Thursday, March 30, 2006

I've been riding on my bike...

I have been cycling quite a lot recently. I have, in the past, been very much a fair-weather cyclist... using my bike for relatively short journeys and only when the day was kind of jolly and I knew cycling would be a pleasurable experience. But something has changed. I've had a change of attitude and I fear I might have become (pause, dramatic chords)... a cyclist.

On Friday last week and on Monday and Tuesday of this I've been working in Ladbroke Grove (working on an opera as it goes (don't ask)) and I have cycled each day from Bethnal Green to the office where this work takes place. On Sunday night I went to watch the recording of a Radio 4 show in Hampstead. I cycled there too. It was raining. I put on waterproof trousers.

This is clearly quite a radical shift in attitude. This makes me one of those people who brushes aside hardship and does things simply because they are "good for you" or worse still, the kind of person who enjoys discomfort. I've never trusted the people who claim to enjoy a 5am swim in a freezing ocean on the grounds that it is "bracing" and while I don't think cycling to Hampstead is quite in that league - I did after all want to go to Hampstead - it does make me worry about myself. I'm probably becoming quite annoying company too because a small part of me is really quite proud of having cycled somewhere. I'm a little holier than thou about things... not quite reaching the heights of piety achieved by reformed smokers but quite possibly heading in that direction. Oh dear.

One of the reasons is, of course, my decision to take part in the London to Brighton bicycle ride on June 18th. I don't have any time for training as such and so I have decided to use my bike as and when the journey is do-able. Even if it involves getting wet and there are more sensible options available.

A friend of mine told me that he had entered the ride one year. This is an extremely fit friend of mine. He's run the London marathon before now. He didn't finish the London to Brighton ride and not long after he and his companions decided to call it quits one of them threw their bike in a hedge in frustration. They were, apparently, coming last. I'm not sure why he told me this story. It isn't very motivational. It certainly hasn't filled me with confidence.

What do you mean you haven't sponsored me yet? Go on. You know you want to.

I was made all the more aware of my changing attitude towards cycling by today's events which have seen me gadding about town quite a bit ... but not in the saddle. For the first time in a long time I have been on the underground. Now that I am a proper cyclist (and yes, a week's activity is enough to qualify) whose lungs are used to breathing in fresh air (and petrol fumes) I find the tube unpleasant and crowded. I look at my fellow travellers and think, you fools, travelling in this cramped and unpleasant fashion, you are nothing but drones, cogs in the machine... you should experience life from the saddle of your bike, we cyclists know a joy that you will never experience. You see - holier than thou. I told you.

I was travelling on the tube because my day began with having to carry something too large and heavy for transportation by bike. It has been really quite traumatic. My computer is dying. I don't know quite what the problem is but every now and then - and with increasing frequency - the picture freezes. There are lots of warning shots where the graphics go all crazy. For a second or two the picture freezes and the graphics jump. It is hard to describe but if you imagine the screen to be a woven fabric well, for a split second it appears as if it has been badly stitched together. All of the threads are there, but they are not aligned with each other in the intended way. This will happen a few times and each time it snaps out of it until finally it gives up the ghost and just freezes.

To begin with I have a reluctance to try and deal with things like this. For a while I kid myself that it is a temporary glitch and that it will soon sort itself out. I do this because the idea of losing all of the information on the computer is just too much to bear. It contains so much stuff that carries so much importance. Stuff that I've written, photos from way back when, music... stuff that helps to define me. And stuff that helps to pay my mortgage. I can't afford to lose some of this stuff (or at least I feel like I can't) and so I put off doing anything about if for a while.

But today I decided enough was enough. I did what I could to transfer as much information from the desktop computer to my laptop computer and I struggled to teach my laptop how to connect to the internet using my normal desktop set-up. (Hence, I am able to update my website and this entry exists.) Then I boxed up my big computer and got a cab into town to the shop where I bought it from.

"Is it still under warranty?" asked the young man on the counter.
"I don't know," said I, "can you look up the serial number and check for me."
"Well, how long have you had it?" he asked.
"Isn't that the same question?" I said, a little peeved. I was about to entrust my life (in digital form) to this man and I wasn't in the happiest ofmoods. If I was to walk away from the shop leaving my computer in his care it would have been nice to do so with some degree of confidence and stupid questions from him weren't helping.
"What do you mean... 'isn't that the same question?'?" he asked.
"Well, you just asked me if it was under warranty and I said that I didn't know. Then you asked me how long I'd had it... surely if I knew that I'd know if it was still under warranty," I explained.
"Right," he said, "have you got the serial number and I'll look it up."

The computer is still under warranty. This is good because obviously it will be repaired for free but bad because it means their products aren't very reliable and prone to break down with very little use. Given how much time I've spent away from home in the last year the computer can't have had more than 2 or 3 months worth of use during the time that I've owned it. I expect more from Apple. Oh dear.

I've saved what I can from the computer just in case but I haven't been able to transfer my e-mail correspondence. If the problem is with my hard drive (he wrote, as if he knew what he was on about) all of that will be lost. Gulp.

After dropping the computer off I then had to head to Kentish Town for a meeting. This is a journey that I would have wanted to make by bike under more-reliable-computer circumstances but seeing as I was already in town I hopped on the tube. Ugh. Tonight I am playing poker. I will cycle there.

Total sponsorship raised so far for the British Heart Foundation: £1441.87.

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