Biking Saves The Big Day

I spent my birthday cycling across London in the rain, so I could cycle up a hill in the rain

IN THIS CORONAVIRUS year, I’m particularly ticked off with my parents for giving me a November birthday.

Trying to party in November is as daunting as entertaining young children in the dreaded February half term: for starters, the days are short and dark, and everybody’s mildly depressed from lack of Vitamin D.

It’s cold and wet, the leaves are off the trees and slushing up the pavements, and no-one can bear it outside for long. So, unless you want to hunker down for hours in a pricey café, or brave the insane crowds at the free museums and art galleries, you’re fucked. 

But at least in February, we have the option of paying through the nose for our fun. This lockdown November – with no pubs or restaurants, cinemas or museums, shops or art galleries to celebrate in – I began to worry that it might be my worst birthday ever. 

Back in the day, we would have got by very nicely on smoked salmon, bagels, fizzy wine and a day spent entirely in bed. But I’m 55 now, not 25 and – anyway – the kids are here, working from home.

So I threw my leg over the bike, instead. I spent my birthday riding across London in the rain, so I could ride up a hill in the rain.

And it was brilliant.

Soon after I started off, I realised that I’d misread the weather forecast and was woefully underdressed for my ride.

I’d rather lose my feet to frostbite than have Captain America on my ankle”

Lulled by the recent spell of mild weather, I didn’t take any waterproofs or proper gloves, and the woolly pair I was wearing soon became wet through and wind chilled.

My feet were even worse without overshoes – I don’t actually own any because I think they look stupid – and soon took on the icy wetness of a corpse in a mortuary drawer.

I stopped to buy a thin pair of gloves from the eerily quiet Marks and Sparks at Marble Arch, but passed on the chance to acquire an expensive five-pack of Marvel superhero socks.

Frankly, I’d rather lose my feet to frostbite than have Captain Bleeding America on my ankle – and by the end of the ride, I almost had my wish, with tootsies now chilled to the consistency of freezer cabinet cod steaks.

But, in hindsight – especially once I’d got home and into a warm bubble bath – the cold and wet ride provided just the perfect amount of challenge and adventure that I wanted from the day.

Not having ridden all that far recently, I was chuffed to get all the way to Highgate and then up the hill – and then grateful that my brakes and slick tyres were up to the steep and rain-slicked descent.

I went to bed, unexpectedly happy to be yet another year older”

Before heading for home, I stopped for soup and a cappuccino at a café, whose thoughtful owners let me linger inside to drink them, as there was plenty of room for social distancing.

It didn’t dry out my socks, but I warmed up a bit, and by the time I pointed the wheels towards home, the sun was breaking through the clouds and trying to warm my wet jersey.

More unusually positive thoughts crept into my head: So what if I’m getting on? I thought. I was in good shape for my age, and probably doing better than some of my poor friends, with their heart scares, hypertension and hip replacements.

And I was still buzzing with joy as I settled down to the best possible evening in: having presents, beer, Deliveroo pizza and birthday cake with my wonderful little family.

We watched a download of Boon Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer and I went to bed, pleasantly tired and unexpectedly happy to be yet another year older.

Cycling didn’t just save the day again: it saved my Big Day.

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