Month: July 2019

I can read

I stopped publishing my weekly Weekend Reading posts last year. As I said at the time:

3 years and 161 posts later and I think it’s time to admit that this is now more of a chore than I’d like. Sure it’s mostly automated, but over the past few months I’ve started searching out and filtering what I read knowing that it will appear in these posts, and that’s not why I started doing it. It isn’t supposed to be a chore, it’s just supposed to be an extension of what I already read, and it no longer is.

Since then I’ve read about the same number of articles but shared a wider variety, or at the very least I feel like I’ve shared a wider variety as I’ve not actually done any analysis on this other than the sense that reading and sharing articles the way I do now definitely doesn’t feel like a chore nor does it feel influenced by the fact that other people may judge me based on what I share (which is really what I was trying to say when I closed the weekly summary posts.

My life has changed a lot this since then, for the better I hastened to add, and naturally my world view and the things that matter to me most have evolved and my reading habits have mirrored that. As I’ve said, I’ve not stopped reading articles and I still subscribe to and enjoy a few daily newsletters, all of which have yielded some fascinating articles which I’ve shared (via Pocket and IFTTT so it’s still kinda automated) to my Twitter account.

When I set this up I would also have had the articles posted to my Facebook account but IFTTT doesn’t support creating posts to a personal Facebook account, but it does support creating posts on a Facebook Page. I didn’t have, nor had any desire to have, a Facebook Page because who needs yet another social media outlet to manage.

That was back then and like I say, life has changed so prompted by someone asking why I don’t cross post to Twitter AND Facebook, I give you – https://www.facebook.com/gordoncanread/ – so if you prefer to consume your social media over there, feel free to Like and follow my new page.

Or don’t.

Life is a beautiful ride

It starts when I get my leg over.

And it’s always my left leg due to whatever odd reasoning of biometrics and learned habits dictates such things, always the same one I swing up and over the saddle and, after a quick re-positioning of the pedals, we’re off. After the first few metres of making sure shoes get clipped in and the right gears are selected we are soon on our way and, without fail, a smile spreads across my face.

I always get the same feelings of nostalgia when I get on my bike, the simple childhood pleasure and sensation of speed all come rushing back, and isn’t it funny how we don’t remember all the scrapes and bruises we endured trying to learn to ride the damn things? Although not every child is the same, whilst I distinctly remember having stabilisers for a while, one of my friends was put on his new bike by his big brother, shoved off down the driveway and off he went!

Boxer bicycle

My first bike was a blue Raleigh Boxer. It was a solid little thing, almost like a small BMX (which were still a couple of years away from becoming mainstream) and with no gears it went as fast as my little legs would go. It was small enough that I could cycle round the back garden, round and round the large concrete slab that was the base of the old garage. At one end of the concrete was a grassy slope and my wonderful father added a small concrete slope at the other end so I could spend my summer evenings spinning in circles.

Many years later I’d help my Dad smash up that old concrete base with a sledgehammer. It was about then as a gangly 14 year old that I started to realise I was going to be bigger and stronger than him, an odd realisation for a boy who was still learning about his own body. I was already a little taller than him and had longer levers with which to swing the sledgehammer, sure it’s simple physics but it’s stuck in my brain as a ‘moment’.

Raleigh Enterprise

I’d moved on from the little Raleigh Boxer by that time, with my first almost full size bike being a Raleigh Enterprise*. A big black straight handled touring bike with three gears. Looking back it was a great bike, but at the time it was highly unfashionable with all my friends on Choppers or BMXs. Yet with thin tyres, a solid frame and three gears to use, I quickly started to appreciate the sense of speed it gave me as I weaved my way round deserted early morning streets, leaning into corners just like I’d seen the riders on Le Tour do, on my way to my piano lesson.

It was probably my first real sense of speed, self-powered and fully under my control. The sound of rubber on tarmac, the noise of air rushing past, clothes rippling, every sensation heightened with the threat of a sudden spill looming larger and larger the faster you went, the further you leant into a corner. I still get the same sense, with all the added weight of adult responsibility, when I’m out on my bike.

Falcon bike

That bike gave me love of speed and I started to read up on bicycle maintenance, techniques on how to ride faster (keep that inner pedal up when leaning into a corner) and as I got more engrossed in the sport so my next bike was an obvious, if not fashionable at all, choice. My friends moved from BMX to early Mountain Bikes, but for me it was all about speed, and so it was I got a 21-speed Falcon. I moved from three thumb controlled gears to 21 gears controlled by two frame mounted levers, and from straight handlebars to drop handlebars with two additional brake levers. It was a revelation and my cycling got much more fun and MUCH faster. Sure it helped I was growing bigger and stronger but once I figured out the fancy gears, and stopped flicking the levers too far and knocking the chain off the cogs, I was a veritable flying machine, at least in my own head. Trips to the town centre (slightly downhill) flew by, and the journey back was a breeze, that summer I spent a lot of time just cycling around and a recently opened local cycle path was perfect.

