At last, barely ten days before the equinox, a properly summery weekend - and we were free to enjoy it, albeit on a charity bike ride in aid of Independent Domestic Abuse Services (http://www.facebook.com/pages/IDAS-Independent-Domestic-Abuse-Services/473319692684920).
It was no marathon, just forty miles over a circuitous route from York to Easingwold and back. We could’ve opted for the 100-mile version, Northallerton and back, but even on the level, easy going of the Vale of York that would’ve stretched us. Possibly even destroyed us. I’d never done a sponsored ride before - nor a sponsored anything - and therefore had never experienced the pleasure of being fed and watered en route (they served us drinks and home-made flapjacks at ten-mile intervals). I felt almost pampered.
The whole thing was a piece of cake - the ride, I mean, not the refreshments. We enjoyed it so much that on the Sunday, rather than take our bikes all the way back to Durham by train, we hopped off at Darlington and took a scenic route home along an old Roman road that skirted Sedgefield. Thirty relatively traffic-free miles, and a following wind from the south. Magic. Then it was straight down to the allotment to lift the rather forlorn crop of onions, collect the leftover peas (destined to be made into soup today) and strip out the remnant broad bean plants.
I now have two abbreviated working weeks ahead of me. This one will be curtailed by a trip to Exeter on Thursday. We’ll be visiting A’s brother, and staying until the following Monday. I can now reveal that by one of those delightful coincidences, York City just happen to be playing at Exeter on the Saturday, so I will achieve huge status among my City-supporting friends who seem to think I planned the whole thing to take in this game. Mind, it might not be the happiest of experiences: Exeter are sitting at the top of the league table, scoring goals for fun.
The following week we’ll be spending two nights at Leeds, where we will be baby-sitting my grandson for the first time. All of which means that I will be scrabbling around for time to add to the word-count on this book I am writing about the forty-plus jobs I had before I turned forty. I came up with a new title while pedalling north yesterday in the sunshine. Earlier versions have included Work As Playtime and More Jobs Than Birthdays. The latest idea is Further Education. I’m quite excited about it. I feel that it announces, and should make it easier for me to expand upon, one of the main themes of what is, after all, a memoir - namely, that when I left school I felt utterly ignorant of the wider world around me, divorced from the social milieu in which I’d spent my first eleven years, and desperate for an elemental experience of the world of work. One of the last things my father said to me before he died was, ‘It seems a terrible waste of a good education.’ I’d just told him that I’d taken a job as a freight train guard, and didn’t have the wit, or the presence of mind, to explain that it was a continuation of my education by other means. I don’t think I realised it at the time in any case.
So… I feel doubly revitalised, firstly by two days of cycling, secondly by this new title. Odd that an apparently minor detail like that should provide such inspiration, but I think I was lacking a certain confidence in the whole enterprise. Was this just an excuse for me to witter on about ‘things I have done’? Well, maybe not after all.
Hm… a reminder of how busy I may be this winter. An email has just arrived asking me to go to York to review the proposed photo-book celebrating Mike Pannett’s Yorkshire.