Well, it's nearly Christmas. And if you are reading this in Vanuatu it already is. The really good news is twofold. First, I am not allergic to the French co-op premium lager (4.8%) that I bought on a whim this afternoon. In the co-op. Second, despite the torrential rain that yet again seems to be falling on Somerset, I have got to ride a couple of times in the past week.
The last few months have been, how can I say, character-building? Or affirming, or something like that, I dunno do I? (One for you there Stuart). I have spent a lot of time on the train between Bristol Temple Meads and Paddington, and last week I took the opportunity to pioneer a new field of photography, landscapes from a train.
Here's one I took earlier:
That is sunset near White Horse Hill, home of the eponymous challenge, which opens for entry the first week of January. I really, really want to break five hours on this one. I did 5-08 two years ago, and 5-06 this year, but most of the first flat 40km I was pulling a group along, and so this year I would be very grateful for a few big guys to share the work. Step forward Martyn, Trevor, Ian, Skip, Stuart, Steve, and obviously Chris, the time for a super team is now!
Last Friday I rode to work on a nominally dry day. In so far as very little rain actually fell on my head while I was riding my bike. The legacy of the previous few days was horrendous however, and it all made for a very slow and bedraggled commute. It was a nice way to finish off the week, and in a sense the working year, especially as I feel my professional life has gone pretty well in 2012. The bike commuting helps ease that process. It will be nice to do some of it in sunshine again.
Then Saturday was a journey of a different kind, to another spiritual home. This time with junior sat next to me, in the car, in the pub (don't panic, soft drinks only in a smoke-free zone) and at the match. We didn't win, we lost in fact, but despite the difficulties of driving for 7 hours in the rain, I really enjoyed the trip. I am connected to the place you see, and although trips will never be as frequent as they were, the fact that my son is starting to develop a healthy dose of bias and partisanship, gives me a nice warm glow of pride.
This is the view from my seat at half-time, we were at the end where all the goals were scored.
Yesterday we had a family day out to @Bristol, which although fun in a way is great because it has a Planetarium with really comfy seats. And I did have a snooze until Mrs Mendip Rouleur was forced to wake me up because I had started snoring. But I was there and didn't take the disguised trap of a way-out that said, "you don't have to come if you don't want to". Not so much an offer, more of a test.
I like the Square in Bristol, partly because it reminds me of where I, and my Buckland ancestors came from, but also because it has a 15 foot relief map of Britain on one of the walls. And the only thing better than a good map, is a good relief map in 3D, with cycle paths of Britain on it.
Which brings me to today. The Mince Pie run to Sweets cafe at Westhay, organised by Somerset Cycling. They reckon a hundred of us were stupid enough to cycle out in rain, wind and floods. The levels look like something from the middle ages, flooded fields, roads and ditches. For once an out and back route of just under 25 miles seemed sensible, picking up Skip on the way, meeting Grant and Martyn there, and dropping Grant off in Cheddar on the way home.
Of course the sun, just visible from my living room window, popped it's head out as soon as my bike was washed and dried and put away. He then promptly put it away again, decided he didn't want to play, and got ready to chuck it down again tomorrow.
This is the view from my living room. It's warm and cosy there at the moment. I'm spending a couple of weeks chilling out, the occasional ride, family stuff, watching the Hobbit, that kind of thing. We are even planning to tidy up the dumping room. Best laid, so fingers crossed.
But most of all I'm spending time reflecting on three things. Obviously all the people we have lost this year, my Mum, but also, other people's Mums, Dads, loved ones. Death can diminish us, but it also can strengthen and renew us. Because they leave stuff with us, sometimes annoying, tough, and also sometimes funny or inspiring. So learn, laugh and be inspired.
Second, I think I am still very fortunate. I have health, a roof over my head, food in my stomach and three bikes in the shed. Although I do now need a new shed. Others are not, so I feel I should do my best with what I have. And be grateful, and yes, Princess, be generous.
The third thing? Well that's the cliche. Never apologise for making cliched remarks. You can look out of the train, or across the pitch, gaze at the map, or out of your living room window. Ultimately it keeps going on around you. So we might as well join in and be part of it.