In every situation in life, there's always a way to make a tit of yourself
On a lovely sunny day like today it’s easy to imagine that taking a nice bike ride along the coast would be a perfectly joyous way to spend an afternoon. And sometimes it is. But trust me, there are times (like last Wednesday) when you really do wonder why in God’s name you ever thought it would be a good idea.
As I went into the flat to get changed into more lycra than will ever be decent on one person, the sun was shining and there wasn’t even a breath of wind to ruffle the leaves. It was a perfect day for cycling. Though I have to say, I was mildly disappointed to not have bad weather as an excuse to skip the next few hours of rather unnecessary physical exertion.
However, as I exited the flat a mere half an hour later, lycra-clad and bike in hand, I began to wonder if I’d dozed off for a while, slept through a couple of world wars, and had emerged in apocalyptic nuclear winter. The sky had clouded over, mist had descended and Edinburgh was cloaked in an ominous and distinctly chilly gloom. After a moment of genuinely considering turning back inside and putting the kettle on, I decided to man-up and just get on with it.
Not surprisingly there was a fairly limited turn-out for the ride. We realised we essentially had the choice between hill fog or sea fog. We opted for sea fog, partly because we weren’t 100% sure that sea fog actually existed, but mostly because it did at least mean we wouldn’t have to face the added coldness of altitude. And so we set off in the direction of the coast. It’s fair to say I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about the hours ahead.
The way out was fine, even though peddling through freezing fog isn’t honestly the most enjoyable way to spend your afternoon. But it’s always the way back that gets me, and Wednesday seemed worse than usual, cold and tired and wondering why on earth you came out here in the first place.
You reach the point where your bum is really quite sore (I don’t know who designs bike saddles but they apparently have some sort of vendetta against people who might possibly at some point want to have children), your legs are really quite tired, and lunch feels like really quite a long time ago. And at this point you just want to be at home. Preferably in bed, with a large supply of biscuits.
At this point you also have the horrible realisation that the only way to get home is to keep on peddling and get yourself there. So you keep going, because frankly you don’t have much of a choice, even though getting off and lying by the side of the road, weeping gently, seems like quite an appealing option.
Despite the quite considerable discomfort that you have now found yourself in, you steadily inch closer and closer to home, usually fantasising about what you’re going to have for dinner. But as you get closer, Edinburgh has one more slap in the face left in store for you. You remember that, in order to get to the place where it’s socially acceptable to lie down and sob for a bit, you must first haul your weary self up some fairly alarming hills, including part of Arthur’s Seat.
This is somewhat of a low point, both literally and psychologically, as you furiously ask yourself why, why in heaven’s name did you move to a city where absolutely everything, no matter which direction you’re going in, seems to be uphill?! But there is no way around it and you must creak and wheeze your way up the inclines, sometimes making worrying involuntary noises slightly resembling a woman going through a particularly difficult birthing process.
You may feel as though your legs are melting into little pools of lactic acid and you are dangerously close to bursting a lung but you make it home. You may have to hobble awkwardly up the stairs, wondering what irreparable damage you have done to various important parts of your body, and you may remove your helmet to find that you look a bit like a scarecrow that has stuck its finger in a plug socket, but you still know that, come next Wednesday, cycling will seem somehow, bafflingly, like a good idea.
And I’m not entirely sure why. It might be because, although it feels like you are punishing your body for some heinous crime it has committed against you, it must surely be doing you some good. It might be because you do feel a sense of triumph knowing that you have just survived two hours of something akin to being repeatedly run over by a bus. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it is actually because, by the time you make it back to your flat, having a hot shower, a cup of tea and an obscene quantity of baked goods feels like the greatest thing you could ever in your wildest dreams wish for. And anything that makes a cup of tea taste even more fantastic than usual has got to be worth doing more than once.