Midnight The Metal Horse
I am officially into the final stretch now, after three and a half years of planning departure is finally upon me. I’ve left work, gotten too drunk at a leaving do, started packing (more on that soon), had my entire family round for a party… and reminded myself how to ride a bike. Random I know but there it is. A while ago I read the blog of a girl teaching where I’m going to be in Lop Buri and she said that the teachers were all offered the choice of a bus allowance or a bicycle – and they all went for the bike. Apparently there are swarms of western teachers cruising around Lop Buri on bicycles like gangs of 80’s movie kids. With this in mind I thought I’d better remind myself how to ride one and break in my backside again, having not straddled a bike in a good decade. First I had to rope my dad into helping me pump up the wheels of my mums’, which has also not seen active service for a very long time, and then get him to lower the saddle for me since I could just about scrape the tarmac with one big toe-nail whilst the other foot was 10 inches above the ground. “Isn’t this supposed to be like riding a bike?” I grumbled whilst my dad held the handle-bars for me as I wobbled along. For a while it was touch and go but eventually I got my toes close enough to the ground to get a proper purchase and then I was ready to be off. Swinging my leg over the frame I resisted the sudden burning urge to click my tongue and trill walk on! which was what largely happened fifteen years ago during my most avid bike-riding days – back then, despite looking like a bike, my bike was in actual fact a big black horse named Midnight that looked just like Zorro’s horse and liked to do a lot of neighing and rearing. It’s surprising how things you’d forgotten you’d forgotten can sneak up on you when you try something you haven’t done for an age.
Once the bike was ready I put my feet to the pedals and I was off; the speed surprised me and the wind whipped my face – it was fabulous, I’d completely forgotten how much fun cycling was and it all came flooding back; just like riding a bike! I felt marvellously liberated as I whizzed round my village, free-wheeling down hills, peddling furiously and then cruising along admiring the daffodils and drinking in the spring breeze. I even managed a one-handed gangster lean for a stretch without so much as a wobble. Since I never learnt to drive, why I have not been riding a bike everywhere for the last ten years is beyond me; it’s much faster and more fun than walking. Walking’s for schmuks. However, after not very long bombing it about some long-forgotten muscles in my calves started to feel decidedly jelly-like and some other distinctly more intimate parts of my anatomy started to feel rather more like over-tenderised rump steak; a sign that it was time to take a sedately sail back down the driveway, huffing and blowing to get my breath back. I was thinking of the bike thing as a bit of a chore but I’m glad I did it and I shall endeavour to have a short morning bike ride each day until I leave (I can do these things now that I’m officially unemployed). I’m definitely pleased I decided to rediscover cycling on a mild April day with wide cycle paths instead of in 45°C heat on a broken Thai road. Before I go I want to visit my friend without having to get off and push my bike up the big hill on the way; that’s the goal. You never know, it might even help me look slightly less like a muffin in my travel trousers which are getting increasingly tight on the count-down to take-off!
It was my plan to get as healthy and slim as possible before leaving but that’s just gone out the window – especially now that every yummy thing I pass is a last yummy thing, last jam doughnut, last chip-shop chips, last hunk of crusty bread with lashings of Boursin, mmmmm…. Anyway, galloping around on Midnight the metal horse will make all of this ok! Ahem… It doesn’t help that the kitchen is full of yummy leftover party food from yesterday. Although I’ll concede that I polished off the last of the Gandalf cake (strawberry, walnut and whipped cream – my specialty) for breakfast this morning when I was collecting up empty beer cans in a bin bag; be fair, if I hadn’t it would have just taunted me all day.
On that note, thank-you to everyone who came yesterday and made it such a lovely day, Finlay definitely was a bit partied out by the end and promptly fell asleep squished between me and the sofa. I will miss you all greatly but will no doubt harass you all online until you get so annoyed you don’t miss me at all!