Occasionally, when the weather is really coming down here in the north of England, it amuses me to wonder which of my cycling friends are out in it.
I text them, and if I get no response I imagine the ping of the message from their jersey pocket, too quiet to be heard by them above the rush of the wind and the clatter of rain on Tarmac.
I have a little chuckle, and make myself another cup of tea.
It’s funny, because it could easily be me, but it’s not.
Except on one recent Wednesday evening, it was.
I thought I was getting ahead of the game; for a 5.45 start I was out and riding by 5pm, planning to clock up a few extra stealth miles before the actual, pre-arranged miles began.
It started to rain, but I shrugged and feigned stoicism.
“Pfffsshhh!” I said, to a field of sorry looking cows, “a spot of rain never bothered me.” Which is a lie. But I was feeling unusually optimistic and felt sure the rain would pass.
And then, in the space of 90 seconds, from my jersey pocket: ping…ping, ping…ping, ping, ping!
I pulled over to shelter under a tree, and discovered the rush of pings was the entire group cancelling, one by one, like a set of timid dominos being nudged by a nervous weatherman.
“Pffssshhh!” I said again, to the skies this time, and decided to crack on.
And the rain got heavier.
The sky was soon a dark grey – I considered shaking a cinematic fist at it, but decided that would be over-dramatic. Thunder was rumbling in the distance, and the suggestion of an electric crackle in the air could only mean one thing.
I continued to ride away from home, defiantly.
But before long, wet to the skin and carrying four or five kilos of water about my person, there were signs that this was no ordinary weather.
In recent years the UK government, you see, has seen fit to reward the financial services industry whilst simultaneously underfunding infrastructure and public services.
It’s an interesting social experiment they’re carrying out.
On a night like this, in rain like this, it results in flash flooding, because things like drainage and flood defence aren’t massively popular amongst the hedge fund managers and the politicians who serve them.
Anyway, to drag a mild political rant back in the direction of a whimsical cycling blog piece, I was forced to abandon bike and cower under a bus shelter to consider my options.
Limited as they were.
I thought briefly of my absent riding companions who, by now, with no ‘pinged’ response from me, would surely be brewing up with glee.
For ten minutes lightning buzzed around the skies and mud, debris, and lots of water flowed past me down the street in search of a modern and well maintained drainage system.
Eventually, the rain and lightning had eased sufficiently that I could mentally downgrade conditions from ‘survival situation’ to ‘amusing-anecdote-from-which-I-emerge-heroic-and-unharmed.’
I pedalled the fifteen or so miles home.
I nonchalantly messaged my mates later that evening, affecting what I thought was a convincing disappointment that no-one had joined me for what was essentially a rather pleasant bike ride.
Their response, to a man, was string of emojis suggesting they weren’t buying my story.
Can’t win ‘em all.