take it easy

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T’other day, whilst out on a cycle ride, I was fortunate enough to see three buzzards angrily protecting their territory from one another. What they didn’t know was that a much larger Red Kite was about a hundred feet above them, ready to take on the victor! The reason I mention this is that usually when out with the boys I see nothing but someone’s lycra-clad a*se and their rear wheel. More often than not these are testosterone fuelled, scalp-searching, lung-busting endeavours where distance, ascent and pace all play an equal part, with the holy grail being a three hour, twenty-average, hilly sixty miler.

And we don’t go anywhere. We never say ‘let’s ride to such & such as there’s a great pub with proper craft beer where we can have a good gossip and catch-up’. No, the ride itself is both journey and destination, and at times I do question both the logic, and the necessity of it. I’ll even admit it can feel a little like the hamster’s wheel. In these mean-spirited, hard-minded, aggressive days of Trump, Pyongyang, Putin & Brexit, of social media dominance and shrivelling attention spans, am I missing a trick by not simply looking up a little more?

We’re told to exercise more, to slouch less, to stand-up and move, to run, to head for the hills and sweat a bit. Or a lot. I play squash, I swim, I occasionally run (for the bus) and I cycle. Relatively speaking, me and the boys are all as fit as the proverbial butcher’s dog and there’s often more fat on a chip: none smoke, all drink and everyone seems to eat exactly what they fancy. But, in a slightly less obvious sense, are we all missing the charm of the great outdoors? Training for a triathlon, ploughing through the lanes in the pool, fart-lecking between telegraph poles, nicking a league match or counting your steps on the fitbit, we’re using the environment for our own ends, we’re doing what’s necessary to achieve our predetermined goal.

Good on us all for being out & about, as opposed to losing a weekend to the latest box-set, but there’s also magic to be had on our doorsteps and at a slower pace. We need to look up more often to see what’s happening behind the blinds and over the fences. Eavesdrop a conversation or two. Pop into a shop for a root around. Stop and see how your environment is changing. Call in a for a cuppa. Provided you don’t live in Moss Side everything that abuts your neighbourhood is worthy of inspection. And do so at an old dog’s pace: wander, stroll, amble, saunter and have a right ol’ nosey. Sure, you’ll get bored (arrested?) and wonder what the point is. But that’s the whole point. Sometimes, there’s doesn’t have to be a point.