Sunday morning: I was just unloading some decking planks from the back of the car, when our neighbour crossed the road to say hello. He was on his way out to get some ingredients for lunch. As a keen gardner himself, the neighbour was interested in what we were doing with the array of potted plants, bags of compost and decking materials I was unloading. Truth be told, this was all my wife’s idea. I actually dislike gardening only slightly less than I dislike DIY. And I hate DIY.
But I was actually feeling really good by this point.
My alarm had gone off just after 5am. I had eaten breakfast, dressed, faffed and was on my bike by 5:30am, pedalling up the hill from where I live to meet a friend with the intention of riding out from north London into the countryside. He was late as usual, but a small coffee van in the carpark where we had arranged to meet was already serving (at 6am on a Sunday … only in a city like London!)
My cycling companion arrived, apologised and we set off. Steady pace – my legs were tired this morning and my friend had not ridden for a few weeks.
Within half an hour of us heading north, the sun rose and we were treated to the most glorious morning you can imagine. Our joy at being out before the roads got busy (6:30am on a Sunday, remember) was only tempered by the fact that it was way too cold for the kit we were wearing – hand in particular were throbbing with pain.
But the whole ride was wonderful. Scooting along quiet country lanes, seemingly a million miles from the hustle of the urban sprawl, I felt stronger, fitter, calmer and freer than I have for a very long time.
On the way back we had a coffee stop. And I was home by 10am.
Just in time for a trip to the garden centre with my wife to purchase the planks and plants that she wanted to get.
That was when my neighbour said the words that – if I am being completely honest – I love to hear:
Well, I am a firm believer in John Water’s quote:
Without obsession, life is nothing.
I actually think that getting obsessed by something is route #1 to getting as good as you can at it. And I really want to be the best I can be at a few things at least. Ten years ago, it was running. In the last year, it is cycling. And I’m still obsessed with photography. And for the past five years I have been obsessed with Freestak and Like the Wind magazine.
My wonderful realisation today was that cycling has started to click. I am feeling more and more comfortable on the bike. My ability to read the road is improving. I am getting fitter. And I am getting braver.
One thing I know is that I am really lucky to have the opportunity to get obsessed with vanity projects like marathon running or road cycling or photography. These activities have no value other than boosting my ego. Nevertheless I would love to be the best I can be (given all the circumstances) and so I will embrace the obsession. Long live obsession.