The Same Tarmac

I reread the previous post recently, knowing that I had been away from these pages for a long, long time – just as I had been prior to posting that edition. The good news is that there has been no relapse, no crisis. One week I couldn’t make the time to write, the following week I was busy the day I usually write. And then, well, habit slipped quietly into the room univited and mingled with the crowd, rolling the weeks along with barely a change in gear.

And so it was with my cycling. Same old, same old. Same routes, same views, same tarmac. Don’t get me wrong, the countryside in these parts (East Sussex on the south coast of England for those of you reading this in Singapore, or Australia, or India, or Birmingham, for that matter) is beautiful. It feels good to ride these roads and lanes. Again, and again and again. It’s always worked for me, riding these familiar routes. The climb over the Dyke holds no fear for me. I know where to stop for a coffee in Henfield, which pubs serve good selection of vegetarian meals. The cows in the fields even know my name.

Lately this has been making me feel increasingly anxious. It’s like there are no other places for me to go. ‘It’s too far’, ‘I don’t like the look of that main road’ or ‘I used to like that route, but it’s been so long I can’t remember where it starts’ are just some of the thoughts that keep me from turning left when I’ve always turned right. Then there’s the 25 miles cap that I have started noticing.The handful of regular routes I’ve been riding are no longer than 25 miles. Some of pedestrians, couch potatoes or swimmers reading this may be impressed with those kind of figures. Not me. Those miles are full of fear, constraint and the What ifs.

All this adds up to the polar opposite of how things should be. Regular readers of these pages will know that cycling is a critical factor in keeping me going – literally. If how and where I’m cycling have become an issue then…then…then what? Should I stop cycling – as I did for a whole year when I was first pole – axed by depression back in the early 2000s? What about getting my Mountain Bike out of the garage and going off road following the trails that start just a mile from my door? Thoughts of broken collar bones, marauding cows and a lack of confidence buzz around my head like wasps.

I’m doing O.K. otherwise, though, I say to myself. That’s alright, then.

Last week I set off on one of the rides I have described. I stopped at a spot with a beautiful view – as usual. I came to a crossroads (yeah, yeah, yeah) I know well and turned left towards a village I had never heard of and how far away? The sign post kept its mouth firmly shut on that subject. But I got there, I found a pub with a lovely garden and good food. I read my book for a bit before heading home. I took a wrong turn somewhere, but kept going and found myself back at the crossroads where the new route had begun.

Oh, and my bike computer showed I’d been in the saddle for 37 miles.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

took the one less traveled by,

and that has made all the difference.


Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)



This entry was posted in anxiety, Bi Polar Disorder, Cycling, Depression, Mental Health, mental illness, Poetry, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Same Tarmac

  1. P Buckland says:

    Hi Nicholas , good blog , enjoyed the ride . Have you ever read ; the Prologue to matt seatons ;The Escape Artist ? By William Saroyan , if you have then like me you will have been enriched by its message


  2. writer's blogg says:

    Wonferfully compeeling read Nic. May you cycle on and go from strength to strength. Respect!


  3. Aileen says:

    Hello Nick
    For a long time I have been enjoying reading your blog, so I just want to say please keep writing. I am sure I am not the only person whose heart ‘leaps up’ when puncturerepairkit appears in the inbox. I am glad you decided to take a road less travelled. How else would you ever know…..? But it takes courage and a curiosity and a degree of confidence that one will cope with a possible failure.
    I liked the Sylvia Plath poem about the box of bees. I didn’t know it. The Frost poem is better known. Somehow this recent blog, with ideas of roads travelled, familiar horizons, reminded me of a poem (it’s a love poem) by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. In case you don’t know it I will transcribe it here. Is there a limit to the length of a blog reply?

    Before You Came
    Before you came things were just what they were:
    The road precisely a road, the horizon fixed,
    The limit of what could be seen,
    A glass of wine was no more than a glass of wine.

    With you the world took on the spectrum
    Radiating from my heart: your eyes gold
    As they open to me, slate the colour
    That falls each time I lost all hope.

    With your advent roses burst into flame:
    You were the artist of dried up leaves, sorceress
    Who flicked her wrist to change dust into soot.
    You lacquered the night black.

    As for the sky, the road, the cup of wine:
    One was my tear-drenched shirt,
    The other an aching nerve, .
    The third a mirror that never reflected the same thing.

    Now you are here again, stay with me.
    This time things will fall into place;
    the road can be the road,
    The sky nothing but the sky;
    The glass of wine, as it should be, the glass of wine.

    Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

    I particularly like the use of the words ‘slate’ and ‘lacquered’.
    Sorry about all the capital letters.

    If I feel slate creeping into my mood I try to contemplate the packaging of a pineapple or envisage unwrapping the layers from a corn on the cob. It helps me with perspective.


    • Thank you for your generous words.I am sorry that it has taken me so long to respond. I really enjoy choosing the poems. All suggestions are most welcome. The one you shared is beautiful. BTW,I know a couple of Aileens- do we know eachother,or are you one of the ever growing band of readers following mymusings across the globe?


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