Monday, May 16, 2005

The Village Bike

What a day for a bike ride. The risk of the main roads presaging the country lanes lying in wait. The narrow lanes, the fields, the hedgerows, ancient borders of land and byway, tangled, lush, crammed with life. The sounds and the movements. The shriek-shrill of the wren, smallest and loudest bird. The panicking partridge - guaranteed to bestow on me my first heart attack one day with its noisy flutterings and anxious clattering escapes from my wheel-whining, huffing progress. Country life. Rivers. Canals. Majestic swans; haughty, proprietorial, vaguely threatening with grey fluffy signets in tow. Downy, clumpy ug-runts of their elegant parents. "Don't eye-ball me mate or I'll gouge your eyes out," the he parent seems to want to say in local variant 'mockney-swannese' having recently heard on a passing barge TV's Tommy (Ground Force) Walsh threaten a stroppy bogus cabbie on Celebrity Stitch Up. And, like Tommy, probably means it. And, like Tommy, will stay with his (rather plainer) wife for the rest of his life. Swan's do monogamy well. As well as violence.

Country meets city. Cars (thankfully rare) swoosh past with little understanding of the unspoken etiquette. The horse fraternity, much more au-fait, politely clip-clopping their leathered-lathered and fine-boned chestnuts sedately along. You pass them with a wide berth though - rumours of kicks and bites from them trade places in your mind with the hissings and wing flapppings of swans. Both are rare.

A swarm of flies, fleas, flying insects. A living cloud. Tiny dots impossible to avoid. Seeking out the places where they're most unwelcome. The eyes - the acid sting. The teeth, the last barrier. The throat. The hit-rattle-gulp-sickener. The throat clearing hackle that suggests an instantaneous digestory eruption. Before it too, passes.

All experiences. All worth having.

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