There are times, usually when the wind is driving, even without the rain, when taking the bike out the shed is something you just can’t find the time to do; too many other priorities; things that can’t wait. On the other hand there are, very occasionally, days when those other things must give way; when not taking the bike out may be a sign of losing one’s mind, or the relentless creep of age.
Today was one of the latter. Chores can wait; the postie brought little demanding attention. Even taking an hour and a half to put a cheque in the bank could be put off. For that time must be better spent enjoying a rare day when cycling was a demand.
As I set out that ragged ridge of Goat Fell was limned in the rising sun. Footsteps to the shed compressed the moss, the morning frost stamped in deep. The car was just beginning to lose the morning rime, to glisten and to drip.
So with that distant peak as a target off we rolled. I say target very loosely. For I had no intention of even trying to reach the coast, far less boarding a ferry and heading for the hills. It was simply a feature that grabbed the eye, on the horizon, above the nearer tree line. Time I could manipulate, but not to that extent.
All was quiet, all still. Not a breath stirred the air. As always seems to be the case these days I had to avoid a stray coo, and chase a couple of sheep along the road. Chasing sheep cannot be avoided at times; they run, it happens. Let’s not even think why they’re on the road, again. And it’s one of the few occasions, when they eventually stop in a verge, that the loudest wheezing comes not from the old git on the bike. But I digress.
After crossing the main road, completely absent of traffic just to match this rare day of joy, a buzzing rose from behind a hilltop cottage. It was a day too for the micro-light, irresistible. Up, up and away he went, round that big lump of rock, and off, rising, wing struts shimmering in the sun. Afore long the buzzing was gone. But that only allowed me to hear more. Har, har, har, haarrr.
I saw nothing. From deep within a tall pine something was laughing. The tree stood majestic in the sun. Festooned it was, with cones, those long and thin ones, pendulous, like the weights on a grandfather clock. And deep inside he laughed again.
But that was where I had to leave him and begin to work. For the first real climb beckoned. Summits attained -it’s very much a twin peaks section of the route – I noted a new sign. Battlefield Bakery, whose produce I’d sampled a week or two ago down at The Cook School’s monthly market. The pistachio & cranberry loaf did not last long in this house. But better than that it gave me back my knead once again.
Bread-making had been neglected for some time, save for high days and holidays. But we’ve been pummelling away, with flour & oil, seeds & grains. There’s a very good eight grain mix available in Aldi just now, which produces a tasty loaf. And we’ve been experimenting with Man’oushe, a staple flat-bread from Lebanon, drizzled with olive oil, and lemon, crusted with onions and thyme. Just a little recipe I found over at Wanderlust. Methinks I’ll be exploring the art of the Lebanese bakehouse a bit further.
Downhill, twisting, rising, falling. It’s always a fun stretch. Brakes on today though, breathe in, for the mannie in the tractor has his eyes on the hedges he’s cutting, oblivious to a low down grasshopper hurtling onwards. We squeeze past, just.
Hedge-cutting. As always there’s more hawthorn than beech lining the road. We carried on downhill, a trifle slower, trying to pick a safe route through the debris scattered across the road. I was minded that since fitting Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres around four years ago I’d succumbed to a puncture but once; and that I was at the furthest point from home.
The horizon by now took my eyes far to the south, Tinto Hill, rising gently. It was one of those days, with visibility huge, untainted by cloud. Even the turbines were at rest. In fact it was a rarer day than that, for I opted to remain on the main road such was the mood that could not be dampened. It’s a smooth surface these days, and side roads would mean more bumps, more climbs. Only seven artics breezed past; one even slowed down, air brakes hissing behind me as the light disappeared from the helmet mirror. Still at least he didn’t try to squeeze past.
What looked from a distance to be a burn glistened, arrowing the route home where I knew no burn existed, all the way to the Towers, miles way. Across the fields a conveyor takes the sand from the quarry, and under the sun it marked out the direct route. I stuck to the road, and picked up the line of the conveyor again later. It’s a recent addition to the landscape, with eerie green lights after dark. Even the growing junkyard, with truckloads of tyres, and rusting machinery, couldn’t take the gloss from a day like this. Mind you the final climb back to Grasshopper Towers tried very hard; nearly won.
Sometimes it’s good just to put things off. Like the molehills; manana.