Sunday, 9 September 2012

Lady of the Forest

For those of you that don't know my Mum died last Tuesday. With hindsight it seemed to happen very quickly, but for the three days between coming back from France and her death, time seemed to do all sorts of strange things.

If the topic of death or cancer disturbs you, don't read this because I am going to be quite open, but respectful  I think.

A small mercy is that she was able to die at home in her sleep surrounded by her family, and though cancer is such a horrible thing, I am glad that we had the support and assistance of so many people, not least my sister, herself a trained nurse.

When she was in hospital I asked her if she minded me writing about all of this on the blog, and she she was happy for me to do so. It's all still very raw and painful, but if you think this is being too open, all I would say is what I always say. This is my blog, it's for me, and this helps me.

People have said that my Mum held on until I got back from France, and my elder brother returned from his holiday. Maybe, probably. She did promise me after all. One of the prognoses we had was 4-6 months, so I did think I would have more time, but then there is never enough is there?

The day before she died I had my last really lucid conversation with her, more of an exchange really. For the previous week she had been having increasing trouble with her speech, a sign we think of mets in her brain. So on Monday afternoon when I said "I love you Mum", I was quite surprised when she opened her eyes wide and said "I love you too Guy".

She was a bit confused about time too and said "you be careful in France".

"I'm back Mum", I said.

"Ooh you're back, that's good".

I can't yet do my blog from my Pyrenean trip, because of all that's happened it is too wrapped up in my Mum's passing. I want to do both justice, so be prepared for this blog to take something of a different turn in the weeks to come, with everyday posts of sportives and ACG rides, maybe some commuting, interspersed with a Pyrenean journey.

One thing I will say now is that Pyractif are absolutely brilliant as a road cycling holiday operator in the Pyrenees. Chris and Helen Balfour have got the experience down to the perfect balance, so if you are thinking of taking a European cycling holiday you will have to look very hard to find anyone better than them. Here is my favourite picture taken by Chris Balfour, of me on the Tourmalet:

Thank you to all the good wishes, texts, e-mails, kind words and just thoughts and prayers that you have sent me. I don't think reality has really hit home yet, but it's nice to have so many people helping me through this, and the virtual world has made that so much more possible than ever before.
Today it was all about a bit of catharsis for me as I joined Gary and Martyn on an ACG ride. I haven't ridden for over a week, and it was nice to do something that is so straightforward and requires little in the way of thinking and emotion. We kicked off with Shipham Hill, and I was like a bull at a gate. There may have been faster people cycling today, but there can't have been many with the emotional intensity that I put into it. 
Gary lost his chain just as we started to come down. His shifting wasn't quite right so we pulled over but couldn't see anything obvious. By the time Martyn and I had waited two minutes at the bottom of the hill in Churchill we realised something was up. So we cycled back up to the garage at the top and attempted to fix Gary's broken chain. Unfortunately my extra link was not compatible with his chain (message : the future is 10 speed people), so he had to trudge the 4 miles back home. At least he had SPD MTB shoes though.
Bryan and I pressed on with a shortened ride, up Burrington and across to the Rock Cake Cafe. Where we were royally entertained by this:
Every first Sunday of each month, this jazz combo play a set at around 11.30 each morning. It was a bit surreal, and I'd guess a little relentless if you were after a quiet coffee, but it cheered me up a bit.
There was just time for us to bomb down into Wells and then climb up Ebbor gorge, down into Priddy and then grockle-avoidance tactics in Cheddar gorge.
As I said, it was nice to just concentrate on getting up the hills, taking the corners and listening to the music. Here is our route.

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