Saturday July 24, 2004
A lovely sunny day for the most part, though it clouded over somewhat towards the evening. To me that was a welcome relief—we paid an unplanned late morning visit to Boston for window blinds and I’d found it hot, crowded and oppressive.
So when I hopped onto the bike this evening and set off for an eight-mile trip round the fens towards Midville, I was well pleased to feel the breeze on my legs and chest. It was a cheerful ride, quiet and peaceful. I’ve rediscovered my old habit of whistling softly to myself while cycling and it’s a true delight to me. On the outward leg I ran through a large part of Mozart’s 23rd piano concerto, and on the way back turned to Beethoven’s sonata for cello and piano, Op.5,no.1. Neither was selected consciously. They just happened, just suited my mood, the light and the landscape.
Can you whistle both parts of a cello and piano sonata at the same time? Probably not, any more than I can, but it’s awfully good fun trying. Cycling along the long, rather rough road by the side of the drain towards Midville the wind came up and encouraged my whistling efforts by playing a tenor continuo in the wires.
I took a break at what seemed a convenient half-way point, a good long way from anything or any habitation. From across the fields, out of sight, there came the cheerful sound of a radio playing quietly for a gang of farm labourers picking some crop or other, cabbages, I think, along with the laughter and chat that makes such a job go by. Alongside me, down along the edges of the drain, a handful of waterfowl chattered contentedly as the evening drew in. All that and Mozart, too.
Visually, the fens are changing character now. In the cultivated fields summer crops have been harvested and, in some cases, the earth turned over in great black slabs ready for planting autumn crops. In the uncultivated fields, laying fallow, summer has bleached the colour and life out of the grass, leaving stands of bright wild flowers sweeping across the landscape, bright yellows and pinks softened in the fading light. When I get my new camera I shall have to try to capture the sublety of these landscapes. The pencam can’t handle them too well, failing to record the intricate textures that make the scenes so impossibly beautiful.
And then the wind changed direction slightly, chilled considerably, and made the thought of a warm kitchen too much to resist. I took a last slug of the water in my bottle, hopped back on the bike, and pedalled merrily home. It’s a long, steady upward slope and I got a good workout, as strenuous as any I’ve attempted so far. I did very well, working up a light sweat, feeling the effort gently exercise my leg and back muscles, and letting my heart rate rise just enough to give my whole system a tonic. When I got home I felt really good and happy with myself. By the time I’d put the bike away in the garage and had sat down to a very welcome cup of tea my heart rate had run back down to normal without a murmur. I haven’t had a single episode of palpitations since I started and, it may be my fancy, but both my heart and lungs seem to be much happier with themselves. Unlike walking, which is still necessary every day, cycling seems to suit my ankle, knee and hip joints very much better. I still like to take a stroll every day, especially on the days when the bike stays in the garage, but I no longer feel the need to push myself when on foot. I’m rediscovering the art of the gentle saunter, and that’s another joy.
All in all, a quiet, happy day. I’m a lucky guy.
Watching the world go by