I’m an owl. I go to bed late and as much as I’ve tried retraining myself over the years to become a dove, it always fails. My most successful attempts have been on returning from Europe when jet lag tends to help me achieve a brief dove-like state but it is always short lived. Those people who retire by 9.30pm and get up at 5am are a source of envy but an enigma to me. I’d love to be like them and they’re always so smug, but failure always catches up with me. I try regularly to go to bed at 9.30pm but I never actually get there before midnight despite the fact it is just around the corner from the living room in my very small house. The combination of my owl status and my fondness for procrastination always conspire against me. I am also queen of the snooze button. I’ve literally tried everything – putting my alarm across the other side of the room, keeping my bedroom cold, drinking a litre of water before I go to bed and so on. Nothing works. It takes my setting the alarm every 5 minutes for at least an hour before I can even think about swinging a leg over the side of the bed. And I may as well forget it in winter as the slightest chill in the room is such a disincentive to rising. I love my bed and I love it especially in the mornings. So it is a challenge to get up in time for the gym 3 mornings a week and it never gets easier.
By the way, my sister has an irrational dislike and fear of owls. This has made me realise that they’ve been omnipresent for the last few years. You can’t even buy a decent tea towel without an obligatory owl festooned upon it. Recently however, I feel they may be on the wane in favour of unicorns. Unfortunately my sister doesn’t like unicorns either. It’s a double whammy for the poor love but at least provides the rest of us with birthday and Christmas buying fodder. What a fussy one! She will kill me when she reads this…
You can understand therefore that getting up needlessly early is the worst kind of torture for me. And so it was today. “Don’t be late” said Sam, my boxing trainer at the gym. “I have someone else directly after you”. I managed to leave the house on time, gym kit on, work bags in the car, cats fed and watered, house alarm set and so on. So, imagine my disappointment when I was a few hundred metres down the road and I heard a sadly familiar noise. I had a puncture. As I was not far from home, I drove back. I thought that at least I could try and sort it out from the comfort of my own home rather than beside the road. At first I thought my workmen could help when they arrived (yes, the renovations continue still) but then I thought no, I’d rather they finish the endless renovations this side of 2018. So after a shower, I called the AA and waited patiently. Actually, they were very efficient. You don’t even need to speak to a human to get them to come and a friendly man called Chris appeared quickly. However the wheel was changed to one of those space saver jobbies so my next port of call was a tyre shop where I remained for the rest of the morning, my work time ebbing away along with far more dollars than I wanted to relinquish. They’re never pleasant places are they? A waiting room of torn leatherette chairs and decades-old magazines and a toilet which looked like it had not been cleaned since the last millennium where a “hover pee” was definitely the order of the day. As I sat there waiting, I thought fleetingly that at least it was the Italian branded car that had suffered this fate and not my bike because if I had a puncture on the 2 wheeled vehicle, I would literally have no idea what to do other than walk back to from where I had set out. I must resolve to put this right, I thought casually. I shall learn to change a tyre. I am really not sure how I thought I would learn this but at least the intention was there.
So, imagine my shock, when on ascending the teeny tiny hill this evening, I lost my bike chain. There are 3 things I have been dreading on the bike, other than failure of course: the chain coming off, a puncture and falling off. Not knowing what to do about the fact that at the front of my bike the chain seemed to not be around any of the 3 cogs (is that what they’re called?) but rather was flapping loosely in the breeze, I initially thought I’d just get back on regardless and give it a go in case I’d made a terrible mistake. I had not. Then I realised I had no choice but to walk the bike 4.5 km to the start of the trail, where I had parked. After a few metres I came to the realisation that this was ridiculous and forced myself to have a proper look at the bike and to really think about how I might be able to re-connect the chain. And I managed it – even without resorting to Google. My hands were filthy, but the chain was back on and I could resume my cycling. It felt like a triumph.
So, a puncture and a chain disconnection in one day but maybe not how I can completely imagined these events unfolding. Now all I need is a fall…
In other news. I have received paperwork from the charity organising the trek. There is the usual stuff about insurance, visas and ethical tourism. But then there is the packing list. This is always most enlightening. For example:
- Underwear (or undwear as they’ve typed). Do I really need to be told to pack my kecks? I’m highly unlikely to forget underwear. It feels so strange when you forget and head out of the house without any, floppy bits a-swinging in the breeze, that you instantly remember. It’s like putting milk on a shopping list. But thanks for the reminder anyway
- Thermal socks. Hmmm. It will be more than 30 degree celsius most days
- Jogging shoes. No thanks. Cycling 470 kms is enough without resorting to jogging on holiday
- Cycling gloves to avoid sunburnt hands. Well that’s helpful as I’d never have thought of that as a potential problem
- Travel towel. Sorry, I’m not falling for that old chestnut again. They’re so small and non absorbent you can only dry one bum cheek and it gets so wet you may as well throw the damned thing away. I’d rather manage with a flannel or drip drying
- Pannier or handle bar bag. I wonder if I show up with my small bag if someone will finally show me how it actually fits on a bike?
- Cycle helmet. Hmmm, you said they were provided
- Toe clips. What are they?
- Bike shoes. Ditto?
- Bike pedals. I really, really hope you haven’t rented bikes without pedals for us
- Bike saddle. Same
- Gel seat. Well yes, the catastrophists are so concerned about my nether regions that I’d already thought of that one
- Playing cards. OK, is this the 20th century still?
But I know exactly what will happen. I’ll feel I should take it all anyway just in case and end up with the world’s largest case then only ever use about 10 per cent of it. But, it’s a start and they haven’t mentioned bringing any resuscitation equipment so maybe it’s not so bad after all.
Thanks to those who have already made donations. I already have enough for more than one bike. I am truly grateful. Here is the site for anyone else feeling jolly and generous this festive season!
Right, my next post and video will be my festive message to you all. You have been warned xx