So when are you mentally in the perfect place? A large glass of merlot, the fire crackling in the hearth and a boxset? Sitting on a park bench watching the kids on the swings as they whoop and scream? Well, mine would be on the bike rolling along through the countryside with a podcast keeping my attention.
I remember, on my rides in the USA, listening to various podcasts. Such was the pleasure that I can tell you where I was when I listened to the Word podcast with Rick Buckler’s story about The Jam (Interstate 61 in Louisiana), Ashley Hutchings talking about Sandy Denny (Natchez Trace Parkway, Tennessee) or Nicola Benedetti on Desert Island Discs (Interstate 50, Kansas). I can also tell you that I was climbing out of Gilling East on Thursday up a 10% gradient hill when I listened to a podcast about a book on David Bowie (David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones). It was an enjoyable ride but the gears kept slipping on the bike and the temperature was hovering at about 1°C.
There was one hilarious story about Bowie’s relocation to Switzerland (to avoid UK tax and his drug dealers) that resulted in him living up a mountain. However one night at 5.30pm came a knock on the door. “Hello David”. It was Roger Moore! A delighted Bowie invited him in for tea and they got on so famously that drinks and dinner followed. The next day - knock, knock. “Hello David”. This continued to the point that around 5pm most nights Bowie extinguished the lights and hid under the kitchen table to avoid “Hello David”. By this time I was on the outskirts of York but with no feeling in my fingers.
Christmas brings stupid time pressures doesn’t it? We have a leaking shower pump and needed to have a plumber visit to replace it. Eventually in time these things get resolved. However, close to Christmas tradesmen stop working and the arrival of guests over Christmas meant resolution was important. I’m pleased to say that a plumber did turn up but with the wrong parts and then had to make various calls and depart to Plumb Center to get the correct bits. (I shouldn’t complain as I made quite a decent living latterly trying to help organisations stop this type of wasteful running around). You’ll be relieved to know that in any case I had a fall back plan of fitting a rose to a hosepipe and sluicing down close relatives outside the back door.
Famous Belgians anyone? I was drawn to the headline that Hercule Poirot and his fellow countrymen were now stopping the Telegram Service. Apparently, it was now only used by bailiffs! In an age where even sending Christmas cards by post seems beyond obsolete then I can well remember telegrams that came for our wedding and even some when I was at boarding school. In fact who doesn’t enjoy the pleasure of receiving a long informative letter from a friend through the post? Along with vinyl records, dandelion and burdock, people domiciled in the UK on Call Centre phone lines and Huddersfield Town, in the top division of football, then I reckon they may be back eventually. No doubt some Californian 19 year old entrepreneur will think that the joy of having a bloke perspiring in a uniform (after leaping from his motorbike) delivering a message on paper from someone in Papua New Guinea might be quite thrilling. He’d be right.
The BBC Sports Personality Of The Year came around and the public voted for Mo Farah. I can’t be bothered to watch it (nearly three hours of Gary Lineker?) but I do take an interest in the winner mainly because it can rank up there with The Eurovision Song Contest for stupidity. I note that Chris Froome with four Tour de France victories and One Vuelta victory didn’t get the nod. Ten years ago we’d have given him an Earldom, let alone a trophy, for what he has achieved on the bike. Clearly there’s the small matter of being a bit liberal with asthma medication to overcome. I hope he does. I have to say that as a Kenyan he’s done us proud.
Before I stop talking about cycling then I must report on feline developments. I subscribe to a Facebook Forum for cycle touring and you get some ‘dumb as bat shit’ stuff on here but my latest favourite was the following question:
Needless to say that as most of the correspondents are American then several took this very seriously (apologies to any US readers!) I was concerned about the cat’s safety and enquired as to how it would wear a helmet? Someone logically answered that this wouldn’t be needed because they always landed on their feet. Silly me, of course.
A pre-Christmas family tradition of a team event saw the four of us travel to Whitby (Yorkshire coast). There were sharp divisions on where to eat and more importantly what to eat. The ‘I’m virtuous and eating like a mouse’ faction were having nothing to do with Fish & Chips or a Full English Breakfast. Eventually the ‘normal and eat anything’ wing reached an amicable solution and father got his full English whilst the tallest of the offspring had a sausage sandwich. Meanwhile the ‘virtuous' nibbled toasted teacakes. However, this visit made these pages as the eldest spotted Mr & Mrs Lawson perambulating around the town. Alison and Peter were visiting relatives from Edinburgh. Peter and I used to work together, probably shortly after decimalisation, but more importantly we have cycled a few thousand miles together in Europe. They were intercepted for a cup of tea and a catch up. A lovely additional Christmas present.
The gym has hideous vacuous pop music playing music and TV’s showing the types of thing that you always wondered who watched them. So as I’m stretching and stuff I’m drawn to a Christmas film (Holiday In Handcuffs) that has a scene where a daughter is pleading with her father not to tell embarrassing jokes, like he does with waitresses in restaurants, when her boyfriend makes a planned appearance. Funnily enough I know a man like that...