I’m hopping from foot to foot (cleat to cleat…*) in a blur of hunger, frustration, and awkward embarrassment at the tightness of my clothing.
I’ve got fifty miles worth of hills in my legs, mud spattered up my calves, and the vacant look of a man in need of calories.
I need a cup of coffee, and a brick of flapjack. But I’m stuck in a queue, in a café, and these people aren’t helping.
I’m judging them for their choices, their accents, and their insistence on moving really slowly. I’m judging them for the fact that they have children. I’m judging them for choosing to be in Cumbria, of all places.
Sauntering, as if they’re on holiday.
But then again they are, in fact, on holiday.
I’m just a cyclist who’s gone for a bike ride, and I’m hungry. Which I often am, in Cumbria. The cycling here is tough, as are the sheep.
It’s the Surrey contingent that cause the problem.**
They turn a wild and weather beaten county into a honey pot. On a sunny spring day the roads become clogged. Every town and village awash with crowds strolling in Gore-Tex, killing time until the next café.
I, on the other hand, feel very northern, and very dressed as a cyclist, in a swanky café surrounded by middle class.
“If you could just hurry up and make a decision about which naturally pressed organic sparkling fruit juice you want, that’d be great. You know, before I either keel over or kill someone,” I’m tempted to say.
But I don’t. I smile politely, and seethe inside.
The cashier flicks a glance across to me – a skinny man, with a suntan – and raises an eyebrow which says: “what do you need?”
And I smile. A fellow cyclist.
“Double espresso,” I mouth, and point at the flapjack.
He small talks the holiday makers at the till, as they consider their options. He rattles off my order unnoticed. I slide a fiver across. He nods. And I’m free.
Solidarity is alive and well. The holidaymakers spend well, but the cyclists spend again and again.
This guy knows the score.
*to the tune of Chris de Burgh’s ‘Lady in Red’.
** I’m using Surrey as a metaphor for ‘holiday makers’. They could be (and probably are) from anywhere. Surrey is the lazy cliché of the disgruntled northerner. Let me assure my friends from Surrey that I’m not disgruntled – far from it. I know lots of nice people from Surrey. If anything, I’m gruntled.
(Image: Andreas Kambani via Flickr CC)