It was this same cycle path that I cruised down last weekend, it runs the length of the Forth & Clyde canal and winds its way through my home town before following the River Leven to Balloch (my destination on Sunday). The stretch from Bowling to Dumbarton always brings back memories of my childhood and that 21-speed Falcon flying machine.

I’d set off on a summer evening. From my house I’d have to make my way along quiet streets before I reached the sanctuary of the cycle path at the far side of town. Then it was a few miles of newly laid tarmac, only open to walkers, runners, and a young blond haired blur on his bike. The far end of the path at Bowling crosses a road, so that became the turning point as the path rose up to that junction. I’d stop at the top of the climb (it was a small incline but I hadn’t really yet figured out how to properly gear things) before turning around and tucking in for the descent, seeing how long I could free-wheel with the wind ripping past me, mindful to keep mouth shut after the ‘bluebottle incident’… .

And so it was again when I got to that spot on Sunday, as soon as I set off down that hill I was taken back to my childhood, the hot summers spent doing nothing of anything, cycling around the town and only stopping for a Fab lolly or a bag of chips. As I sped down the hill I could easily have been heading to my childhood home, turning up the driveway, bumping the gate open with my front wheel and dumping my bike in the back of the garage.

I’m wary that my increasing nostalgia is a sign of my advancing years and that all of these memories are tinged with the hue of fondness but I really don’t care. All I know is that when I’m on my bike with blue skies overhead, the world seems like a better place and for a couple of hours I can recapture that sense of naivety and innocence. Perhaps it’s because when you are on a bike that’s all there is, you, the bike (I will save my dislike of those who cycle with headphones in!) and the world around you. It’s an easy way to disconnect for a couple of hours and just enjoy this amazing world we live in, putting everyday life aside.

The bike I own now is far more complex and modern (and expensive) then any of the ones I had growing up but the real value of any bike, be it a carbon-fibre, razor saddled flying machine or a rusty old banger that creaks when you brake, is unlocking that feeling. As the tyres whirr on tarmac and the wind buffets your face, it’s hard not to smile. The best bike is the one you are using.

I really need to get out on my bike more often.

* I’ve always thought this is what it was called but Google suggests otherwise. I’m leaning towards the Executive but from photos it looked more like a Raleigh Sport… hmmmm

Julius Caesar

July is a quiet month.

Not for any specific reason, more happen-stance than anything – only a couple of gigs and a stag do for my brother-in-law-to-be at the end of the month – but I’m glad of the quieter couple of weeks ahead, a chance to get properly back into routine after our wonderful holiday. It’s also well timed as next month is lining up to be a doozy!

August kicks off with Becca’s birthday right at the start of the month, the following weekend I’m in Edinburgh for the traditional day at the Festival with my friends, and then the weekend after that there is a wedding to attend on the Friday (which means I’m missing The Cure when they visit Glasgow that day, some people are so selfish!), and the very next day we are off to see the mighty Foo Fighters, and we end the month with Skunk Anansie.

Of course the wedding will be the focus, it’s not often your favourite sister gets married after all, and as I’ve got a reading to deliver I guess I’d better get my ass in gear and figure out what I’m going to say. Ohhh who am I kidding, I’ve already got the perfect piece picked out (and no, it doesn’t feature any alliterations) and the real question is if I can hold it together and make it to the end without greeting… feel free to place your bets…

Aside from all that, it’s back to the gym and back to the physio for me. I have a long standing ankle problem that is the remnant of an over zealous tackle when I used to play 5-a-side. I’ve lived with it for the past coughs 15 or so years but the recent physio I had on my hip, and the exercises for that, aggravated it so back I go for more gentle, helping torture.

Thankfully the gym program I’m now on is built around accommodating that, which largely means a lot of walking and core/arm work. The former is great as I have a very happy companion for walks – once he gets past the fact that no, this time it’s just a walk, there will be no ball throwing – the latter means every cough is accompanied with a grimace and I can barely lift my arms above my head most days. Hopefully over the coming weeks I’ll see a difference, and with body measurements taken, it’ll be tangible one way or another!

Of course free time means more time for hobbies, but for a change I’m not really planning/hoping to achieve anything this month, just taking each day as it comes. I tend to have Saturdays to myself whilst Becca is working and it’s been interesting to see how I react to not really having a plan for those days. It usually boils down to; get up, walk/feed the dogs, do some chores, then… see how the mood takes me. I’m loving life this way. Last Saturday I met a friend for brunch, did some writing, played piano, and chilled out with my two little furry pals.

Here’s to a quiet July!