|Warlingham Green around 0730hrs on Sunday|
Not sure if you've noticed, but these days nothing is ever easy or straightforward. I find that if ever I want to do something, anything, it doesn't matter what it is, I'll encounter some kind of problem. If, for instance, somebody asks me to drill a hole in a wall and hang a picture, you can bet your arse that there will be something preventing me from drilling the right-sized hole and I'll end up having to try another part of the wall, leaving the first hole to be filled but guess what, no Polyfilla. That's normal, it happens all the time, doesn't matter what the task might be and now it was happening again.
|Our bikes outside the Old Ship in Tatsfield, Sunday morning|
In the bike shop I was greeted in the usual manner. "What the fuck do you want?"
Actually it was much more polite. "Hello sir, how can I help you?"
"Just looking for now," I said. "But I'm after a fucking inner tube, alright?"
No, not really, I simply said that I was after an inner tube – 26 x 2.4.
"I'm afraid we're out of stock, you little pillock" said the sales assistant.
Alright, he didn't really call me a pillock.
"No problem," I said, looking at a few sensible bikes and then retracing my steps along Whitgift Avenue.
Halfway along I met a man. He was tall and friendly and we got chatting. It's rare to get chatting with anybody round here unless you know them or they're psychotic, but he seemed genuine enough and we chatted about his heart attack and how he was fine now. He lived in Norbury and said something about being a film maker, but he was also some kind of whizz where architecture and house building was concerned. I couldn't quite figure him out and eventually we parted company.
I drove to another bike shop and bought the new innertube and then chatted with the sales assistant about bikes. He said he had a single-geared bike with block brakes. I told him about my hydraulic brakes, which rarely worked properly, and my gears, which were constantly playing up. "I've got 16 gears and only eight of them work," I explained, wishing I had a single-geared bike with block brakes. Why not? If the hill's too gruelling, I could always get off and walk, just like I did when I was a kid when things rarely went wrong and my bike was rarely being repaired.
The puncture was fixed with ease and the bike rolled back into the garage to await Sunday's ride. Phil aborted and signed off with a 'see you next weekend'. I met Andy on Warlingham Green and we headed for Tatsfield Village where, for some reason, we chatted about nervous breakdowns – a nice, cheery subject for a Sunday morning as we ate our Belvita biscuits and drank our tea.
There was a drunk man shouting into a mobile phone and waking up the neighbourhood. It's always mildly disconcerting seeing a drunk in the early hours, but he seemed harmless enough and didn't bother us.
Halfway down the 269 I stopped and bade farewell to Andy. "See you next weekend," I said and then rode off.
A car horn. The car slowed. The electric window rolled down revealing a man in a track suit. "Don't you look before pulling out?"
As I wouldn't have asked him the same question I saw red. "I did fucking look!" I had a wrench handy should things have kicked off, but he drove on and soon I found myself wishing I hadn't been so indignant. After a few hundred yards of berating myself for losing my rag I calmed down and got on with the ride. I tell you what I don't like: people who act in a certain way – aggressive or rude or whatever – when I know that I wouldn't act the same way towards them. I can't stand people who think they can simply 'have their say', put across their point of view, however offensive, when I wouldn't dream of acting, or talking, the same way to them. It happens a lot and more often than not I bite my tongue (a lot of people do). But sometimes it gets to me. As I rode on I eventually forgot about it
I reached home at 0949hrs, put the bike away and made a cup of tea. A long day in the garden followed. Lots of lawn mowing and sawing of branches in the fresh air.
Earlier this evening I stumbled across an excellent poem by Philip Larkin. Here it is:-
What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.