While the cat’s away, the mice will play. In my case this means while my beloved was back in the UK on a business trip, I could do exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately for him his absence coincided with the San Sebastian Jazz Festival, where many of the events are free. I took full advantage and it was very pleasant sitting in an adjacent bar, sipping something chilled while listening to some music. Or, as I later discovered, listening while lying in bed with the window open.
My beloved’s absence also coincided with the final exciting days of the Tour de France and the European Water Polo championships from Barcelona. What many of you won’t know is that my beloved is a former water polo player. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent in chlorine-scented pools watching him play. I even qualified as a water polo referee, one of a few woment to do so at the time. Strutting round a pool blowing a whistle at will, where my word was law, rather brought out the worst in me!
It’s quite amusing to contrast the physiques of the athletes in the two sports. Typically, in weight terms, 1 water polo player = 2 – 3 cyclysts. Looking at the physiques of the former, I can’t help think it’s not just their mother’s cooking that has built those splendid rippling muscles.
After last week’s much-needed deluges – yes, it does rain here occasionally! – the sun has returned this week though daytime temperatures have dropped a couple of degrees to below 20C. Last week I took my bike down to my local bike shop for its winter tyres and a quick service. As usual, it has come back looking like new and I’ve been out for a few gentle rides up and down the coast. There’s little to no holiday traffic, just locals. The views have been spectacular particularly with the backdrop of snowy peaks. The southern alps have had heavy snowfalls boding well for the forthcoming ski season.
Typically I’ll set off for my ride as many of the clubs’ group rides are returning to base, having started at some ungodly hour when it’s much colder and there’s loads of traffic. The riders will generally hail me by my christian name from the other side of the road. Having a name which sounds like the French equivalent of “Darling” (Chérie) always gives rise to a spot of hilarity and some odd stares from those not in the know.
Home sweet home
I’m gradually building up the distance I ride each week. It’s pitiful at the moment but I’m hoping by the end of winter I’ll be able to do my 100km Wednesday ride along the coast with ease. The coastal route is only undulating in parts, nothing too steep for too long. The scenery is wonderful and I pass lots of prime real-estate. You know how I love gazing at a spot of property porn. Of course, there’s urban stretches where you have to keep a closer eye on the traffic but generally it’s relatively quiet.
Some of my regular pit stops close during the winter months, something I need to bear in mind if I need to use their facilities. Generally I’ll only stop for a coffee once I’ve completed my ride. However, if I need to use someone’s facilities, I’ll stop for a coffee mid-ride or dash into one of the hotels, leaving my bike with the doorman or reception. There are some public facilities but there’s nowhere to safely leave my bike.
One of the things I’ve most missed about not riding, is the opportunity for some quiet contemplation. Sometimes I’ll ride with one of my girlfriends but I find they talk far too much while I just want to soak up the scenery, fill my lungs and enjoy turning the pedals. If I ride with my beloved, he’ll inevitably huff and puff about riding in my wake until I let him off the leash.
For me, one of the best things about riding a bike is that I don’t need anyone else. I can ride when and where I want. I don’t have to stick to a time or set route. This is particularly true in the months when riding is pretty much limited to the coastal roads. Once I head up into the hills during the summer, if I’m on my own, I have to bear in mind mobile phone coverage. But I don’t have to worry about that until next year. Meanwhile, onwards and upwards or should that be onwards and onwards?