I believe this a phrase used by marathon runners around the 20 mile mark when they reach the end of their resources (especially their glycogen resources, I’m not sure anyone has been hit by the sudden loss of HR mid-run). At this stage I should make clear that I have not taken up the running of marathons, indeed my running has dramatically declined since the pandemic struck. The pandemic and its consequences may lie at the root of this post but it has not yet affected my sanity that badly (or at least not in that way). My only reason to run, given the sterling work our ancestors did on the wheel, is to catch an almost missed train or bus and I have not used public transport since mid March. Cyclists also experience a similar phenomena but they, more entertainingly, call it the ‘bonk’.
As I am more of a cyclist than a runner, and more of a reader than either, I will state that the bonk (or a form, thereof) struck last night, from around 19:30. In fact it also struck on Sunday afternoon around three o’clock. I don’t think I can claim depletion of my glycogen stockpile on either occasion as I had taken in more than enough of the necessary raw materials and expended very few of them in the form physical exertion: I feel my body had a lot more phosphorylation to give.
No, I feel the issues lie in my head, as so many of my issues do: without being tethered to the deadweight of my brain, and its associated ‘personality’, I feel my body would have an absolute ball. I feel my approach to COVID, developed without access to a Defence Against the Dark Arts Master (which, to be honest, was probably an advantage based on the written evidence of the recruitment policies pursued by Hogwarts) has been to throw myself with ever more vigour into an ever expanding range of activities while achieving ever declining quantities of recuperative sleep. I think I may well have exhausted the ability, and indeed desire, of my body to grant yet further extensions to the overdraft my brain has been running up.
The last week or so has been more than usually trying as well, which may not have helped. During the week, it moved from a likely outcome to a dead cert that, for the first time since birth, I will not be spending Christmas with what remains of my family. While for me this represents the loss of a familiar ritual, important in the ordering of any human’s mental health, it is not in itself that great a loss for me. To some extent, at the age of almost fifty-five, I’d been looking to start a new ritual: though this was absolutely not the year to do so. However, I feel really bad that I can’t (safely, though at the time of writing I could legally) spend time with my Dad who has had a really tough past 18 months and lost his partner of 60 years back in September.
Then on both Sunday and Monday mornings last week, I woke to discover that one of my bikes had been stolen from a locked bike shed, despite being protected by the most solid Sold Secure Gold locks that money could buy: locks of different types in an attempt to defeat even the fairly serious well-tooled felon . Not a sign of bike or lock remained: to such a degree, that I began to doubt my own memory of cycling home on them from their last excursions. I then spent the first half of the week desperately searching though old receipts and photographs trying to find the necessary proof that I owned both the bicycles, their accessories and the locks. Somewhat miraculously, by Friday my claims had not only been processed but approved and the money is already in my bank account. Truly astounding performance by ETA (the insurers, rather than the Basque terrorists – so far as I know). Nevertheless, not a series of events which were conducive to quality time in the embrace of Morpheus.
I have now acquired the most solid motorbike chain that I could find which is proof against any commercially available bolt cutters, the use of liquid nitrogen and lump hammer and will even hold off an angle grinder for a significant number of minutes. On the downside, it does weigh more than any bike I have every owned (in fact, roughly as much as two bikes) and so is only practical to use when at home or by a fitter chap – but this does seem to be the main area of weakness in my current security arrangements. Acquiring replacement bikes at this time of year is a more time consuming process…
Then, of course, we have the ongoing substrate of anxiety that is the never-ending, clown-car crash of our current government. Not just the ever growing pile of corpses that may be laid at its kakistocratic door, the steady destruction of most of what I hold dear and continuing impoverishment of many of my friends but, despite four years to plan, we can look forward to further accelerant being added to the insordescent, nefandous conflagration in a fortnight.
I feel the combined effect of these events, coupled with the more general diminution of my usual coping strategies and the short dreich days of December has somewhat overwhelmed mind, body and joie de vivre. Last night, despite 11 hours of lying down in darkness, coupled with total exhaustion and a sleeping tablet, I struggled to obtain even one cycle of REM sleep. In consequence, the author is even more of a gibbering wreck than usual (and will be blaming all and any errors in this post on this circumstance).
Despite these rather trying recent events, life is full of joys. Last Saturday, in particular, was unusually full of treats. In the afternoon, I took my surviving bike up to Romsey and the the nature reserve at Fishlake Meadows. (The surviving bike is being held in a top secret, secure facility and, at the risk of tempting Fate, seems to be fine). The weather was not too bad for December and, unlike my last visit, no insect life choose to feast on my blood. The low slanting light of winter looked glorious and the nature reserve was a haven of peace and birdsong. More excitingly, it was also a haven for at least one kingfisher which I saw not once but thrice. This was my first (and second and third) ever sighting of a kingfisher in the flesh (both mine and its) and it was quite magical: it was unbelievably colourful in real life, despite the number of times I have seen them captured on film. I was also granted my closest every encounter with a flock of long-tailed tits: always bringers of joy to my life.
After a Thai curry at the Guide Dog, by chance cotemporaneous with a number of friends who were doing the same, I walked up onto the Common to take advantage of the clear skies for some star watching. Despite my total failure to see any of the Geminids (I really must carry my distance glasses more often), the skies were a riot of stars and my constellation and star spotting is definitely improving. I have to say that some of our ancestors had quite the active imaginations when it came to naming apparently entirely amorphous collections of stars. At least insofar as their work has been passed down to me, the astronomers from the golden age of the Islamic Golden Age seem, more wisely and scientifically, to have stuck to naming individual stars – and certainly seem to have kept themselves busy!
The pandemic and its associated vicissitudes have given me a wonderful opportunity, when the weather permits, to indulge my real – but previously largely ignored – love of birds and astronomy. A few weeks ago, when an unsuccessful attempt to break into the bike store rendered my bikes safe but inaccessible, I gave my car a treat and/or coated it in some fresh mud and drove down to Keyhaven. The weather was not the best and I was the only person out who had chosen to wear shorts, but there were so many birds. I was particularly taken by the dark-bellied brent geese who looked quite stunningly dapper in flight, landing, swimming and take-off. A relatively short walk took the full two hours of parking I’d acquired (eventually, I have had no change since March and paying via an App is all well and good, unless your car park is in an area with no viable internet or even mobile phone signal) as I kept being distracted by fresh feathered wonders. My walk also revealed an enormous cache of sloe bushes still bedizened with sloes but, like the fool I am, I had no suitable vessel in which to gather them.
As the above suggests, I am really rather lucky in my place of residence: even if it is infested with rather too effective bike thieves. Still, a bicycle has been my primary mode of transport for approaching 15 years and these are my first losses – so I suppose I haven’t done too bad and the bikes were both well depreciated and successfully insured.
As I’ve just seen the word count, I probably ought to bring this post in to land. My hurt mind is in need of sore labour’s bath and perhaps the successful achievement of the death of at least one day’s life. So, the plan is a very early night – frankly I’m planning to take advantage to the early sunset and aim for a late afternoon. I shall couple this with a stronger sleeping draft: perhaps some dwale if I can source the necessary porcine bile, herbs and opium in the next couple of hours. I’m just off to Waitrose, I’m sure they should be able to sort me out…