The best laid plans

Me and my e-bike

The best laid plans of nice old men

     Sixty years ago last week, I had my first birthday.

     Pride of my parents, a blank canvas upon which time would paint my life.

    My 1st and 61st have something in common. I can remember very little about either of them, despite the recent one being only a week ago!


   One thing I do remember is that Jan gave me a pair of binoculars. A great present for a cyclist with seventh-decade eyes. They will open up distant vistas and allow me to see things far away. Birds, which have previously been indistinct blobs in the distance, will spring to life in abundant glory! I'll be able to see deer. I'll be able to see the hills on which the deer forage.

     (I wonder if I come across as an indistinct blob in the distance?)


    I'm in that grey area between action hero and armchair. I dream big but in reality need a stunt double to change my socks. Hey! YOU can stop laughing too. If you're not disheveled and wrinkly, you soon will be. It creeps up. Before you know it you'll be slumped sideways against the wardrobe with a sock half-on. Thankfully, my binoculars won’t let me see into the future, I don’t want to know what’s in store. Probably couldn't change much, even if I wanted to. It’s now I need to focus on.


    Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare some short / medium term plans. 


   Plans or goals or dreams?? A dream is a misty, warm place. At least a good dream is. An indistinct haven we can aim for somewhere in the future. A goal is a fixed point somewhere up ahead, a stepping stone to our dream; unromantic and clinical. A goal is a dream with plans, depersonalised. So, we'll park our dream in the clouds and for now, set some goals. Reaching birthday 62, for example! Or finding a pair of automatic socks. To attain our goals, a little planning is needed. 

    Everything has been difficult this past year. Travel and the planning of trips has been nigh impossible. The coming months will be far from certain too. So, because longer jaunts, including staying away for a day or two, may not be possible I thought we’d focus on shorter day trips. Zippy little fun-filled forays where we can all join in. Jan tells me she fancies visiting country houses, National Trust properties for example (when they re-open!). Sounds good, we can combine that with me having a cycle, both of us having a good dog walk and, if the weather allows, a picnic. See! Sounds like a plan eh? 


    Step one required a vehicle upgrade. The previous one had been used for five house renovations and looked rather worse for wear. It was pretty horrid, in fact, we had to wipe our feet before we got out. It had one or two alarming rattles and the key fob only worked if I bashed it on the roof rack a few times (which itself was rusted on). I reckoned we’d need something quite large to accommodate me, Jan, the dog (in a cage), Columbanus (my bike), assorted paraphernalia and a picnic.


    Turns out my bike is rather larger than regular mountain bikes, not by much, but enough to make things awkward. Short of buying a mid-size van, I’d have to remove various bits of bike to get it in whatever car we buy. I don’t want it on a rack externally for fear of getting it pinched.

Carly's small mountain bike in front of the behemouth that is Columbanus

    Anyhow, we traded in my SUV (Squalid Unkempt Vauxhall) for a 7-seat MPV (Mean Platelet Volume!?)

    I’ve folded away the third row of seats permanently, folded down the second row temporarily and we now have a warehouse on wheels.


    I’ve had mixed success with cars over the years. It started when I failed the theory part of my driving test (it was just a few questions back then at the end of the driving bit). The examiner asked me what sign posts I might expect to see on a country road. ‘Pick your own strawberries’ wasn’t the answer he was looking for apparently, so I was advised to go and brush up on the technical side. 'Go and study the Highway Code', he said. As opposed to the Highway Cod we'd studied for our boating qualifications.


    Our old car had never let us down, despite the punishment I gave it. It’s now worth £150 (optimistically), approximately 10 times less than my new bike, but they offered me £350 trade-in. Then £1,000 off the new one. All of which told me they were asking too much in the first place. Anyhow, we did the deal, despite being unable to take a test-drive! If the new (to us) car is as reliable as 'skippy', I’ll be more than happy.


    Time for a trial trip.

    We chose Clitheroe in Lancashire. Bit random in a way but I had discovered a house renovation project that's worth a look. Plus, it’s in our permitted ‘covid’ travel area. So, I remove my bike’s front wheel and saddle and in it goes. (Boy it’s not half heavy - there’s a worrying twinge around my L4 vertebrae as I heave it in.). Dog cage, dog, extraneous bits and picnic, all follow into the back. Me and Jan in the front.


    Full of hope we set off. We arrive in Clitheroe to discover the house is dreadful and the dog has been sick. Not in any violent ‘tiger roaring out of the undergrowth way’, no, surreptitiously, on the picnic hamper. He was anxious about being in a smart new car I think. He was more used to gambolling around in plasterboard dust.


    Refusing to be downhearted we decide to go to Lytham St. Annes because I want to look at the sea and my Aunt and Uncle used to live there. Spurious reasoning again perhaps?


    I can’t tell you how cold it is. There’s a biting wind howling in off the Irish Sea so I won’t be getting the bike out here! We promenade on the sea front with a veritable tide of fellow geriatrics. Muffled up citizens waddling north and south by the bleak beach. We have a brew and a lump of cheese from a mini-market and return home to clean the car.

    We amended our plans on the hoof so achieved our interim goal (sort of).

    The dream is still alive. 

It is perishing!

Car full. Dog not happy!