The Cyclists’ Touring Club Magazine arrives, snappily entitled “Cycle”. It’s a marvellous mix of campaigning journalism, practical advice, reviews of bikes and equipment and reports of crazy trips. My favourite article was of the couple who traverses the Orkneys on their Brompton, simply folding it up and carrying it in their inflatable canoe between islands.
This edition compares the cycling policies of the parties. We’ve seen a lot of politicians posing (usually helmetless) on shiny bikes in London parks. David Cameron famously, cycled to the Commons, with his security details following him in a car. Boris cycled a 100 mile sportive which is impressive.
All the parties say they will take cycling seriously. This is at least a change from 2010 when cycling was scarcely mentioned, and UKIP declared that they would make cyclists pay parking fees, and would pass a law saying that cyclists should dismount and push at junctions.
I hate to say it but the SNP have done a great deal to promote cycling in Scotland. Somehow English nationalism might not be so kind.
All the parties appear to say much the same thing in their promises. The only difference is in their commitment to the £10 per head investment in cycling which would make the Infrastructure Act’s promise of a walking and cycling strategy come true.
Even I would not advocate voting for a party just because of their cycling advocacy, but if you are going to hustings why not ask about transport policy, the environment and cycling. I’m chairing the one in Warminster on April 8th at Christ Church so I can’t ask a question myself but some else might be coming along?
The pedals turning, shifting through the gears; single track roads with just an occasional cyclist coming the other way. Such a good day to be out. Back on the bike after some days off with lurgy and grot. Twenty miles or so up to Bradford on Avon to meet the clergy of the deanery and to take them out to lunch at the excellent Dog and Fox (five star recommendation, with landlords Clive and Ros such hospitable people. Doom Bar is a good pint).
Clergy can feel isolated and get ground down by the demands of the job so this was an opportunity for Archdeacon Ruth and me to say thank you.
Back on the bike and down the hill to the station to catch the train home. The hill in Bradford is famous. At the top the gradient on the bike computer hit 16%.
Songs of Praise on Sunday has attracted some comment. I get more smiles (of pity?) when cycling through the streets, and some cheery hellos as well. All welcome. The cameras were with me for five hours in order to produce a three minute slot as always.
One of the clips they did show, whilst directing the bar-mounted camera up my nose, was when I said that on the bike every journey becomes a pilgrimage. An impromptu remark but I meant it. A car journey is utilitarian: I want to get to B from A, and preferably without any interruption from roadworks or too many other cars.
On the bike you appreciate the journey. Even the hills. Especially the hills.
All was going well. Coffee and toast with marrow and ginger jam, the sun shining, off on the Dawes. And now everything has stopped because of a broken down train.
I have a choice: sit here and do some work whilst waiting for First Great Western to get its act together or jump on the bike and cycle all the way to Salisbury.
I would probably get there about the same time. A cycle ride in the sun would indeed be wonderful.
But I have another sermon to write, so by the railway of Warminster I sat down and wrote. This time it is for another rural Dean. There’s only 10 of them altogether but that will be two new ones in 24 hours.
The readings tonight are more sensible but no less serious: the people of Israel complaining about the leadership of Moses in the desert from Numbers, and Jesus predicting his own death in John 8, and the service held in a church dedicated to Thomas Becket, on the day the worldwide church remembers the assassination of Oscar Romero in 1980.
In Numbers the people complain, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? ” Better slavery than the so called freedom of wandering the thirsty desert for forty years, with only “detestable food.” You promised us a land flowing with milk and honey. Give us back our chains!
Poor rural Dean. What a prospect. The danger of all this is that church leaders seem immediately to identify themselves with Moses, or with even more presumption, Jesus.
Apologies for radio silence. Have been in bed with dreaded lurgy, which has prevented these spiritual and cyclical meanderings for a while. In a spirit of collaborative teamwork the Archdeacon has had it too – at least this means that cycling can’t be blamed.
I did discover that “dreaded lurgy” probably comes from the Goons, in which a music shop spread a rumour that a vile and fatal disease was sweeping the country (the dreaded lurgy) and that only those who played brass instruments would survive.
This all meant that my ambitious plans for cycling over the weekend disappeared in dreams, which was a shame. Apologies to the congregations of Alton Barnes and Sedgehill for not showing up. I will rearrange another occasion.
So, back on the train this morning. I lifted my eyes from saying morning prayer on the smartphone and there sailing smoothly down Route 24 which runs parallel to the track was a cyclist, hair streaming in the wind and a happy smile on her face.
