Which is perfectly okay if someone is handing over used notes or offering chances of survival from a fatal disease, but when we’re counting years and working out how many are left, it’s clearly the wrong way round. Even subtracting ten years would likely trigger middle aged angst and a strong desire to purchase a bright red sports car.
We’ve established that there is happy chasm between being being old and growing up. Some of this is an attitude firmly baselined in the delusional, a bit more is refusing to allow beige into your life, there’s much about striving to act significantly less mature than your own children, and – inevitably – there’s something about riding mountain bikes.
Sometimes life in general and this blog in particular suggests that everything that isn’t riding bikes is merely filler until I can. Plugging the financial, parental, vocational gaps when clipping into familiar pedals isn’t possible, And there is something in that – smugness at refusing to join the sofa-bound reality TV crowd is tempered by guilt at pissing away countless hours reading bike forums. Doing great stuff with the family skewed by boring them with mountain bike trivia*. Sat at my desk doing stuff other people can’t do, but terribly distracted by the sun blue lighting the distant hills.
Forget being forty-six and the haggard looking face in the shaving mirror that confirms chronologically you’re pretty well screwed – instead take a shorter view, live in the moment for a week and let’s see how that feels. It feels like this – Saturday morning we hit the M5 in search of fun and dusty trails and were rewarded by a Quantocks ride which reaffirmed a basic truth learned from doing this stuff for a long time; half of the awesomeness of riding bikes is where you are, the other half is absolutely who you are with. Even when the buggers are clearly more skilled/more brave and basically just faster downhill.
I’m done with worrying about such things. Not sure I can get any braver but I can certainly get fitter. Even with fading physique, the PYGA loves a bit of oxygen debt and my bloody-mindendness gland shows no sign of withering so we do okay. On a sunny, summer day hitting panoramic highs with your riding pals who absolutely get it is something between a privilege and a blessing. Even as a card carrying atheist, I completely understand why churches are built on higher ground – it’s at the same time uplifting and placing you somewhere in the ‘what’s important‘ hierarchy somewhere close to insignificant.
Then Sunday I announced that my continued dereliction of family duty would be balanced by a shared activity we could all enjoy. Obviously that meant taking everyone going riding. Or possibly whinging by bicycle: “Dad this is really steep” / “it really isn’t, it’s a bloody railway track” / “when do we get an ice cream?” / “when you’ve put a bit more bloody effort in“. This is the kind of motivational approach/group bonding that holds our little family together 😉
I’m not a complete bastard tho. There was ice cream. And then there was cake. And then there was much praise for good things having been done. And then there was Internet shopping for Carol who’d been ruined by an inappropriate saddle. And then there was the promise of another motorhome holiday next year, because I mostly believed ‘we really want to go on holiday with you again’.
Wednesday – the day before the most important workday of my year when 600,000 18 year olds pretty much rely on us to tell them if they’re going to university** – started with a depressing charging of lights and a mad dash to the ride start point. It didn’t take long for mental salvation through the power of perfect dirt to rearrange my definition of important. I’m riding stuff now that earlier in the year had me stalling and excusing. This isn’t some magic fix for all that properly sucks with my riding, but as I slide into ever deeper antiquity I’ll take any kind of progress whether it be real or delusional.
Then tonight after a couple of very long and mind-bending days, we hit the trails again in the Malvern Hills after I’d already hit the bar for Birthday drinks and hit the cake equally as hard. At my age this is what I consider a balanced diet. I wasn’t riding very well but the sun was shining, my friends were riding with me ,and we planned a perfect route which predictably finished in the pub.
You see I read that self indulgent crap and I don’t feel old. I look around at what I have and can’t quite work out how a shit-kicker from Yorkshire ended up with a loving family of whom I’m immensely proud, a career clearly directed by endless lucky breaks, and a boxload of friends who ride bikes with adequate briskness while putting up with my verbal drivel.
Forty-Six is still closer to fifty tho. You can’t buy time but you absolutely can use it. I’m not getting my hair back and I never had any good looks to lose. So this doesn’t feel like the right time for naval-gazing introspection. I don’t need to find myself – I’m right here and if there’s one thing I have learned in all those years it is this; you absolutely have to live in the moment because when it’s gone, it’s gone for ever.
Yeah you can’t buy time, so let’s make sure we don’t waste it.
* See that over there? That lovely view? Yes, see that sparkling river in the valley? Yes? I’ve fallen in there.
** which – I have to say – we did a bloody fantastic job telling them. Which made me very happy indeed. Some of which was due to knowing EXACTLY how close to the wire it was 😉