Just like all of us, Hannah is looking to survive the social distancing and lockdown. The Diversion Diary is a tale of love under lockdown, and bikes. Only, there’s an added twist: Hannah’s partner, lives in the USA, and they’re locked down on different continents. This week, she reflects on the path that led her to him.
It is three years since Mike Hall died, on 31st March 2017. Looking back, I can see that his death took me a step closer to where I am today. Later in the year, after carrying his ashes down the road on my back on his last ride from Yorkshire to Wales, I wrote this:
‘I start to think that maybe this is what it means to #bemoreMike. To try things because you can, because they’re there. Not to say no because you want to sleep. Not to say no because you might not finish. To take a path or road even when you don’t know where it leads, or how far the route home may be. Maybe it’s not about being able to suffer, but about the joy of the discoveries you have when you try a bit harder, when you don’t say no. Perhaps it’s about the power of the bike, and the friendships and connections it forges, whether it’s the momentary nod between riders passing in opposite directions, or the camaraderie of following the same route together. Perhaps it means not waiting until tomorrow, or the next time, but to try it, and try it now, because you never know what you might miss.’
That sentiment had been simmering away inside me for some years, and in 2017 it reached a kind of crescendo. Everywhere I looked I saw that not waiting until tomorrow – going for it, grabbing the now and the unknown – seemed to be the only way to really feel alive. It took a couple more years to make the big life changes happen, but my now is quite different from my then.
If I’m honest, there’s just a little too much unknown about the now, and not enough choice about things to be grabbed. We’re all track standing, waiting for this to pass, wondering what will be there on the other side, holding on tight to those we hold dear. But at least there is a clarity about the things that are important, and the things that are not. The things we long for, and the things that were nice to have, but we don’t really miss. Maybe grabbing everything isn’t the answer. We don’t want all the toilet roll in the shop, but we do want just enough of what we need.
I’ve heard many people saying that in future they’ll delight in the small things more – the local rides, the gentle spin with friends, the passing chat in the street, the local shop where they know your name. I hope that this does come to pass, and we don’t all just pile back into the world in a hedonistic orgy of grabbing all that we’ve been without. In having opportunity taken away from us, it’s easier to see the difference between petty and important, want and need, passing desire and sustained passion. Whether you apply that clarity to major life choices, your next bike purchase, or whether to chase that Strava segment or stop and say hi, I hope that knowing what to grab onto and what to let slide might be a silver lining from all these clouds.
I don’t agree with David Turner’s take on ebikes, but I did think his statement that ‘we, we people, we first worlders, we want more’ was pretty accurate. I’m no different. I want more – but perhaps I now want more of less. Perhaps our riding is adapting to that too – less technical, more just getting out there and enjoying what we have on our doorstep. This week’s theme then is, approximately, simple pleasures.
Of Fells and Hills
I don’t think there is anything quite like the simplicity of fell running. Following sheep trods, paths that are mere scratches in the ground, tracks that disappear into tussocks and bog – there are no trails, and this is not trail running. You can’t buy yourself fast – it’s all in the legs, the head, and the navigation. There are no goodie bags, and there is no such thing as a professional fell runner – first prize at many races is likely to be a six pack of beer, or a bar of chocolate. Even times are largely meaningless, with race routes varying so wildly with weather. This is sport for the sake of doing, being out in the elements for the sake of a challenge. If you’re looking for a simple pleasure, this is surely it.
I only got into mountain biking when I couldn’t run any more. The arms race of bikes, with all its technology, is a far cry from fell running. But if you pare a bike ride back to just being out there, in the wild, appreciating the environment, there can be a lot of similarity. Of Fells and Hills gives a sense of the scale of being out there, a small person in vast landscape – though I rather feel it misses some of the essence of fell running.
Life on the Fells
Life On The Fells does a better job of capturing some of that essence, in my opinion. Adam talks of the weather not mattering, of knowing that he’ll never be the fastest or the best, but doing it anyway, because he can. So far as I can tell, Adam didn’t complete the Bob Graham round. In checking that out, I notice that the keepers of the records have said they won’t be accepting any attempts made during the COVID-19 restrictions. If you think mountain bikers aren’t keen rules, restrictions and ‘health and safety gone mad’, you’ve not been in a discussion with fell runners…
Hey, you’ve probably got time for something longer than a video short. I said before that there are no professional fell runners – Nicky Spinks is probably as close to one as you’ll find, yet she’s actually a farmer. She was due to have another go at the Barkley Marathons this year – and if you’ve not seen that film then you should definitely make time for that. It might not make you want to take up running, but it will probably make you want to devise a ridiculous race event.
Classic Album Covers
I sometimes get into a pattern of riding to work where I’ll see Helen here out for her morning run on a regular basis. Then time passes without seeing each other for ages, and then we cross paths again. I’m looking forward to that time coming round again – I miss the morning hellos with the regulars on my ride in. The lockdown has given Helen time to start back up with her ‘Classic Album Covers’. I always misread the hashtag as ‘Classical Bum Covers’, but I always laugh at her versions, and admire the ingenuity that’s gone into them.
I sent my dad this article about people recreating paintings from things they have at home. Again, there’s some very ingenious work there, and a lot of effort (a fancy dress party with those people would be quite a thing). My dad embarked on his own versions, above. Less effort, perhaps, but no less silly.
It seems to me that under lockdown, many people are discovering the joy of creativity, and the happiness in the silly. Perhaps making is a reaction to being unable to buy, and silliness a response to the seriousness of the the situation. One of the things I love most about my partner is his propensity for being a bit silly (while being perfectly able to be intensely serious too). He’s also very good at practical making and creating – something which we can’t do together right now. I’ll be very happy when we can.
Catch up with the love under lockdown Diversion Diary:
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