Sunday July 4, 2004
Graham’s task for the day was to replace the four foot section of fence screening that blew loose in the gale last week, and to reinforce the whole twenty-five foot length with an extra layer of new brush screening. The modesty screen between us and our neighbour on the kitchen side is a vital part of good relations and needs to be carefully maintained. I don’t fully agree with the old saw that good fences make good neighbours—there’s very little in my experience that will make a bad neighbour anything other than bad—but they certainly help.
I took my bike ride without incident, covering exactly the same ground and routine as yesterday. There was far less wind today so the return leg was easier. Even so, I found myself pushing a bit too hard and used the gears to adjust the resistance to suit. That was when I realised that it is a long, steady rise from the back road across the fen to our village. You really don’t notice it in the car.
This part of Lincolnshire doesn’t go in for dramatic hills. The wolds are the closest thing we have in this area to a hill, and those from hilly country would regard them as no more than casual undulations in the landscape. It’s good to know, however, that we live at the top of such a long rise. There’s a lot of country out there on the fens, and it’s all noticeably lower than the bit we live on. Should there ever be a flood we’ll be above it. Stickford is one of a row of small villages along this edge of the fens, with names that relate back to their coastline origins. Before the grand drainage scheme was put into place much of the fens were inundated by the sea, and these villages were right on the edge of the habitable part. It’d take a hell of a rise in ocean levels to re-inundate the fens, and far more so to be a threat to us.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, the bike ride. I am planning to keep to the same distance and route for a few days until I feel ready to go further. Looking at the map the next obvious resting point is about a mile further on. I’ll go the extra mile, but not until I feel it’s a sensible extension.
I’m getting a lot of Internet interest in my biking venture, all of it supportive and encouraging. That’s gratifying but also a tad worrying because I’m fearful that other mobility or fitness-impaired folk might decide to follow my example and have a go themselves. I wouldn’t want to discourage them but I would urge caution and a bit of sensible risk assessment before launching out. I’m willing to accept the risk, and confident I can handle any situation I might encounter out on the fens but that might not suit everyone.
There are of course static bicycle exercise machines that can be used in house or garden and I think, knowing what I do now, I’d opt for one of those if I couldn’t go out on the open road. For me, though, at present, that phrase ‘the open road’ is at least as important as the exercise. Feeling the wind in my hair once more as I ride along a country lane is a wonderful, exhilarating experience. I find myself invigorated spiritually as well as physically; that feeling lasts from one outing to the next, and builds up day by day. I intend to go on with the enterprise as long as I am able.
This evening I sat down in front of the TV to watch a Brit movie—This Year’s Love—and was much taken with it. I suppose I should put in a ‘strong language, nudity, and sexual content’ warning here but anyone who knows anything about Britain and British movies should be prepared for that. There was nothing about it that made me feel uneasy, and nothing particularly noteworthy apart from good writing, superlative acting and exquisite cinematography. It was just a good, engrossing movie on the theme of human relationships.
Except. One line leapt from the screen and lodged itself in the ‘I must do something with this’ corner of my consciousness. You could miss it, if you weren’t paying attention. I don’t want to issue a spoiler here but essentially, one of the females, having come to the end of an affair and needing to break off the relationship, issued a face to face destructive narrative at her erstwhile lover, concentrating with full acidity on all of his failings and ending with the usual gripe about him ‘giving crap sex’. Instead of belting her one, which, to my shame, part of me thought would be entirely justified, the guy departed the scene with one, stunning line: “It takes two to make crap sex.”
Now, apart from being a brilliant line, it has a loud claxon ring of truth to it. It’s true on several levels apart from the obvious one. We are all of us far too ready to blame others for the shortcomings in our lives, expecting our lovers and the other people with whom we relate to do all the work and take all the responsibility while we sit back passively and accept the rewards. And then whining when things go wrong. That’s a recipe for disaster in any relationship, any kind of relationship. You jolly well have to work at it, constantly. That great dark prince on his charger may well be on the look-out for someone to sweep off his or her feet but to qualify as a prospective ‘sweepee’ you’d better be some kind of a princess in outlook, behaviour and commitment. And if you end up thinking you’re getting crap sex, or suffering any other shortfall in the relationship, you should take at least half the responsibility for it.
A very nice variant on the classic ‘it takes two to tango’ line, and I salute the team that produced it.
And so, I came to the end of the day and sat daydreaming in the dark after the TV was turned off and before piling into bed. In my mind’s eye I saw the open countryside I enjoyed today, and I felt and heard the wind blowing in my hair and singing in the wires out on the fens. I saw long summer grasses, faded and sere, and trees shaped by the wind, and I was grateful for a life which, while requiring constant work and attention, yields such rich reward.