commuting hours. Over the years, it became less relevant, partly because I grew more contented (and may I say just how much not using the North London Line any more contributed to that) and partly because the word itself seemed to take on different connotations. By ‘disgruntled’ I suppose I had in mind a milder state of disgruntlement, the sort of harrumphing truculence that causes one to fire off letters to the editor, or roll one’s eyes, or mutter audibly beneath one’s breath. But recently I heard a radio article about ‘disgruntled muslims’ turning to suicide bombs. Disgruntled? Surely there was something stronger at work there than mere disgruntlement? But the English language is an elastic thing, and neither interpretation could be said to be exactly wrong.
But there I was, going about the inter-world, innocently commenting on bikes, or pigs, or sunsest, with a name that implied I was one step away from strapping on a belt of explosives. No wonder people sometimes took my remarks the wrong way. Once I started with this blog, I toyed with posting under different names – town mouse, for instance, or city exile. But there’s something a little twee about anything with the word ‘mouse’ in it, and ‘exile’ implied my sojourn here was an unwilling one. And besides, so many people already knew me as disgruntled, not just in blogs but on flickr, on forums and the like. It seemed a little odd to suddenly turn around and call myself something different.
Now I’m sort of half and half. Where I’ve regularly commented in the past, or on WordPress blogs (where I’m logged in and can’t change it), I’m still disgruntled. Other blogs I’m experimenting with ‘town mouse’ again, although I’m still not entirely convinced. Tell me, o readers, what should I do? How should I style myself? What do you do?
*post title and topic shamelessly borrowed from Flaneur ‘don’t call me Brian‘ Brian
December 17, 2008
‘Hello,’ says a strange voice on the phone. ‘This may sound odd, but I have found a mobile phone…’ And indeed, not only had she found it but she had dried it out, charged it up, coddled it back to health, and then took the trouble to find out whose it was. It seems that on Friday’s bike ride I had done more than forget my bag, I had also managed to bounce my phone out of my pocket outside her cottage.
Once I’ve been here a bit longer, and they realise I live in a constant trail of dropped gloves, scarves, umbrellas, phones, wallets, bags, notebooks etc., they may just take to leaving all lost property outside our house. It will save a lot of time, in the long run…
December 16, 2008
So I’m on my way to Liverpool, on train no 2 (out of six) of the day, waiting to get off at Preston. Behind me, the Virgin staff are also waiting, chatting to pass the time.
‘You don’t go down to Euston, then?’ one asks another.
‘I don’t go down to London, no. I’ve not been down to London for 40 years. I’ve made a career out of not going to London. I hate London. It’s too big, too impersonal. The people are too unfriendly. It’s too hard to get around, the subway’s too difficult to understand. And it rains all the time.’
Big, yes. And impersonal, yes. Unfriendly, yes, I suppose it is a bit, and certainly it’s hard to get around. The tube? Well, I can see if you’re used to Preston that it might be confusing.
But rains all the time? From someone from the north west?
Frankly, I resent that.
December 12, 2008
I was back on the bike after a week’s absence today, and it felt as though it had been rather longer. Certainly the hills felt tougher, the headwinds windier, and the various squeaks and rattles from the bike squeakier. And there was something else not quite right, I thought as I pedalled my way through the bends, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Something I’d forgotten. Something important. It was only as I rounded the last corner and started down the last hill that I worked out what was missing: my bag. It was going to be a long ride back with the paper clenched firmly in my teeth…
Fortunately, I had a better idea and, like the professional cyclists cresting the top of an alpine pass*, I managed to stuff the paper down my jumper and make it home without strewing the Film and Music supplement halfway across the countryside. On the plus side – as the pro cyclists know – I found it made a pretty good windbreak on the downhill stretches. Although, on the downside, a damp and sweaty Guardian is even worse than normal at lighting fires**
But I leave you with another rural mystery. Spotted on a post-it note outside the shop was the following inscription:
Papershop*** Village Shop: Short One Fairy
*only with a considerably crappier bike and rather more slowly.
** and it’s not just me – there’s a lively correspondence going on in the letters column of the Guardian about making it more flammable.
*** except it had the real name of the village, obviously, not Papershop Village, which isn’t actually its real name. In case you were wondering.
December 11, 2008
You know you’re in Scotland when you ask for a book of Christmas stamps and with no further consultation, they give you the second class ones.
Or maybe that’s just the credit crunch talking?