Monday, 17 August 2015

Four letter word

Used as an insult, cunt is a horrible word.  I can well understand why it's written down as c***, although that could equally be cock, I guess.  So from here on, I'll write it as c***, because we now know which word we're talking about.

It's horrible written, and it's worse shouted, face to face at an individual.  I've heard folk in football crowds shout it at the ref, an unknown faceless entity at a safe distance.  I've heard it used as a generic, collective insult.

What I'd not heard before was it shouted.  At me.  One person, an individual.  All I did wrong, and I'm being honest here about my behaviour and my appearance, was to get on a bicycle.

I wasn't wearing lycra, I wasn't veering frantically around the road, I was neither sprinting nor dawdling.  I was going considerably faster than some, and a bit slower than others.  I had a helmet on, and a rucksack with my work macbook in.  I was wearing casual 3/4 length trousers and non showy black running booties.  I was wearing a T-shirt.  My bike wasn't top end, it doesn't look anything other than it is, a heavy steel commuter with tough looking tyres.  It even has enormous flat green pedals on it.  And lights.  And a bell.

And that was me, riding up a very gentle incline south of Stockport.  There are two lanes of traffic in each direction, and going south (as I was) were very few cars at all for once.  Nobody was waiting behind me to pass, hell, nobody was either in my lane or the outside lane.

Yet, coming towards me on the opposite side of the road was a small grey hatch back.  The driver felt it worth his while to open his window, lean out, arm on the side, turning his close shaven head fully towards me, and yell, not timidly, "pedal you c***".

I felt many things.  I was startled, shocked, upset.  Nobody has ever called me a c*** before, not even people who might have been personally upset or angry with me.  It was an act of aggression, and it was really really offensive.  At least I was on the opposite side of the road.  If I'd been going the same way, would he have been angry enough at my existence to swerve his car at me, I wonder.

And there's absolutely nothing I can do. Nothing.  Even had I become a helmet cam wearing rider, what could I have done, what would the police ever do.  Is there even a law against shouting insults at total strangers?  Had I taken the registration number, what would I have done with it?  Had I turned round and chased him down to the next set of lights, what would that have achieved?

And yet I'm still angry with him.  I'm angry that I'm so helpless to make this change.  I'm angry that he felt that was acceptable behaviour.  I'm angry that there is no opportunity to talk to him and find out what was going on in his head to make that happen.  I'm angry that I'm now fearful of riding that bit of road again, part of my regular commute.  That my choices are influenced by these acts of passive aggressive violence.  There's still part of Manchester City Centre I haven't ridden in over a decade since someone tried to run me off the road, swerving violently and deliberately (I did get run off the road but not knocked off or run over).  I won't go there again, because why would I, in my vulnerability put myself in that position?  Why would I put myself back on the A6 in that place again?  It's possible that for him it's a regular journey as much as it is my regular journey.  Will he be satisfied with simply shouting at me that I'm  c*** or will his actions escalate?  It's not worth my taking the chance.

All I did was ride my bike.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Slippery slope

We've been here before I said.
Or maybe kept the words in my head.
I was communing with my bike you see,
we're a partnership; my pal and me.
Evening sunlight on a supine canal
Sleepy ducks line the weed edged trail
Dogs too warm to wag a tail,
Walkers in a sun drugged daze
are all we see along our way.
Familiar bridge, with a sneaky right
winding, downhill, lipped and tight
Whoosh we lazily, indolently cruise
and now you should see the size of my bruise.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

He rides

The man in front is large, clearly large
The kind of size of a rugby front row,
a player in his youth, but sadly
he's not there now. Not many of us are.
He covers his bulk with baggy shorts
He covers his head with a helmet
He covers his chin with a ginger beard
He covers the gaps in the traffic with himself
I sit in his slipstream hiding from the wind
and chat to him at traffic lights.  He seems nice.

Friday, 26 June 2015

In front

The girl in front wears pink,
She rides an upright bike with mudguards
Her ponytail flicks from side to side
Shoulders sway when she rides uphill
Backwards glances, wondering who's behind
A deferential step aside at ASLs
But she's still faster than me,
And I like watching her ponytail bobbing, bobbing, bobbing.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

More numbers

Numbers mean a lot to me.  Dates, ages, numbers.

In the early days of bike computers - remember those, often with a wire going down the fork to a magnet which linked to one on the spokes, and with a cunning circumference measurement input told you how far you'd gone, how long your journey took, what your fastest speed was etc.  Basic stuff.  In those days I had a spreadsheet for my commute to work.  I could see that  I was getting quicker, and it was satisfying.  There were graphs.

I like Strava, it deals heavily in numbers.  How fast I did the same segment a year ago, two years ago, the dips and troughs of when I'm going quickly and when I'm not.

The Jawbone is another number generating device.  How much sleep I'm getting, how much of it is sound.  How many "steps" I take per day, how I compare to the average population of over 40s.  It has graphs too.

Disappointingly, I'm now playing a numbers game with the bathroom scales.  It's not one which is giving me a lot of joy, other than the relief of seeing the numbers coming down.  I don't like what I'm seeing, either on the numbers front or above my waist band.  It makes me unhappy.  I'm about 10 kilos over the weight I kind of like to be - and that's not really about numbers, that's about feel and appearance.  However, I am less than I was, and I'm on the way down.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Big numbers

It is a big numbers kind of a year.  This is indeed somewhat bewildering.

Here I am, with these unbelievably clear memories of 2005, ten years ago, with a completely different life.  Well, ish.

Ten years ago, for example, I know without looking at the calendar (which I probably still have somewhere because it's a curious relic of unbelievable, unreal activity) that this was the time when Dave's radiotherapy course was nearly complete.  I mostly remember because our wedding anniversary was on 17th May and I remember spending it driving to Christie's hospital, parking, having a cup of tea in the canteen, waiting, waiting and waiting, then driving home along the M60 and not doing very much else.  That was a decade ago.

Yesterday I remembered other things.  I remembered meeting my fella for the first time.  It was the three year anniversary of us meeting, curiously, a date memorable because on the ride there was birthday cake shared by his ex girlfriend.  So when we went out yesterday with his ex and her husband (for indeed they are newly weds) for a bike ride and a meal it was this interesting celebration.  First and foremost her birthday but clear in his and my memories it was also oddly our anniversary, with the bike ride starting from the same Hayfield car park in which we'd met.

And here I am, in a different house in a different town, with a different(ish) job, a different fella and a very different life to ten years ago.  No longer do I spend weekends and weeks doing voluntary Canal Restoration and the weeks in between planning, preparing, sorting out details of equipment, permissions, work schedules, people, transport, accommodation and food.  I mostly spend them riding my bike.  Occasionally I walk up a hill.  I am still in a state of wonder at living in the High Peak.

And this year, my age hits a big number, I hope.  I expect to turn 47 in August.  We all have every reasonable right to expect that, to hope for that, to be reasonably complacent about making it to 47.  Dave, though stopped two days short of that.  So, to me, to be alive at the age of 47 will be something quite quite special.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Where now?

Now feels like a time for conscious decisions, for making deliberate choices, for acknowledging the relative freedom I have to carve out my future into what I want it to be.  For bringing the past with me, or the bits of it I choose to in the way I elect to.

There are a lot of choices.  I don't have convention or tradition or peer pressure pushing or pulling me at this point in my life.  I can simply choose to be who I am, who I want to be, and where I want to go.  I don't want to drift any more.

No more "If I could choose the life I please" because there is no if about it.  I am a freewoman.