It’s Saturday morning in West Devon. Hatherleigh, the town where I live, is as quiet as a church mouse. I’ve walked to Cornwall Farmers shop and purchased some screws and a drill bit in preparation for my assault on Michele’s loose floorboards. It’s been quite a week. I removed the old carpets in Michele’s house in readiness for new ones to be fitted. Being of limited energy, it involved working for a couple of hours and then sleeping for a couple more before continuing. I had a sense of pride when the final section of decomposing underlay was thrown unceremoniously into the recycling bin.
As I worked, another chap took up some of the floorboards to try and alleviate the constant creaking the pipes make when the heating is on. During his work he managed to nick a pipe. A flurry of activity saw all the taps on full blast to stem the flow of water which was now exiting upstairs via the dining room lamp and lintel over the French doors.
I felt smug. This was exactly the reason I didn’t take the job on myself. In all fairness, the pipes were so close to the underside of the boards that it was almost inevitable that they would get caught by any saw that invaded their space. Worse than that was the fact that the day after this, the tape, ‘that will seal the problem, honest gov,’ burst, flooding the house worse than the day before.
Why am I telling you all this? Mostly because all of the above is the reason that Kermit hasn’t seen the light of day all week. No shopping run and no jaunts around the lanes until tomorrow, Sunday, when I hope to ride with friends on a social and relaxing ride.
Contrast that to last week when I rode four times. I cannot remember the last time I did that, outside of my aborted trip in the summer. It felt as though the world was smiling on me, the sun shining down and my mind open to everything, as I reported last time. I’m glad that my mind has readjusted to my old routine as well as it has. I don’t want to repeat what happened this summer at any point.
By Saturday afternoon, after screwing down the floorboards, I was desperate to sleep. I was more desperate to ride my trike, so I figured that I would be lying down and resting on Kermit anyway, so I went for a bike ride along the estuary. I just wanted to feel the peace, the wind in my Buff (no hair), and the joy of self-propelled movement.
From the first turn of the pedals I could feel my mind breathing out a huge sigh of relief. We had managed all the work we needed to do and now it was time to ride. I cruised; one of the great benefits of trikes is that they encourage this. I waved and spoke to those riding past me and watched a pilot gig out on the river, wondering if it was the one with Michele onboard.
It was slack water now, the time in between rushing around when all the water in the estuary is relatively still. At any moment it would all get sucked back out, leaving sand bars and a meandering stream in place of the mass of water I was viewing. I didn’t rush but kept up a reasonable pace. It was good to feel my legs and lungs doing what they are made to do.
I didn’t travel far before turning around. I just needed to be out for an hour, and that is exactly what I did. Returning home, I took a shower and went to bed. I slept for three and a half hours. You could be forgiven for thinking that I would not sleep at night after that, but another eleven hours saw me waking quite late on a day when we had arranged to meet up with some other cyclists for a gentle ride along the Tarka Trail.
Just as we were leaving on our ride, Michele noticed a Mind flag hanging on a pole by the riverside. A closer inspection revealed a man packing away from an overnight stop. I had to stop and talk to him. Wayne is walking the UK coast. To date he has walked over 2,500 miles, raising money for Mind as he goes. On top of that he is litter picking along the way and organising beach cleaning events. His reasons for doing this are similar to those that drove me to ride around the coast in 2011. He has a companion, his dog Koda, and is loving living freely and simply from day to day. A complete inspiration, you can follow his journey by looking up his Facebook page: Wayne Dixon. For me it was another brilliant chance meeting with somebody else who is fighting our corner.
Stopping and talking for so long meant I had a lot of catching up to do. Luckily for me, a coffee stop was called at Fremington café where a breathless Graeme could take a break. Michele and I had been joined by David and Clive on their uprights along with Sue on her Ice sprint trike. Sue’s husband Paul wimped out and stayed at home, although he usually joins us on his old Greenspeed trike. David had organised the ride and we tagged along. The point was to be sociable, ride gently and enjoy a half days cycling. From Fremington we continued to Bideford where we turned back. Lots of people were riding and it was so good seeing so many grinning children on a mix of bikes and scooters.
The morning cloud was gradually being replaced with a warm sun. The fleeting glimpses tantalised us until the sun broke through to make for a warm and sunny afternoon with little breeze. We made our way back to Barnstaple and bought sandwiches from Asda that we could eat by the river while enjoying the unexpected October heat. We chatted as we cruised along, seemingly effortlessly for once. It was unusual for us three trikers to outnumber the bikes on our ride, but trikes seem to be making a comeback with more and more appearing wherever you go.
Who would have thought it, sitting on a bench by the river in shirt sleeves in October? David left for home and we decided to carry on to Braunton with Clive before heading back. Sue decided to call it a day and headed off through Pottington toward her home. Half way to Braunton, we met my friend Phil. He was out running and we only talked briefly before setting off again. Today meant to be about meeting people.
By now I was totally mellow. Recumbent trikes encourage this type of riding and I doubt I would’ve reacted if you poked me with a sharp stick. On arriving at the car park in Braunton, we said goodbye to Clive before Michele suggested carrying on through the Great Field. This surprised me a little, but not enough to even think about it before saying yes.
Now it was just the two of us, riding towards Saunton, holding up the traffic which was polite and patient. Devon does that to you. It will make you relax and slow down given half a chance. I remember moving here and standing impatiently in the queue at the Post Office (sadly no longer there). Everybody had a story to tell and time was taken to hear each one of them before it was my turn. A couple of months later I caught myself doing the same thing and not being at all bothered about waiting as I could talk to people in the queue as well. I’m so happy that Devon, or at least a few parts of it, can still have that effect on us humans. I’m convinced that most of us need to learn to slow down a bit if we value our health and planet.
As the clouds began to mute the warm rays of sun, we donned another layer and headed home. There was no rush and far less talking now. Each in our own thoughts, we cruised those last few miles in gradually fading light, happy, satisfied and pleasantly tired. It was definitely time for tea and cake.
Until next time…………………