Thursday, September 18, 2008

A day out 

The bike ride… What can I say? Perhaps it did achieve its objective of giving me a much-needed ego boost. But why should I need such a thing? Why do I keep falling into a pit of self-doubt? Why do I need constant validation of worth? Indeed, why do I seem to equate achievement with worth? Isn’t personal worth about who we are not what we do? Although on the other hand, isn’t it inevitable that who we are is made manifest in what we do? I have some ideas about answers to some of these questions, but they expose areas I’m not yet ready to discuss here; nevertheless there’s no doubt that without regular fresh evidence of ability – any kind of ability - I have very little faith in myself.

It went well though. An 8am start to rendezvous (in the drizzle) with the small group of extra-keen (extra-insane?) cyclists who had started 2 days earlier in Cardiff,

meeting up with the main group who were starting at Epping, about 20 miles further on,

then a pleasant ride through quiet Essex lanes (though not all as leafy and narrow as this short-cut alongside a ford between two roads)

with a break for a fish-and-chip pub lunch.

Much needed calorific fuel, but rather heavy on the stomach! Eventually more persistent rain set in, necessitating the donning of waterproofs, nevertheless spirits remained undampened.

(In the interests of personal safety and the avoidance of wrecking the camera as I crash to the ground whilst trying to follow the road through the camera viewfinder, I'm afraid photos are only of occasions when we were stopped.)

Perhaps I should have chosen something else for lunch, but the poor girl’s face fell when eleven hungry lycra-clad cyclists descended on the pub, eager for a full cooked lunch – she was on her own; clearly the pub is usually very quiet on a Tuesday lunch time – and scanning the menu I thought fish and chips would be less trouble to cook. The only snag was that our evening stop turned out to be at – a fish and chip shop! I couldn’t face more of the same so just nibbled a few spare chips. I wonder if it occurred to the proprietor that his sign in the window appeared to represent a cannibal? Or maybe the fish only ate the chips...

It was getting dark by the time we arrived at Harwich, but we’d made good time so I was able to catch the 8.06pm train back to London, whilst the rest of the group occupied a local hostelry until it was time to board the overnight ferry bound for Hook of Holland from where they would continue to Amsterdam. By the time they were on the ferry and settling into their cabins - or were propping up the bar - I had reached Enfield Town station from where it was a short-ish ride home.

It wasn’t long though before I realised I’d made a poor choice. I took this route to avoid an unfamiliar late night cross-central-London ride from one railway terminus (Liverpool Street) to another (King’s Cross) which would have landed me up within a few hundred yards of home. Enfield is close – by car – but much further than a few hundred yards, and I’d never cycled it. Close in car terms turns out to be nearly 7 miles, 6 of which are uphill - gradual, but for the most part unrelenting. Not pleasant when they feature as miles 94 to 100 a the end of a 15 hour day! I suppose the merit though was it did take me just over the magic 100 mile figure.

Was it worth it? Undoubtedly. Will I do it again next year? Quite possibly. Will the beneficial effect last? Unlikely. But it still feels good right now.

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