Saturday, 30 November 2013
It's been a hard decade for injuries. It all seemed to start with IT Band damage in 2007 which still flares up from time to time, but there's also been a shoulder injury, a diagnosis of TMJ, and an episode of Trigeminal nerve disorder in recent years. Before that, the only things which ever got damaged were broken little fingers and a broken nose.
I'm not a patient patient. I always want to get up and do things before I possibly should. I'll doggedly push myself unless given clear warnings about bad consequences if I over do it. I was really really well behaved and looking to long term future when I tore the cartilage. Followed physio instruction to the absolute letter and made a full recovery.
This time, though with the lovely toppling Labyrinthitis I have got it into my head that my brain simply needs to recalibrate, and the best way of doing that is to go out there and behave normally. Walk. That kind of thing. Which is what I did today, meandered with the gait of a squiffy drunkard along the footpaths going from home. Pondered as I did so about how thankfully different I am to my dad. As soon as anything went wrong with Dad he gave up. I don't exaggerate. His attitude was to think about what he couldn't do, not what he could do. If he thought that in the future something would no longer be possible he simply stopped. Then and there, said if I can't do that in the future there's no point doing it now. He was as stubborn as I am. But me, I like to at least try.
So today's walk, I bimbled along, thinking about the simple experience of walking, the feeling of loss of focus, the odd sensations brought about by the lack of balance combined with my naturally bobbing gait as I walk. And I thought, you know what, this is not so bad. If this is the way walking is to be for the next few days or weeks I can cope with this. If walking were always like this, would that be a game stopper? No, I don't think it would be. Imagine if I knew no different, if walking had always been this way, would I be concerned. No, I'd have adapted, and that's what I can do now, accept, relax, adapt. Could I climb Ben Nevis like this; I don't know but maybe. Get in.
Friday, 29 November 2013
Rhayader came in the middle of a solo holiday. My first real go it alone experience, my first attempt to fill my leisure time with solitary activity. It's hard to describe why or how this came about or to pull the significance into words. I had never known it was possible to be contented, or perhaps even happy in an experience which wasn't shared with other folk. Yet somehow, in that summer, there I was, giving it a go on a very very safe and small level. Did I choose to plunge in with an experience in a foreign place where they speak no English? No. Did I choose to try death defying soloing or cliff diving? No. It was enough of an emotional risk taking this time out, true time out of everything, alone.
I don't even remember it being a conscious decision, just something I drifted into because it seemed the natural and obvious thing to do. Not really a woman against world train of thought involved. Yet, somehow, with the clarity that the passing of another half decade brings, it did feel a little that way. A small, self contained individual, armed with a car, a tent, a wetsuit, a bike, a camping chair and a box of wine. I did feel small. Looking back, I still see myself back then as small, but as astonishingly self contained.
I remember riding the green lanes, arriving with hesitation at an unwelcoming farm with no clear view of the ongoing bridleway. An encounter with the farmer, whose concern was his moving herd of cattle bearing down on me from the trail. A conversation, a wait, a sense of surreal as the cows passed me by. Then up and up and up until the broad trail became virtually nothing and then became boulders through a stream. Up to the road, a short spell of tarmac and off into the greenery, where there was nobody, not a soul, a whole load of nothing for miles and miles and miles. An unexpected ford making me giggle as I desperately pedalled up to my axles in water, hoping and praying that I would make it through to the end still in the saddle. Some kinds of wet are simply not necessary on the bike. There were village tea rooms and there was cake and it was a wonderful day spent just being me. And the bike. This is us at the bewildering where did the path go moment. It went across ...
Since the tame going it alone holiday, there have of course been more and more times when I've gone it alone. Suilven in Scotland, two days hiking, carrying my everything on my back and spending a night in a bothy with just the bothy mouse for company and the sounds of rutting stags throughout the night. Six weeks in New Zealand including a 5 day hike along the coast, again my world in a huge purple pack. There has been France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg.
I wrote about this ride here, on this blog, back in July 2011. Memory has re-written the ride, as it re-writes so many things. History is rounded, curved, completed by the present and by the future. Experience paints it different colours and brings with it new meaning. But that first moment of brave, of discovery of possibility, that yes, it can be not only done, but done with smiles and laughter. That won't be equaled. There'll always be Rhayader. And certainly if 2005 felt like an ending, 2011 felt like hope.
Monday, 25 November 2013
An odd coincidence seems to be the getting injured or sick just when I'm on a tight deadline for an Open Uni assignment, thus freeing up lots of reading time. On the sofa. I'm not even sure I like the sofa very much any more. Or that I ever really did.
The previous sofa was an odd one. Bought as a sofa bed on the recommendation of my Gran. A Jaybe I think it was. One of those which said you could use it as a regular bed for six months, so good was the mattress. I think I (we, I guess) did use it for a good number of weeks while the house was being turned tipsy turvy as we tried to make various rooms habitable. My bed came with me but in pieces.
I bought this one because, somehow the previous one made me uncomfortable. Mentally, more than physically. I guess I just didn't see the point. I now live in a world of terracotta mismatch with a sofa I cannot lie on because of the size of my room. The main selling point as far as I remember were arms that I could rest my mug of tea on.
Sometimes these things are important. Tea, many cups of it being drunk here. Does that make it OK?
Today was brought to you by Billy Joel because you know you're not so tough ...
Friday, 18 October 2013
It's hard to narrow them down. Like so many things in life, the first decisions are the easiest, the quickest, the ones that fall into place. It's number 4 and 5 which are the hardest. The grey areas sadly are those you spend 80% of your time figuring out, and only 20% on the most important stuff.
