We are on the eve of the government triggering Brexit. Oh, how much fun can that be?
Here’s me trying to make connections with unseen readers, phantoms of my mind. The world is being torn apart and I’m building either an illusionary one or one that is founded on delusion. It could be that nobody will ever read my wanderings. Now, I am a reasonable human-being who understands that the world has stopped revolving around my belly button. It never did revolve around it and never will. My existentialism is playing tricks with my head. Thoughts of who I am and where I belong are nonsensical. I am here and now, here and now, there and then. The moment I stop to think about it, I move on and so does the world. It’s a good job that the world keeps turning otherwise we all might fall off.
One of the things that I particularly disliked when I was a young boy was falling off my bike, something that happened all too frequently for my own or my parents’ comfort of mind.
I have left more skin on the road than the council has left tarmac. Accidents just happened, but to me they happened more than once. There was a time that I spent a whole year recovering from an accident that had deprived me of much of my facial covering. I was in the Tour de France, or my neighbourhood’s equivalent, and I was involved in a sprint finish. To be truthful I was the only one in the race, but that didn’t stop me from putting on that final spurt to the line. Unfortunately, this was a pre-racing bike and, therefore, pre-cleats. Just as the crowd were getting to their feet to welcome me back along the Champs Elyse, my foot flew off the pedal and went straight into the front wheel, entangling itself at speed and creating a catapult effect.
My face flipped over the handlebars and met the warm surface of the road. The road saw this as an opportunity to share some skin, mine, and it gleefully took it. One moment I was that daft lad who thought he was Eddie Mercx and the next I was a vision from a leather manufacturing instructional manual. All of this should have told me that I wasn’t meant to be stable.
Some of my very best friends are cyclists, there are more and more of them each year – it’s a ‘mamil’ thing. You see more and more of us dress to impress in our tight Lycra, mount posh bikes and head out into the countryside for middle to lengthy rides with fellow ‘mamils’ on weekend mornings, especially on Sundays that have not given way to rain or frosts. Middle-Aged Men in Lycra are taking over the nation’s rural roads, usually in groups of up to five. These are generally converts who see their pastime as a way of enriching and prolonging their lives. They are not the same as some of my hardcore cycling friends who believe that this sport ought to be more about self-punishment. If there is no pain, there is no point. I have been out with them and have been pushed to my limits. One of my mates would not hang around if I started to struggle; he belongs to the nature raw in tooth and claw school but the other does not. One is almost tea-total and the other is not.
When I was down in my deep, deep dumps I could not really appreciate that the suffering of others could be just as bad, if not worse than mine. My friend was on the verge of a meltdown. He had confided in me that he was drinking a little too much. I did the friend thing of listening and then telling him that he was probably wrong and that he should just try to cut down a bit. Some may think that I was taking the part of the pot at this stage, but my friend really did drink a tad too much and he did it in the manner of many secret drinkers; away from prying eyes. In comparison to him, my little dalliances with the Devil’s brews were just that; but still not good. I have thoughts about going totally tea-total to enable me to achieve my sporty and literary potential, but didn’t Jesus like a drink? My friend was in a different place, he was in a world of true darkness and to make matters worse he had moved to Wales.
I have been to Wales a few times before and had quite liked it. I claimed some sort of Welsh connection to make me appear more exotic and romantic. I had also claimed an Irish connection when living in Spain. It all fits into someone who claims any connection that pulls them away from the mainstream. A good way to get over such afflictions is to go and spend some time in the place of you’re claiming, then reassess.
My long drive into Wales was on a moderately sunny day. I was on long-term sick and needed some escape from the imprisonment of my home. When our dutiful neighbours had abandoned their watch of the neighbourhood, I made my move. I quickly packed up the things that I would need for a couple of days and put the bike on the back. I did notice upstairs curtains twitching as I pulled out of the drive but I felt a real sense of escape. I just needed to breath and do that head getting together thing without having to feel like I had to constantly explain myself to anybody who happened to bump into me during normal working hours.
The journey was relatively easy and driving along the north peninsular gave me an opportunity to view the numerous beaches and castles that line the route. It was the Normans who decided to follow-up Rome’s original intention, but these northern French were a little more successful. It was William the Conqueror who had the appetite to live up to his name. He built hundreds of castles to house his unwanted lords whilst cowing the population. William was a true bastard, but he was French. Why on earth then is it that the Welsh, more particularly the northern Welsh, dislike the English so much? It was William who introduced them to Europe whereas it was Cameron who opened the door for their exit. Come to think of it, Farage is a French sounding name; what beouf did he have with the original European community? The legacy of this is a dramatic landscape dotted with castles that would seem more at home in Lord of The Rings than a place not far from Liverpool.
I arrived at the meeting place and was pleased to see my erstwhile buddy. We drove to where he lived, in a mobile home on the land owned by his girlfriend’s parents. His girlfriend, somewhat younger than him, I knew to be a loon from shared holiday experiences. She too liked a drink but, like my friend, had gotten into the habit of hiding it. On a camping holiday in France she took to drinking wine from an opaque plastic beaker so that nobody would suspect her of dipsomania. Her cover was blown one night after returning from a shared meal and drink event. She was obviously blotto but then went onto provide us with one of our most cherished holiday memories. She was so pissed that she undressed and then ran around the campsite completely naked, showing her ‘monkey’ to any campsite dwellers who were still awake.
My friend’s children, especially his teenage son, were in a state of trauma when he brought them around to our caravan, asking me if the could stay, so that they could get some sleep. My friend and I spent a good hour trawling the campsite for the errant madam who was not in ‘dis’ or any sort of dress. Apart from this cherished memory, my wife and I had very little time for his partner as we thought that she was not as sincere as we would have liked her to have been.
I had this idea that my friend was using her for stability. She, although as barmy as a fruit bat, was steady. She had a steady job and her parents had a small-holding in Wales where my friend was planning to renovate houses and sell them for a living. I actually thought this to be a good idea and almost went into partnership with him. My wife pulled a face and I pulled out of any such thinking. But when I was first lost in the turmoil of my break-down, I needed somewhere to go.
My friend is funny. He can be a very crude and politically-incorrect individual but, with most people, he can get away with it because of his affability. I like those who make me laugh as laughter is a valuable commodity that is all too scarce most days; especially when going through anxiety disorder.
“You don’t look as bad as I expected you to look,” he greeted me. “I expected you to have dirty underpants on your head and an embarrassing piss stain down your leg. You are actually looking well.”
We hadn’t seen each other for nearly two years so I took this as a compliment.
“You’ve brought your bike?”
“Good, because we’ll get back, get changed and get out on them.”
And with that, we were off to his Welsh place of abode. He rides at speed, so I had to get a lick on or he would leave me. We crossed over onto Anglesey and I was impressed. This is the life, I thought to myself. Anything was a life compared to the one I had seriously crashed as few weeks earlier.
To be continued…