Recently, I went on bike ride in the West Sussex countryside with a couple of mates. They knew the route better than me (I had never ridden around there). The sun was out – for a change – but my mood felt pretty blustery. I had been looking forward to the ride. We hadn’t been out on a ride together for about a year. I was riding my tourer (complete with cumbersome bike lock in the pannier), my friends were riding a (seldom used) hybrid, and a very attractive Italian racer, respectively. But as the date for our outing in the countryside had drawn closer, so my nerves had started to jangle. The weather was playing up, I hadn’t been out on my bike much because I was concerned about my racing thoughts, impulsivity and generally feeling fraught. That morning, on my way to meeting my friend with the seldom used hybrid at the station, (our friend on the Italian racer was riding nearly 20 miles up and over several stiff climbs to meet us at the start of the route) I pedalled my way gingerly round the park en route to the station for a few miles to get my mental muscles tuned up.
By the time we met up at the start of the ride, my mood had eased somewhat, and as the day unfolded – punctuated by a couple of pub stops – my mind cleared and(sometimes) I rode out in front.
We all ride different kinds of bikes. We all ride differently, for different reasons. But we ride together, nontheless. I dare say we get different things out of a ride like that, too. That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that a financial advisor, a postman and a somewhat flaky mental health worker aren’t Best Friends – texting eachother every day, down the pub every weekend, and generally carrying on. It’s enough to get together once in a while – we won’t be leaving it so long this time – and do something we all enjoy.
I’ve written about the importance of gathering people around you- supporters – to help you to continue to be at your best, to keep a benevolent eye on you, someone to lean on when the need arises. It all sounds so sensible, so obvious.
And yet. And yet there is something in me (and I doubt I am alone in this) that wishes those people, those friends, doctors, colleagues away. Solitude is someone who asks nothing of me; accepts me for who I am; who stays by side as hope, belief, love, desire, slip away.
Why Brownlee Left
Why Brownlee left, and where he went
Is a mystery even now.
For if a man should have been content
It was him; two acres of barley,
One of potatoes, four bullocks,
A milker, a slated farmhouse.
He was last seen going out to plough
On a March morning, bright and early.
By noon Brownlee was famous;
They had found all abandoned, with
The last rig unbroken, his pair of black
Horses, like man and wife,
Shifting their weight from foot to
Foot, and gazing into the future.
Paul Muldoon (1951 – )