As a result of an unforgivable oversight on my part, in the past few days I have been in touch with an old friend. He got me thinking. Thinking about home, about friendship, about respect, about getting old, about cycling, about Leicestershire and about this here titular resolve.
I rarely make resolutions, if ever. The old New Year variety has never been a thing in my world, although I confess that I did set and maintain a resolution for one of my new years to share 365 of my favourite records when I reached 52 years of age. The point was that I made a simple, perhaps banal, link between 52 years and 52 weeks and it gave me a reason to explore one of my passions. Hideously self-indulgent, I suppose, but I now look back at those 365 days and occasionally surprise myself. Did I really write all that?
You, too can relive the year, here:
Thus, I find myself considering this very page. I made no specific resolution to write/publish every day in 2020, although these early days of the year have kept me relatively busy. The big (little) issues of my daily life have been clamouring to make it onto these virtual pages. I think I don’t want or need the self-imposed pressure of finding something new each day on which to pontificate, ponder and preach, and I am sure a little bit of procrastination keeps the stress levels at bay. Essentially, my process is as follows… Nothing to write about? Worry not. Go about business. See something. Idea forms. Write a bit. Leave it for a while. Return. If it still looks okay, hit Publish. Sit back. Bask in the warm glow induced.
My concern is that, largely as a result of a dreadful memory, I have a rather limited repertoire of stories, anecdotes, musings, world-changing ideas and unique philosophical nonsense, so I’m expecting to run dry long before the year is out. That’s the pessimist in me. Never disappointed; often disappointing. Sorry about that.
Thinking about home is problematic. When I go back to the UK for an extended summer break with the family, I now tend to refer to Taiwan as home. I have spent my life moving around, thanks to the Royal Navy, the Halifax and the wife. (Disclaimer: I hate the term, the wife, but it seemed to fit, and it works by being non-specific, so I make no apology. Those closest to me will understand. It’s all about context, darling. Context.) On balance, however, while I have no family in Leicestershire, I do have a house there, and a handful of close friends, so this is the home I’ve been thinking about this week. I realised that I do miss my life there. Just not enough to want to actually move back just now. Too bloody cold.
I learnt to ride on the roads of Leicestershire. I learnt from experienced, talented students on long rides on a Wednesday afternoon, and from certain wisened old locals who joined us on a Saturday morning. Lord knows how many miles I clocked up pedalling from Loughborough through countless villages beginning with W. I learnt to ride in a bunch, and even in races. Indeed, on my modest Wilier, blasting around Mallory Park for the first time was a genuinely life-changing moment for me. I was in my early forties, wondering why I hadn’t been doing this since my teens. I couldn’t sleep that night. Positively fizzing. I came to find new respect for the cyclist, especially the racing cyclist, and even more for the older cyclist. Past their prime, but still alive, competitive, honest, wise, careful, caring. Sharing a ride with old friends, chatting side-by-side, mile after mile, dodging the rain where possible, learning how to share the workload. This is gone from my life for most of the year, now. This, I miss. More specifically, I regret not making the effort to go to Loughborough to ride with my old friend(s) last summer. My head was not in a good place and I didn’t want to admit it.
Without wishing to be overly melodramatic, I could argue that cycling has probably saved me from certain insanity. At least for the time being, eh? The best piece of advice came from my old friend. We were out one day, just before or just after my 50th birthday. I forget which. No matter. We stopped for coffee and cake. At the next table sat an old chap in Lycra who was well known to the senior one of us. If my memory serves me correctly, said old fella was seventy years old, but had recently completed a 25 mile time trial in an hour. Pretty remarkable by anyone’s standards, especially on the grippy roads around Leicestershire. I’d spent most of the ride grumbling about reaching fifty. By grumbling, I mean feeling sorry for myself about having reached the half century. All downhill from there. Looking at the septuagenarian and feeling rather feeble, I was kindly advised: “The secret is to just keep riding, Colin.” I’m doing my best. Still haven’t managed a 25-mile time trial in an hour, though.
As for the unforgivable oversight… my pal’s 65th birthday. I’m not big on birthdays and cards and all that kind of stuff, but I feel bad for missing this one. I know he keeps riding, although I am a little concerned. In our recent conversations, he mentioned having gone to the dark side with a new bike build. We’re talking Shimano, here, from an old chap who I thought owned multiple shares in Campagnolo… 😉
What have you done with the real Stewart?