Having not been active in this space for (checks calendar) some time, what better opportunity than the hothouse spring schedule of A to Z blogging month to reconnect with online publishing?

The last post here was characteristic of this writer’s then mindset of disillusionment, cynicism and fatigue – which nest of deixis might be taken to indicate a certain kind of distancing. Such a reading would not be mistaken. The times they are always a-changing. Something about words I can’t quite shake off, though.

Yes, because words are very devils. Such was the sentiment guiding my abrupt abandonment of writing here. I was enjoying detailing movements in the garden, for example, but it became obvious that this was a process secondary to and less enjoyable than the actual gardening.

Broccoli, swedes, beans, rocket… Sort of autumn time.

… I’m conscious of sounding like I’m assuming some sort of horny-handed son of the soil pose of social superiority. I found I was drawing more enjoyment from the digging, and the words accompanying seemed superfluous. But, anyway, a toes in the mud sort of thing… and an equally obvious, trending, move away from being ‘online’ all the time. Not quite smashing the Spinning Jennies, but limiting my reliance on habitual info sources, turning off notifications, exploring other media. Writing, but longhand, and not for sharing. Reading and reflection. Kids to raise. Job to hold down; schemes of work to maintain. Tones to clip.

Yet, here we are, among the words again.

With that in mind, this A to Z is likely to follow a few threads on the lines of preoccupations, new and enduring. Tomorrow: Books.

Today when I got up and breakfasted, then reached for the phone, instead of plugging myself into a round of Backgammon – where I am fighting a running and attritional battle against a CPU opponent with seemingly impossible luck and questionable strategies – I skipped across to the Keep app.
The intention this year is to get at least a few words down for the day, then paste these over into the WP app for further editing…

Already I can feel a glow of excitement tingling about, as plans for the weeks ahead take shape. Different working patterns develop. I see themes emerge fully formed in the interior vista, as if already fates accomplished in another world. A sense of giddiness at this, the implication of their preexistence, the unexplored temple plain from the vantage point at the mouth of the cave on the cliff above.
Getting ahead of myself, typically. And oh, hello, Breathy McVerbose in the house. Breathing technique is important. Somewhere once, I can’t recall if it was a diary or a published item, it occurred to me that the process – my process – of writing is like swimming underwater. Sensation of holding breath, sometimes.
Thinking of that verdant jungle scene spread ahead – rich with promise, mystery and potential danger – and to get myself back into a practical and more immediate dimension, I look up from the keypad and out of the back window. There is a garden project going on (=still more year ahead motif). This morning, the wind tousles the eucalyptus. The interminably grey and unseasonal weather of 2015 carries forward across our quaint monkey calendar: the last throes of Storm Frank, or the first of Gemma, or whoever it is this week, rasping susurrations of laughter at our claims to have abandoned animism for science.
The looming import of the tree, lower branches snarled up with some breed of tenacious vine that I have at least Made A Start On, reminds me there is a lot of digging, cutting and rearrangements to be done.

The Kindness of Trees blog has been running an excellent series of cycle-related pieces. There is something really reassuring in the descriptions of bespoke(d) equipment, provenance, history.

Cycling culture, on or off road, is not something of which I have any detailed knowledge. Not the serious ‘as a sport’ aspects, I mean. I’m aware of its importance to millions of people, and I love the abstractions, the sort of chivalric mix of romance and cynicism exemplified by the Tour de France, for example. In 2012 I was diverted by the attention lavished on BBC Sports Personality of the Year and knight-in-waiting national hero Bradley Wiggins. As “Le Gentleman” winner of Le Tour, and Olympic gold, it was a very sunny period for him. With the Mod stylings added in, he can be seen perhaps as an avatar of enthusiasm for retro-styled, oily-handed, but sharp, honesty.

Perhaps. In yet another sport that is tainted by commercial interests, he represents a need for oily-handed honesty, at least. Doing it because it’s it, sort of thing.

So: Two Wheels Good. I’ve loved whizzing about on a bike since as long as I can remember. I got a National Cycling Proficiency Certificate in 1985 and since this legitimation have only looked back over my shoulder to check the oncoming traffic when turning. As mentioned in a previous blog, apparently written by a persona more willing to indulge the semi-colon:

I can’t not cycle, it’s a joyful thing.

I think my true love of cycling comes from very early bezzing about, freewheeling, pretending to be on hover bikes, finding shortcuts to adventures, all the way through to the days of whizzing past traffic in various cities throughout the UK. Working to facilitate the commute. Locomotion for fun.

This winter has been very grey and wet in Yorkshire, one of a number of easy reasons to let my bike sit in the shed waiting for me to go and play. The few times I have ventured out, the winds have been unfavourable and my wrist/shoulder discomfort pronounced. Old man, take a look at yourself. So, part-inspired by The Kindness of Trees, I have shaken off this torpor and am dedicating January to reinvigorating my love of the bike.

With all this in mind, when asked for ‘ideas for Santa’s elves’ (by my mum), what I really wanted were some bar ends. I received with gratitude a pair of Specialized Targa contour grip combis:
bar-ends-in-place

This weekend I made time to fit them. That’s them in situ on the bike. There is nothing like a shiny new piece of equipment to help you feel like you’re devoting attention to something. Yet in fitting them I realised how little attention I devote to this ‘truly central’ bit of kit (see Bruce Sterling on ‘truly central’ bits of kit). Here’s the rest of my bike:
bike

It’s a Ridgeback Cyclone. It was bought under the criteria of cost and being able to withstand the rigours of London commuting. I like the lightness, the robustness and the speed. It serves me very well. But, but, looking at it through the camera lens, I was struck by what an ill-treated mongrel it is. Witness this manufacturing mash-up:
brands-threefer

That’s actually four different logos visible, I forgot to include the new bar ends. And fair dos, Shimano gears are fairly ubiquitous. The handlebar, however – I’m struggling to identify the brand – was a budget-ish replacement for one that I bent out of shape by interfacing with a tree, cycling home drunkenly. My thighs had a superb handlebar-shaped bruise for about a month after. Moving along, in every sense, we see a lot of corrosion on the stem and a very rusty bell:

rusty-bell

…both of which descriptions have me sniggering like Finbarr Saunders in Viz. There’s also corrosion on the forks, from where they’ve been bashed by locks and leanings.

I felt slightly worn myself looking at it. So, I booked it in for a service. During the next few months, I intend to replace all worn parts and get it looking cared for again. And in the spirit of promoting the notion of ‘two wheels good’, I shall post some regular cycle-related updates.

This was my inaugural bike ride of 2013:
About 14km

Sorry about the squinty image, you can click to see it larger. Along the yellow line, taking in Hob Moor, Cycle Heaven on Bishopthorpe Road, then a turn round York City Wall, then back via Clifton Moor, was about 14km.

Just a short one, I’m still feeling the mince pies a bit. Very, very satisfying to be back in the saddle, though. Fnarr! Fnarr!