The Songs of Praise clip went out yesterday afternoon. Not too embarrassing. You always wonder which bits they will put in after five hours of filming are distilled into three minutes of a story. They didn’t include the bit where we nearly fell off the tandem. They did slip in “All people that on earth do dwell” for me, even though they said they do not do requests.
Now to write a sermon for the licensing of a rural dean this evening. The readings that have been chosen are those set for the day which is fine, except that they are Rahab the Prostitute from Joshua, and the woman taken in adultery from John. If anyone has any way of connecting these to rural deanship plea contact me urgently. (And I had to fight spell check not to insist on spelling that as Rehab the prostitute).
Cycling Active Magazine rang up this morning abut giving up the car for Lent. Cycling Active writes for people interested in touring and cycling in between town commuting and club racing. The journalist was friendly and asked questions about how far I cycle, and why I was doing it, and what impact it might have on my future work habits.
After that I spent the day cycling to see people who wanted to talk. Then into Salisbury on the train with bike, and more cycling round and about visiting people and fixing things.
By the end of the day I will have cycled twenty plus miles, and done 45 on the train. Not very far, but perhaps that is the point. Those small journeys add up, and if I can cut some of the car miles out post-Lent I will have done well.
The new Gore-Tex cycling top arrived from Wiggle, and it was too small. Or should that be I was too big? I’ll have to send it back.
Late night train back this evening, and then tomorrow off in the car to a family funeral in deepest Devon. It will be good to see family again, even on this occasion.
Half way through Lent with no car: how is it going?
I can cut down on my use of car but I could not do my job properly in the long term without it. This is very disappointing. I love cycling and travelling on trains, but the added time taken, and the inaccessibility of some parts of rural Wiltshire just make it very very difficult. Job redesign is possible and we are certainly looking at video conferencing. However, a job which depends so much on personal contact cannot be replaced by video contact alone. Giving up the car for six weeks will in itself reduce my car usage by at least 10%, and I can certainly carry on some of the good habits practised for the rest of the year.
Physical fitness? To my surprise I am fitter. I usually do a lot of training dreaming of the next event at some point in the future, but it’s mostly high intensity stuff given shortage of time, often in the gym. The gym instructor likes to make sure they are near the defibrillator when I am on the rowing machine. Long slow rides have had a very different effect, and i am definitely fitter as a result. But this was not the aim of giving up the car.
Spiritual fitness? I am not sure what that means? Of course, in theological terms the aim is less to find out how wonderful you are yourself as to realise the distance between you and God. I’m not sure much of that has happened. But I have spent happy hours walking and cycling thinking deeply and holding excellent and creative conversations. So a plus, but not an A plus.
Spreading a message about climate change? Well, Songs of Praise came and filmed me and that goes out on Sunday, and I have had articles about giving up the car for Lent in various newspapers and radio interviews. So good publicity if nothing else.
Fairtrade and Local food? With a diet of chocolate, fresh fish, organic vegetables and joints of beef from the farm down the road who’s complaining?
The great advantage of giving up the car for Lent is the opportunity to discover new roads. Anything with red on the map is to be avoided. So this morning I found myself going down the valley of the Deverills, and turning left at Monkton Deverill to climb the hill.
This leads to a small one track road which climbs more gently than the main road, through open fields with just a few sheep. At the top you can see the whole world – rolling chalk downs. Wonderful.
I was on my way to Teffont Evias for the 9.30 service for Mothering Sunday, or the fourth Sunday in Lent. Teffont is one of those unfeasibly beautiful villages: pale stone, a chalk stream running down the side of the lane. It’s the kind of place where you wouldn’t be surprised to find ballerinas practising Swan Lake. The church has been there since the dawn of time. There are monuments and carvings
with fading contours. Sir William Ley and his armed relations lie eternally in one corner, their feet resting on lions.
And on to Compton Chamberlayne, with its giant juniper tree and solid tower. Charlie handed out the flowers to everyone, men and women. Afterwards sausages and pringles and chat.
Neither village has more than a 100 people and yet the churches are well used and beautifully kept.
Back down the A30 to Salisbury to catch the train home. Not a good road. Several cars came past very fast and very close not giving any space. I do puzzle about the antagonism between different categories of road users: taxis, lorries, cars, buses and cyclists. all seem to regard each other with potential contempt; and we are all united against caravans. It’s very primitive and when you are on a bike you can feel very vulnerable. The cars were just too close, too careless today. Occasionally you know that you are deliberately targeted by drivers trying to threaten or frighten you. It’s fairly common to get abuse from car drivers. It’s a kind of ethnic conflict.