And so it begins. The summer, I mean, or the lead up to summer...
Today was probably the first day when I realised that I was overdressed in my usual 'Winter Gear'. I have a winter hat which today felt like it was crushing my skull with the heat my usually sedate peddling was generating. I have a summer hat which is light and breezy but I hold off getting it out of the cupboard because the longer I can delay, the more I can deny that summer is coming.
Today was my usual early week run to Tesco and I took my usual route along a scenic cycle path. Except it was a warm day and a bank holiday and that meant, for the first time since last Autumn, I was not alone on the path. There were men in shorts and vests drinking lager as they swanned down the country lanes shouting crude things at the women in revealing clothes who were themselves a constant distraction. There were prams parked, tramps on benches, kids screaming, dogs pissing, and then there were the motocross bikes...
We're plagued by motocross bikes in this corner of the North West. Their throaty whines can be heard throughout most of the summer as they blaze up and down the local bumps and dips. The landscape in this part of the country is scarred by the coal industry. The industry was destroyed in the years of the Thatcher and has been romanticised by some but I'm not sure it's entirely missed. There remains a generation of men with lung conditions and 'white finger', a nerve condition caused by the heavy machinery used to dig the coal. The pits have gone and the wheel towers demolished. Now only the slag heaps remain, the spoil turned into nature walks but then spoiled again by the chunky motocross wheels which dig up the paths and grass and butterfly meadows.
To combat the brainless cash rich louts on their motocross bikes, the council recently erected an anti-motorbike gate across the cycle route, meaning that my usual relaxing walk is now punctuated by five minutes of my trying to squeeze a large bike, my larger frame and even larger bag of shopping through a narrow six in gap. I was squeezing through today when the motocross boys blazed past me. Though it was designed to stop them accessing the country park, the gate has done nothing to stop them. They smashed down an adjacent barrier and now have even quicker access to the dirt trails than they had before. There is, I suppose, a lesson in this about new laws and prohibitions only curtailing the pleasures of people who obey laws and prohibitions. The only difference the turn style has made to the country park is that it's now more inaccessible to the cyclists who legally use it as the cycle route it is meant to be.
The other thing that struck me today was how bad the roads have become in the last twelve months. Because the usual paths were crowded, I was forced to take a slightly different route which took me onto main roads I hadn't used since last year. I'm amazed I didn't chip tooth enamel given that my bike was bouncing so much. The road is used by a lot of commercial traffic and is now almost unridable. I don't supposed it's been repaired in years and the reason, I guess, is 'austerity'.
I'm not convinced entirely by austerity. The problem with the Tory vision of austerity is that I'm not entirely sure where austerity ends and their natural preference for low taxation and even lower government spending kicks in. I hit one pothole today that brought me to an abrupt halt and had I been going any faster, there'd have been a blogger sailing over his handlebar and wondering how to turn his resulting broken wrists into a funny anecdote.
Tesco was quiet except for a few Bank Holiday shoppers. One woman, pushing a trolley, was wearing a skin tight bright pink dress that revealed every inch of her body and left nothing to the imagination. I'd like to admit that I didn't look but I did briefly until my higher order thinking kicked in. There's often something spectacularly non-erotic about the people who dress that way. Perhaps it's a symptom of a working class town but the way they reveal themselves is often a rather abject display of ungainly twisted underwear, pimples and sag. There is also a kind of desperation in the act. They're rarely the beautiful people but, rather, people with a kind of twisted beauty, which is peculiar, individual, and only attractive to some. The woman wasn't what you'd call a classic beauty and I sensed that she was compensating by revealing every inch of her body. Feminism doesn't really have much of a hold in these parts. There are far more primal games afoot.
Not that it's always like that. Like all towns, we have rich people living here and you occasionally see the beautiful people fresh from the gym, nipping into the supermarket for their expensive energy drinks. They exist on a different physical level. Perhaps they just have money to ensure that everything is tucked and nothing is twisted. They buy quality underwear that rides up in the rear just the right amount. Cheap underwear ends up splayed across a buttock. Or so it seems to me, a casual observer of the phenomenon. But what do I know? I ride a bike and wear hot hats in warm weather and I hate the summer.
After the louts, the pink dresses, and my least favourite checkout assistant blathering on about Pyrex dishes, I chose to return home by a different route. I hate to admit it but I think spring has arrived. I have to start thinking about how to arm myself for summer.