The ‘short one’ and the ‘long one’

Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th September 2013

Weather:             Saturday, bright and sunny. Sunday, overcast, heavy rain later

Mood:                  Saturday 8/10. Sunday **A Perfect  10 **

Saturday: The short one.

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Today I am humbled by my son.

In a world of instant credit and instant gratification, it humbles me that a young teenage boy can be so excited about receiving a second hand bicycle. The genuine joy in his eyes, both excites me and fills me with pride. I’m sure that he has all the usual teenage desires about gaming machines, computers and gadgets, but he never, ever makes a fuss that I am not able to afford the things that I could before I became unwell.

Full of excitement, we head outside to test the new bicycle, but after only 3 miles, we have to head back home. Another series of pinch punctures in my back tyre has exhausted my supply of spare inner tubes. Once again the trials of ultra-low budget cycling halts play. Nevertheless, our spirits are high and I cook a homemade curry for tea and we spend a pleasant evening talking, laughing and watching old films.

Sunday: the long one.

The weather outside promises to hinder our plan to cycle, but undeterred, we head out. My son’s brilliant idea to salvage the inner tubes from his old bicycle enables us to get going.

We start slowly to enable our legs to get warmed up but before long we are cycling along nicely, gliding down hills and encouraging each other to ‘keep going ‘ up the hills. Even a big, industrial city like Sheffield can be a complete joy, if you move away from busy main roads and traffic.

Eight miles later, we arrive at the Meadowhall Centre via a delightful series of tracks and trails including the extremely picturesque Five Weirs Walk alongside the old Sheffield canal.

We take a moment to rest and share some fruit and the joy in our eyes is easy to see.  Food definitely seems to taste better when you’ve worked up an appetite.

A quick rest and a further five miles sees us in the city Centre of Sheffield. Urban cycling is not for the faint hearted, but Sunday presents the city centre almost devoid of the usual traffic and chaos and we are able to cycle through, taking in all the sights, in safety.

I am always impressed how Sundays seem to give the important places back to the people to enjoy. We cycle along, thoroughly enjoying the grand buildings, wide pedestrian precincts and memorials to bygone wars and feeling very much part of the great old city of steel that is Sheffield.

Like many people who suffer from mental ill-health, I sometimes struggle to clear my mind. Sometimes, it becomes so cluttered with thoughts, worries and anxiety that I find it hard to function in any meaningful way. But not when I am cycling. Pedalling around appears to set me free, albeit momentarily, from the shackles of self-doubt and in all-too-fleeting moments, allows the heaviness of my heart to be forgotten.

Scientists say that the complex series of tasks required to cycle (keeping balanced, pedalling, navigation, avoidance of hazards and overcoming tiredness) all provide an excellent distraction that allows the inner self to find a little peace.

For me it works. It works very well, and the rarely-seen moments of release, allow me to feel joy in my heart. When I am cycling, there are times when I cannot remember the passage of the miles, or the pain in my legs and I only see the beauty of the scenery and  feel the setting free of my soul as the wind ruffles the laughable bit of hair that I have left.

A quick spot of lunch and a further two miles sees us arrive at the Sheffield branch of The Edinburgh Cycle Cooperative, the most southerly branch that they have, apparently. It seems a fitting place to end our Sunday cycle, as it was the place where my son’s new bicycle was assembled. 14.4 miles in total. Not bad at all.

The heavens open with fury as we wait for our lift home.

As we shelter from the deluge under a stout looking oak tree, the broad smiles on our faces and the ruddy glow in our cheeks says everything that needs to be said.

For me, a very rare ‘perfect ten’ day, courtesy my beautiful son and ‘The Cycle Path to Recovery’.

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