Sunday, 13 June 2010

Tea and toast in Ceylon

Gone are the days where excitement marked starting up my bike after a rebuild. To swing my leg over and kick the beast into life, blood rushing to my head giving a feel of heavy intoxication. The urgent need to stamp it into gear and rip open the throttle would be overwhelming; restrained only by the physical necessity to allow the engine to warm up and tick over without choke. The wait was a strain! Believe me, it beats jumping on a bike you've just bought, borrowed or stolen (actually the latter might well be more exciting, I wouldn't know, I couldn't bring my self to depriving someone of their precious machine). The act of creating is the ultimate for me, as enjoyable as the riding itself. In essence it completes the experience, making me truly a part of my machine. It isn't difficult to sit and envisage each and every working part in motion, doing just what it should. Only after stripping down and rebuilding my bikes do I attain an in-depth working relationship with them, and I'd rather ride what I've built than any other. As I lay in my hospital bed nearly two years ago, body broken but spirit intact, I vowed to rebuild my bike. I claimed I'd be fit to ride it just as soon as I was fit enough to rebuild it. In the intervening months my mind has been waylaid many times, it would have been too easy to have gone off on a tangent, forsaking that chosen path. But I was fortunate, circumstances conspired to bring us together, to provide the time and the space to get down and get dirty with each other.

Restrictions on time aren't the best of circumstances to plan a rebuild. Especially before you've stripped the beauty completely, before a full in-depth examination can be done. Though unforeseen, the time constraints made me pick up the pace; so thanks folks, thanks for setting deadlines and forcing my hand! I forged ahead and got the job done, overcoming the multitude of problems and mistakes that occurred. I'm glad it was me who overcame the problems, and various suppliers who made the mistakes. the moment of most anxiety came when it was time to wheel my bike out the barn. With a bit of thought and careful manoeuvring extraction was a painless experience, shunning offers of help I coped single handed without problem. My worries lay in getting it onto the farm track, a ride around the field, a lumpy, bumpy, rock strewn field. When the time came I bit the bullet and just jumped on with a bugger it attitude, ready to ride. Or would have been if the gear lever had been there; oops, not quite immediate perfection. Put bluntly, I was shitting myself! It wasn't how I wanted to test myself, I'd have preferred some smooth tarmac welcoming me back to biking. With feet paddling I wibbled and wobbled towards a rocky slope, each lump or bump adding to my discomfort. It felt like a journey of epic proportions, in reality I travelled only about 5 metres before planting my feet on the pegs and giving it more throttle. RESULT!! I even got round to purposely locking the rear wheel, to make sure a wheel slide didn't freak me out.

It's a thing of the past to relish hiring full highland dress for a fancy do. Losing the intensity of pleasure does not mean you have to forsake it entirely, I like dressing up. I always have done and believe I always will. The thought is still there, it's only the childish excitement that was missing. When Elin asked for formal dress on her 21st it took very little for me to decide to hire something nice, and what nicer than highland regalia. With complete disregard for traditional rights I went for a Black Isle Tarten, it more befits my morbid fascination of the morose. And what more can I say, "it was nice!' There was no running around, the life and soul of the party. There was no overly exuberant behaviour, but I felt special, the dress and the occasion felt special, your 21st only comes once in your lifetime after all. On Cai's birthday this year it done my head in, he would have been 21yrs old. I didn't know how this would effect my presence at Elin's 21st: it didn't! Which I feel has proved to be a turning point in the grieving process. I can remember saying after his birthday that no other birthday of his could ever be as relevant. I made it through that day, as I've made it through each and every one since his accident. I may not have found much joy and enthusiasm in life since then, but I have learnt I can still show my appreciation for special occasions and special people.

And a damned good time was had by all, kids, young adults, middle aged and even the old crusties; a truly multi-generation party of excellence. I believe us middle-aged folks (did I really just admit to being in that class?) showed most fortitude. Indeed it was only a hand full of us die hards who did not even bother going to bed.I even had the where with-all to set up the headlight on the bike in preparation for the MOT on Monday morning. Which entailed waiting until 10:30pm for it to get dark enough to see where it was pointing. Just as well I did, the height and direction was way out. But it passed, Tax followed immediately and suddenly I was once again the proud owner of a road legal motorcycle. So how was the experience? It was after all nearly two years since falling off and nearly crippling myself permanently.

Initially I felt overjoyed, and wanted to give it a fistful, mainly to convince myself i'd not lost my bottle. Bearing in mind six months ago I had reservations about my ability to ride a bike, I was sure I'd at least need a brace to support my knee. Once straddled my machine it was a whole different story, though one of varying sides. Doubts were gone, but weren't replaced by overwhelming joy. Traffic urged me to whip out and overtake with as much noise and jubilation as possible. Country roads instilled a touch more caution, especially on blind bends.When the rain started I became tense, almost uncomfortable. My eyes searched everywhere, all the time, for any sign of a hazard; constantly having to reassure myself all was well. I didn't overtake anything, being happy to follow whoever was in front, at whatever speed they dictated. That initial day was certainly one of mixed blessings, it made me wonder how fulfilling I would find riding my bike again. The stem of such thoughts was the lack of exhilaration, it didn't make me whoop with joy, it didn't allow me to forget the months of pain, or feel whole again. Not at first anyway. The following day I took a ride over to Yorkshire, three hours through drizzly rain and dense mist. Still hanging back, following the flow of traffic, not bold enough to pass and blat into the solid wall of fog. Why I thought that should have been the case I don't know: it is promising though, sensible thoughts appearing through my brash exterior. The return trip was even worse, more of the same impenetrable wall of mist with a constant deluge of rain. Isn't this just what I ride a bike for? Actually yes! It is in weather like this that has generally made me aware of the level of enjoyment I get from riding a bike, however bad the weather it doesn't put me off entirely. I haven't shaken my sense of caution on blind country roads, but I have got a smile on my face again.

Only in days long gone did my itchy feet start tingling as departing on another jaunt crept ever closer. Like many things in my life now the thrill is missing, I don't get off on much, when before there were any number of activities or indulgences that were guaranteed to get the juices flowing. My life has changed, every aspect of it; both the physical and metaphysical. My thoughts and feelings can take a sudden turn for the worse, seemingly happy one moment, holding back the tears the next. Nothing is the same as before, even walking can't be taken for grantedI know I've stated this before, but for me it is a constant reminder and much of the time I struggle to keep my head up and focus on a future. No-one expects much of me anymore, which is just as well, even if I gave a damn what they thought I could do little about it. Life is what it is, I can only create favourable circumstances to survive and hope the environment I put myself in will be conducive to my future happiness. And now I go galavanting again, to Sri Lanka this time, part holiday, part work. My intention is to write, to finish the story of the Americas, to close that chapter of my life. Without finishing the story it will never end! I feel it will give me closure, I have done since Cai died. Bearing that in mind, it must be done. So the situation that encourages me to write must be found, it didn't happen at home, let's hope it does abroad.

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