BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘optimism’

#365daysofbiking The thinness of the air, and turning for home

31st December 2021 – It’s been a weird old Christmas. The weather has been the worst over the holiday period I’ve known in many years: Pretty much constant rain and drizzle for over a week.

The festive period is normally an opportunity for us to get out on some seriously nice rides – often in the lead up to Christmas, the traditional Christmas and Boxing Day rides, and there’s usually good fun to be had in the period up to and including new year.

But not this time. The ceaseless downpour has meant that although I’ve been cycling every day, it’s been for utility only; delivering presents or cards, seeing friends and relatives, going to the pub, getting shopping in or getting fresh air.

Every journey has been in waterproofs, and I’ve come back sodden. It’s not been nice.

But on New Year’s Eve, a day I usually hate, the rain stopped. The sun came out. But odder than that, it was warm. And I mean, really warm: 14 degrees. It was like spring out there.

I set off later than I’d planned with my young pal for a loop around the local area, as we had an errand to do in Lichfield, and another in Burntwood.

The riding was fast and easy: There was a strong wind, but frankly, it didn’t matter. Up over Stonnall, Thornes, and the backlanes into Shenstone – but as we neared the village on the hill, we realised something was different. The old, ruined thirteenth century church tower – a remnant of an older, nicer church before the gothic horror that stands today was born of Victorian hubris – was sheathed in plastic sheeting and scaffold. It seems to be undergoing renovation. This is interesting, as it’s been derelict for all of the 40 or more years I’ve been riding around here.

It seems that a group have got together, raised money and are renovating the tower to save it out of charity and community spirit. Yet again, communities pay for Church of England neglect, it seems. But the plan is good and seemingly very competent. Searching when we got home we found the tower has a website here which is pretty useful on history, but not on the future. For that, we found Lichfield Live had reported plans to add a viewing platform to the tower last March. To my surprise, these have been approved.

I do hope this will be open to the public periodically. I bet the view is incredible. I salute those undertaking this project – it’s remarkable. This has largely passed me by over the summer and is an indication of my failure to ride much that ways on last year. I must rectify the neglect.

Further on, we caught a fair sunset up at Chesterfield, between Shenstone and Wall – any sunset is a bonus right now. Pickle caught it well, as she did a somnambulant, subdued Lichfield. The bars seemed busy but the streets less so. As ever, the festive lights and night sky combined with the muted, orange street lighting to make a magic that Pickle was all too keen to capture.

Returning down the wonderful Chasetown High Street, Pickle noted that the Christmas lights were switched off, but it didn’t matter, as it’s always festive at night on the beautifully lit, inclined High Street. I don’t really know what it is about Chasetown, but it shares the phenomena with Walsall Wood. At night, it always seems much busier than it actually is, and has a lovely homely, soft glow to it.

As New Year’s Eve rides go, this has been the best for a few years. We both enjoyed the absence of rain, and the thin, clear air. Such a change from the last couple of weeks… But as we stood at Chasewater, with nothing but the sound of water lapping against the dam, we reflected on the year gone. It’s been hard. There have been times when I wondered if I’d ever do another long ride again. But there has also been great joy: Recovery, the longed for autumn long rides, the return to the outdoors, the sharing of moments like this.

So we turned for home feeling positive, and light with the optimism of a new riding year ahead. There will be winter yet, yes – but spring and the daffodils and cowslips. Long rides on the Moorlands and Peaks. Green on the trees and hedgerows. Summer days and cafe stops and ice cream, and even the odd pub garden. It’s all to come. It was impossible not to face the prospect with an open, happy heart.

Happy new year to you all.

Thank you too for all of your messages of support and encouragement over the last week. Dry Valleys summed it up when he said you cannot serve from an empty vessel. For a while, I was empty. But now… I am feeling somewhat replenished.

Thank you to the wonderful community that support me here.

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#365daysofbiking Persistence of the night

January 24th – But of course, the crippling thing about this time of year is that there’s great optimism in the morning light, when one can actually see the dying of winter.

But when the dark repossess the day on the way home, it feels like deepest winter again: Which being in January as we are, it actually is.

The persistence of the night – like here in Green Lane, Walsall Wood – is sobering, depressing, but essential. The dark may be retreating. But we’re a ways away from the death yet. We must keep pushing, keep going.

Until the persistence is no more. For another season.

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#365daysofbiking Things can only get better

December 21st – It’s not hard to notice if you’re a regular reader that I hate the darkness of winter and the closing in of the days. Well, this is the weekend where the process reverses for another season, and from tomorrow, the light will slowly but surely trickle back into my life.

Winter always feels on the run from hereon in.

Bring it on.

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#365daysofbiking A lifetime away

March 16th – In Brownhills High Street, it was largely deserted. Not just due to the lateness of the hour, but because of the awful, endless rain and scouring wind.

I don’t mind Brownhills these days: I used to find the High Street problematic, with its reminders of a more prosperous past and failed dreams of regeneration, but of late, despite the derelict scar of Ravens Court it’s actually perceptibly on the up.

New housing has bought short, local footfall, and local convenience services are doing well, I think. Slowly, very slowly, things seem to be improving.

But here and now, in the grey dusk with rain falling steadily, better days seem a whole lifetime away.

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March 21st – Leaving my camera at home made a bad day for photos – but the day was dull anyway, so at least not much was lost.

Coming back through Brownhills, though, I noticed the sky was that gorgeous azure blue of late spring dusks, and the moon was a pleasing crescent above the still skeletal trees.

I feel certain we’ve seen the last of winter now – and I’ve probably just doomed it, but there you go – and I’m really eager for sunny, warm days.

With the clocks going forward on Sunday it seems like a real possibility and not just a distant dream now.

January 24th – The awful news of the tragic, senseless death has left me, like many other local people, hollow, hurting and shell shocked. It has cast a long shadow over the town and a community reels in shock.

Getting to work after riding in a torrential, early morning downpour, I was wet, spare, lost and disheartened.

But then, on the grass outside the front of my workplace, I noticed specks of white in the gloom I expected to be spilled polystyrene or litter.

They wer daisies. optimistic, bright, open daisies, pushing for the sky, hopeful of sun, better days and spring.

And after finding them, I was just a little bit lighter.

January 22nd – Darkness is on the run.

Sunrise, 8:04 – Sunset 4:33. A month ago it was 8:18 and 3:53. On a decent day, it’s now not properly dark until gone 5pm.

This is making me happy. Every day, I note the tiny increase snatched back from the night, Every day, I’m a little bit closer.

Just shake this cold, get some flowers out, and it’ll be well on the way to spring.

January 18th – Back to work, and very slow on the bike, but the fresh air and feeling of purpose helped me lots.

Passing through Kings Hill Park whose solace and peace I could have done with in the past few days, I was encouraged to see that despite the cold and grey, spring is arranging the furniture and getting the staff ready for another performance.

Can’t wait. Hopefully I’ll be a bit better on the bike by then…

January 5th – First day back at work in 2018 – more working weeks should start and end on a Friday.

I enjoyed the ride to Darlaston, I’d missed the daily commute, and the shoulder seemed OK with it. I also popped through Kings Hill Park and noticed something.

Jack in the Green has tapped the ground with his cane, and called the snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils on.

Roll on spring.