by John Murray
(Johannesburg,South Africa)


Having idleness thrust upon you isn't half the fun you think it would be. You could be forgiven for thinking that, after fifty years of more-or-less gainful employment a period of relaxation would just hit the spot! But the truth is that being useful is habit-forming, and we all know how difficult it is to break yourself of habits.

Idleness gives you room to do many of the things you've been promising yourself such as e x e r c I s e, of course the raw material you get to work with isn't quite the first class issue that came with the original packaging, but if you treat it gently who knows where it could lead?

My choice of refined torture settled into two fairly predictable patterns, one was recommended by a fairly recent set of sessions with a gifted Orthopaedic Practitioner, who advised “spend ten minutes a day on a rebounder (mini trampoline) and you will never need my services again”. A word of warning, after actively avoiding anything resembling exercise for half a century, TEN MINUTES IS A LIFETIME! I managed a minute and spent fifteen in acute recovery, I learned that a gentle 'jog' on the Rebounder is an acceptable insult to the system and can evolve, over time, into the promised ten minutes without cardiac arrest. The rebounding I'm still working on.
As well as the private punishment it seems necessary to visit the poor state of my body upon an unsuspecting public. Having acquired a certain amount of wisdom from the effects of the aforementioned rebounding, I knew that my knees...-let alone my lungs- would never support any serious efforts in the running/jogging arena.

So, I oiled my bike (which had been lurking in the garage uncomplainingly for several years), pumped up the tyres, fixed the punctures, pumped up the tyres again and sallied forth ( you can tell that I spent my formative years reading 'the Saint' novels).

I need to interject a small geographical clarification, but it is important, I live next to a river - which is pretty and which I usually list as one of the benefits of my address-unless it's flooded which doesn't happen very often, but this location does present me with an unpleasant reality, virtually every direction from my home is UP, not in the meaning of 'uptown' but UP as in a bloody hill! So with a great deal of “I'll try going around the block first” I set out on the wobbly wheels. Thats another thing, like almost everybody I accepted the truth of the saying “It's like riding a bike- you never forget” this is only partially true, it is so that you don't automatically fall off the way you did when you were a kid, but to call it riding is really pushing your luck.

By virtue of being sufficiently bloody-minded I managed to reacquant myself with muscle groups I had only read about, (including the ones not normally mentioned in polite company) to a point where I actually began to take an interest in my surroundings. Well, in reality it was more that I first became aware of the homicidal tendencies of my fellow road users who seemed to take a dim view of the snail-like progress of this dithering geriatric impeding their slightly sub-sonic journey to the nearest latte.

But, technology to the rescue! My faithful steed (the Saint again, or was that Ivanhoe?) is equipped with those huge nobbly tyres and about 84 gears, therefore I can migrate to the area at the side of the road, note that I do not describe this as 'Pavement' (or 'Sidewalk' for my American friends), under no stretch of the imagination can this strip of untilled real estate be called pave.

I'll impart a small, but important secret; -one of the reasons all 'off road' cyclists go downhill with their mouths open is not to catch flies, or supercharge the inner man/woman, no, it is to avoid their teeth being shattered to dentine flavoured dust by the corrugations and mantraps littering the only area not occupied by kamikaze pilots and juggernaughts.

Actually, on reflection I'm being a little harsh on my fellow road users, because the majority of real cyclists simply use the roads! They have hit on the perfect solution, they simply ride faster than the cars etc. can drive, this ploy, coupled with the the blinding skin-tight luminous 'go-faster' Lycra suits ensures that nobody ever catches them. It is only the old farts who dodder into the firing range, namely the road.
I have another observation to make about my fellow (but expert) two-wheelers, when they approach from the opposite direction it is possible to see the preparatory body language that precedes a greeting. Just as I formulate the monosyllabic 'morn..' (that is all my lack of puff will allow), they espy the fact that I have engaged my 'Granny' gear (that's the one, on the back wheel, about the size of a dinner plate, which allows the truly determined to ascend the Eiffel tower without dismounting), this sighting immediately freezes-out any misplaced cameraderie, the eyes revert to straight ahead with a fixation reminiscent of a Merc driver ignoring a beggar at the traffic lights on William Nicol.

All well and good I hear a strangled cry, but how does all this self-indulgent whining actually improve the shining hour? Well really it's just an excuse for not covering very much actual ground in the last while. The P L A N is to extend my investigative eyeball on a regular basis to the point where most of the Fourways/Douglasdale area will fall under these Eagle – inspired optics, until then I'm limited to finding shortish up bits, and as many level bits as can be contrived knowing full well that I'm bound to get quite a lot of stimulating downhill finally, 'cos thats where I live!

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