It has been a week for contemplating mortality – a graveyard tour of Bigtown last Friday (genuinely more fun than it sounds), and then I had to travel to York on Tuesday for the funeral of a good friend’s father.
I took the Brompton – something I ummed and ahed about, because I didn’t want to make a spectacle of myself on a solemn occasion but, after looking at Google maps and checking with the locals, I decided that I could get to both York crematorium and the hotel where the event-that-happens-after-funerals-that-doesn’t-seem-to-have-a-name was to be held looking reasonably respectable and without needing the services of the crematorium myself. It saved me messing about ordering taxis or working out buses, and as it happened I arrived at the hotel almost before anyone else, despite taking a massive detour to stick to the cycle paths as much as possible. York’s on-again-off-again cycling infrastructure (now it’s a shared path! Now it’s a pavement! Now it’s on the other side of the road! Now it’s paint on the road! Now it’s under a skip!) did enough to remind me of my own mortality without leaving me seriously fearing for my life, there was even cycle parking at both venues, and the main problem turned out to be that I had dressed for August in Scotland (bordering on autumn) and was cycling in August in England (Gas Mark 5), so had to do a hasty spot of delamination in the loos before the service. I had the bonus of a native guide to get me on the right road through York’s somewhat confusing city centre, and a reasonable map to get me back to the station, and in the end it all went extremely smoothly even if I did feel like I was indeed being That Person, the one who insists on turning up everywhere on a bike to make a point.
And in truth, although I might frame it as being entirely a practical decision about a mode of transport, there was another reason for taking the Brompton with me, which probably weighed the strongest. On a day that was inevitably about sadness and loss, about death and the past, simply being able to get on a bike and just move was exactly what I needed to do.
For in the midst of life, we are indeed in death. And in the midst of death, we are also still alive.