A day off, or just an off day?

Today was my day off. My friends always ask how can I tell that it’s my day off because, you see, I work as a volunteer and don’t get paid for the many things that I do. Plus it’s a live-in job, so I don’t have to go out to go to work. But it can consume me 24 hours a day, and I have only one day off a week, so I’m always torn as to what I should do on that day off … Sleep? Sleep some more? Catch up on some reading? Go to London and lunch with friends? Write a blog? Go for a bike ride? Clean the house and do some washing?

Choices, choices. But you get the drift. Generally, the options are do something useful, or do nothing and recover from the rest of the week. The latter usually wins. Well, today I wanted to go to London and visit a few bike shops to see if I could persuade them to sell my book. It’s something I’ve been putting off for ages. The weather wasn’t great for trekking around London on a bike with a bag full of books, so I thought I would use the Tube. But perhaps I could sneak in a ride before I went, in spite of the weather.

So I kitted up, dipped a toe out the back door and thought: “Noooo, I don’t want to go out there.” But an evil spirit on my shoulder reminded me that I have a SkyRide coming up this Sunday, and I hadn’t had a decent ride in, well, weeks. Man up, I told myself, and get out there. So I did. “Just keep it short and sweet,” I said. (Actually, that is what Mrs R tells me about this blog, and a few other domestic matters.)

Needless to say, once I was out and about, the rain didn’t seem so bad. There were even a few other idiots out on bikes, so I wasn’t alone in my insanity. The ride went swimmingly, and in spite of the puddles and mud I was quite enjoying myself until I hit the appropriately named Basted Lane, a short, sharp, muddy and bumpy downhill that is the prelude to a long, steady climb.

Just take it easy down the hill, I think, knowing that it is full of – wham – yes, full of potholes, this one disguised as a puddle. I brake, and see that my front wheel has instantly gone flat. Bugger. Or, should I say, Basted. A quick thought runs through my mind – should I phone the missus. A quick check of the mobile shows there is no network coverage, so I’m all on my own. But it’s no big deal. I pull over to the muddy, ivy-entangled verge and take off gloves and glasses, remove spare tube from saddlebag and pop off the front wheel. I take my time, because what’s the rush? I curse for bringing the smallest pump known to mankind, but it gets the job done, eventually. My hands are wet and grimy, but I pull on my (by now quite damp) gloves. Now, where did I put my glasses? I can’t see them anywhere: clear lenses, with just a strip of black frame across the top, renders them virtually invisible in the tangle of ivy and dead leaves. After five minutes I give up, mount the bike and – but what’s this? No. That back tyre is flat. Okay, I’m a boy scout, and have come prepared, because I always carry two spares (and even patches, if I’m MTBing), so I’m not stuck. I change the back tube in record time, then spend another ten minutes looking for my glasses. No luck.

The missing glasses

The missing glasses

I knock the accumulated mud and decaying leaves from my cleats and head off down the hill and up the long climb on the other side. It’s as I start climbing that suddenly I feel as if I’m riding a clown bike – on every rotation of the back wheel there is a bump, causing the saddle to give me a kick up the … Well, one look tells me why – the tyre beading and valve are not seated properly. Once again the tyre and my spirits are deflated, and the tyre properly bedded down, followed by another frenzied bout of pumping. I continue home without incident, apart from a lot of spray and mud in my eyes, and a wish that I’d bought some mudguards.
And so, a good hour later than expected, I return home, a little dejected, but none the worse for wear. And then, in one reflective instant, I realise what a total idiot I am – I catch a glimpse of myself in the kitchen window and there, stuck in the front of my helmet, are my missing glasses. Basted.

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