WHEN CYCLING TRUMPS BULLSHIT / by Charlotte Marriner

I’ve rather neglected this blog of late. OK really neglected. The weather’s just been so wet; so grim; so relentlessly English. Cycling to work has not been fun. I’ve not been gulping in lungfuls of fresh air, staring goggle-eyed at the beautiful houses I whizz past and trying to imagine what kind of furniture they have or what colour their walls are or what the inside of their fridge looks like. I’ve not been humming nonsensically in my head, breathing in the buttery morning croissants when I pass the Sainsbury’s bakery or the roasting coffee beans that get released into the London air every time a customer walks in or out. Nope. I haven’t been doing any of this.

Instead, I’ve been cycling with my head down and chin thrust deep into my scarf, my breath clinging to its wooly hairs in little, dewy drops. No tuneless whistling, chirpy smiles to pedestrians or letting cars turn into streets in front of me, I’ve been cycling with my teeth gritted and a permanent, grumbling mutter. It’s all fun and games when the sun is shining and you feel like you’ve won the commuter lottery because look how packed and shit that bus that just trundled past you is. But when the sky is menacing and the clouds are looming then the whole outdoorsiness of cycling rather loses its appeal. Like the shine slowly wearing off public transport for a returning tourist.

And don’t get me started on how hard it is to dress properly for the cold. A massive coat is silly. A wind proof jacket is frankly pathetic. Winter cyclists are doomed to either start their cycle freezing their tits off, longing for the bit when their heart rate picks up and their nether regions feel less like they’re sitting in an icy tundra, or toasty and cosy for the first five to ten minutes before rapidly getting uncomfortably sweaty. Basically, when it’s cold and grey and wet it’s just pants.

But last week the supposedly unthinkable happened; the one thing that all the experts and clever people and polls assured us wouldn’t really, actually, happen. And when the world did a small, shuddering grind to a halt and looked around, gobsmacked and bruised, my bike became the best thing in the whole world. My bike, good ol’ Sue, transformed herself into a little island. A Geneva of calm. Sue hid me from the endlessly miserable articles that littered the train carriages; from the wrinkled, harrowed expressions on the faces pressed up against each other and the bitter grumblings of an entire Facebook timeline who had miraculously all turned into professional, political commentators overnight. Sue gave me twenty-three minutes of blissful silence on the way to work and on the way back again; a blissful vacuum that didn’t demand anything or shout and clamour. She didn’t foist weird, conspiracy theories on me or drone on about how she saw this all coming. She didn’t ask me seven times if I’d heard about Canada’s immigration site crashing mere minutes after the results came through or tell me that anyone who was still considering raising children in this kind of a world was basically a self-flagellating idiot. She didn’t say that civilisation was over as we knew it. She didn’t awkwardly confess to admiring his “authenticity”. (HA.)

She didn’t say a word.

She just let me cycle to work. And then cycle back. Forty-six whole minutes of peace. (Yes, cycling through rowdy, central London absolutely was peaceful in comparison.) Sue was a welcoming lesson in meditative cycling and how, sometimes, it’s the simple things that make all the fucked-up-ness feel a little less fucked up.