The night had been grim. A slight shift in wind direction brought the relentless gales of the day onto the bedroom window, ‘neath which the bed rests. And of course they found the gaps in the sealant, whistling joyfully, battering us from a rare quarter; all night long, it seemed.
Dawn brought low clouds, and mizzle. But no wind. And gradually the skies began to brighten. So out went The Grasshopper once again – a gap in the diary on a day free of wind cannot be ignored.
Mackerel skies; you hear about them, see them, and yearn for some sun. We had both, for there were shoals of the damn things, building from the south west, chasing into the clear lagoon on the opposite horizon. Off we went, an early climb to waken the muscles.
Along a road usually bereft of anything at all, the helmet mirror was brought into use, constantly. No fewer than eleven cars wanted to squeeze past, and duly did. All of them were respectful, waiting for a little extra space. But eleven cars, on that road, at the same time. Something’s up.
Anyway my route took me on a different path, higher ground to gain. In places the going was not easy. Nothing to do with the gradient and unfit legs; and all to do with the debris from the night just gone. Every dip trapped water; every hill sluiced with the running stuff; and everywhere there was a soggy morass of leaf-litter and mush. It’s slippy stuff on an unstable machine, and no place for a low down bum.
But we survived; no mishaps. A buzzard rose and led the way from pole to copse, flying low, watching. On the other side of the hedges the sheep squelched, and that wet-wool smell was never far away. The hawthorns had been flayed on this route too, though much of the debris had been washed away, I hoped. But the sweet smell of hawthorn-after-the-rain, is one to have me breathing long and deep. Even though short and rasping is the usual grasshopper-induced rhythm.
Above, the shoals drew nearer. Blue became grey. There was a smir. And as always I was at the furthest point from home. For warmer times there are waterproof shorts in the saddle bag, when the weather turns. But they’d become a bit tight recently; shrunk in the wet or the wash probably. And in their place, I’d forgotten, was a very natty pair of what is called ‘commuter leg coverings’. These are a bit like chaps, as worn by John Wayne and other serious horsie folk. But not quite as wide, and with Velcro to fasten round, just above the knee. They’re also in the highest high-vis possible. I feared the worst.
But the rain stayed away, and the leg coverings remained bagged. And I swam against the shoals all the way home.
A parking sign, down the hill from the kirk, confirmed my fears from the earlier convoy. So it’s as well I travel only at a funereal pace. Home, and Sri Lankan chicken soup. No mackerel.