For those who have been under a rock for the last few weeks there’s been a world changing event happening in Russia, and for once its got nothing to do with the orange coloured moron over in America (well not that we know about yet !). Its the world cup, 1966, three lions and other assorted bullshit reflected in rose tinted glasses, now before you assume anything I have to admit that I’m quite partial to watching a good game of footy now and again. The modern game is without doubt faster, harder, and more skilful than anything we ever saw even just ten years ago, however I struggle with the players, some of them seem to think they are ‘somewhat special and consider themselves to be ‘players’ in the seediest sense of the word and act accordingly….. great role models for the fans….not
But I do enjoy it and so I’ve seen two fantastic games of football out of the ten or so games I’ve watched and have enjoyed most of the others…..however I’m digressing
Without doubt the best thing about the world cup is the vacuuming effect of the matches being broadcast live on the telly at reasonable times, the crowds have been sucked inside to consume crisps and beer and cheer/boo/fight accordingly, which means for folk who like to be outside the trails are empty at certain strategic times, like late this afternoon for example.
My days riding started earlyish, heading along the canal towards the cafe for breakfast at TreeTops cafe, a full english and a big mug of tea hit the spot and fuelled me for the rest of the day, already the heat was rising. I left here with a slight tailwind, the pyramid at Stockport my destination, stopping occasionally to grab a photo of something that caught my eye meant that what used to take me less than an hour was a very sociable two hours, time to sit for a while and lament the once lovely singletrack trail that is now almost double track gravel, I guess there’s some kind of irony there given that gravel bikes are this years fashion accessory for the ‘discerning’ cyclist !
Conditions were perfect, 28c with a slight cooling breeze.
The pyramid loomed large and I took a few minutes to get some water on board and watch a couple of Environment Agency staff taking measurements of the dwindling flow of the Mersey, they looked worried, the price to pay for this amazing summer.
Heading back now and the crowds were out, dog walkers, joggers, blokes carrying crates of cheap Stella, I was glad to be getting away from the hot spots alongside the river, this afternoon will be interesting. The canal was also busy, the frequently seen dumps of empty cans suggesting a busy day yesterday, funny how these people can carry full cans of beer into the countryside but once empty they become just too much trouble to take away, perhaps they will return today to take it away ?
Once out of civilisations grip the atmosphere changes, the few folk you meet seem somehow nicer, more in tune with what being outside is about (I know, I’m a judgemental so and so) soon enough I get to a bench thats in shade. Bikes propped up and I get out my book, a lovely hour of uninterrupted reading later and I’m on my way again. However my good mood is soon shattered when I get to the Grass Up The Middle bench, or at least the place where our regular meetings/breakfast/drumups took place, some imbecile had actually burnt the bench down a few weeks ago, mindless.
I head off into the lanes, the traffic noticeably less now, its half two, the match starts at three, another thirty minutes and I’m sat at another bench just off the trail, its a shaded spot that leads to a footpath which in turn leads to the River Bollin, I leave the bike alone for a few minutes and head to the river. Again it is noticeably low in level and flow, I wonder how the fish are coping with this, they must be easy prey for the mink population along here. Back at the bench and its time for a brew, I boil up enough water for two cups of tea out of habit (note the word boil here, its not always the case with one of my GUTM associates !) and sit back and enjoy the silence, there’s the odd cyclist riding past on the trail behind me but otherwise nothing.
Its hard to describe the contentment that’s to be had from just sitting and staring, absorbing the colours that surround you, enjoying the bird song that comes into focus as your ears adjust, watching the shadows cast by the trees and leaves gently swaying in the wind creating a light show that is unique in that moment, eventually I decide that its time to head home as I too want to watch the England match tonight.
All the way home I passed maybe another six cyclists, normally at this time of day there’s a constant stream of commuters heading home via the canal, this is bliss and I enjoy every minute of it knowing full well that if England lose tonight normalcy will return with a vengeance tomorrow, fingers crossed they win and give us another few weeks of calm !
Words and pictures – Steve Makin