So, let's not try for the six, let's not waste 80% of our time on the 20% which are of least importance. This one is on my soundtrack.
As is this one.
and this one
and all of these are also subject to change.
The last two of course are the most changeable because they reflect the now, the present and the recently happened which becomes coloured by the now and by the future. I don't know what they are, I never really will.
This makes me think of France. If I had a playlist, it would be on it.
Monday, 30 September 2013
By autumn he was really sick. He couldn't be left. Some afternoons we had a longer visit from a carer, an hour which gave me time to walk the mile to Morrisons and return home with essentials. I got to go outside the house which we were both now tied to, curiously held indoors by no obvious force other than the inability to leave. Dave had always lived as much outdoors as he could, as had I. But I got to get out there and walk home kicking the piled up horse chestnut leaves and prickly cases. I picked up three conkers to take home for Dave, to share with him the autumn which was taking place somehow without us. He barely glanced at the gift.
Today I walked back from Eccles and saw the first of the season's conkers on the pavement with the first fallings of the leaves. I let them be.
Saturday, 14 September 2013
I am no longer conflicted at all. I say, go out there, acquire the kit for the sport and the team for which you have a passion and a belief in, and wear it with pride. Show the world that you're a cyclist, and that in this accessible to all activity you have an allegiance to something higher, or an aspiration perhaps to one day merit that kit yourself. Above all, never feel ashamed or embarrassed to be associated with the sport and the team you support.
I am deeply disturbed by the kind of sites popping up like this one: Full Pro Kit Wankers. I mean, where do these people get off categorising those wearing with pride their pro peleton kit on their own, possibly cheaper versions of the pros bikes as "wankers". If your 11 year old child wanted, for example, a Team Sky jersey for Christmas, would it put you off, knowing he might be coming in for the "wanker" badge? Isn't that just a little cruel? Wouldn't it be good to know in the UK kids aren't mocked for being cyclists, wearing lycra and hero worshipping their role models? Would you want that 11 year old to be known as a "wanker" for the simple sin of wearing a jersey which says s/he is proud to be a rider, proud to associate with something bigger than them, bigger than their club, looking up at the best. Isn't it rather cool knowing that the British are indeed up there with the best in this sport. Why shouldn't we show our pride on the street?
That kind of derogatory name calling does nothing at all for the sport. The wearers of these figure hugging jerseys emblazoned with team names and sponsors have not taken the purchase lightly. These things are not cheap, and where do you think the money goes? Yes, it goes to the team, well, some of it, as well as the clothing manufacturer, retail outlet, etc. etc. etc. It is an income stream for the team. Those who compare cycling to sports such as football and the investments, the money, the payments to athletes would do well to think about how those sports are funded. Merchandising plays a part. Sponsorship plays a part. Cycling don't do well on gaining money from spectators, although media including TV must gradually start filtering down some of the readies.
Teams need sponsors too. The sponsors are in it largely to get their name out and about in public. Imagine even an out of date kit riding our roads with the sponsors' investments continuing to pay back with their name out there every sunny weekend.
I rode around the roads of Switzerland, France, Germany and Belgium for 8 weeks. Coming from this country where the instinct seems to be to belittle and mock those who wear the kit it was an eye opener. Switzerland was full of people wearing not just the BMC jersey but also the shorts. France similarly with every trade team under the sun represented, and Belgium just the same. Amongst those were club kits, smaller team kits, people happy to make public their allegiance. Sometimes it's just because the kit happens to be stylish. A complimentary nod to the marketing folk who are clearly doing their job right. It was a wonderful sight to see all shapes sizes ages and genders resplendent in their various outfits.
I felt ashamed of myself that in the UK I feel I would be mocked for getting out the Team Sky jersey which I happily wore all over France. And I'm not a wannabe. I'm a 45 year old woman who has had a road bike for just over a year. I know my place in the grander scheme of things on the road.
Arguments against it, well, the considered arguments go something like this:
- It's something which has to be earned
- It's an honour to represent a team and for others without that ability to dress the same belittles the achievement
I suspect the pro riders seeing someone wearing their kit simply smile, maybe even in a slightly approving manner, sometimes I would guess in a humbled manner, after all, that person has bought the kit because it means something to them. The riders on the team mean something to them perhaps. I feel one thing is for sure, they are not offended by this. My Team Sky jersey has Wiggins down the side, not through planning, just through bulk ordering vagaries. His wife approved.
And in general applause for those brave enough to go out there and take on the chin their mates comments, and sometimes those of strangers, here's me, resplendent,
Sunday, 11 August 2013
Its curious, an odd feeling of home sickness. Not a logical thing because taken literally the house is just property. It's more a feeling of very slight wrongness. A feeling that somehow I've stopped being true to me, because 75% of home is me.
I remember nearly a year ago after dusk on a Scottish beach crying with relief at the sure and certain knowledge that it was OK to stop running. Now I want to stop again, to reconnect with me. Properly think about the Alison of now not of twelve months ago. What does this woman, this work in progress want in the here and now? Is it a nest or some kind of safety?
I am in the Alps happy and joyfully planning my next move. It may be Italy it could be the Gorge of Verdun. I won't know until tomorrow. I want water to look at and sunshine to read in. I want to stop. That may be because in an eight day period I rode the Alpe d'Huez, the Col de Lautaret, the Col de Restefond and Bonnette and the Col de Vars. Possibly.