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Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Ride of Hope 3: Dont forget your passport

As I write, all in the world is back to something like normal: Burt and Grasshopper are back in NS, Joe and Anna are moving to another unfriendly city, the Legal Eagle is in Glossop. Further, RHB and I are impossibly broke, cats are smug and (self)satisfied, the UK weather's unpredicatable and its politics are predictably glum, Jody Culham's on her way to a conference somewhere, and I really have difficulty smiling with anything like sincerity with too many of the people I know. But the atmosphere at Large Mansions has changed, and not imperceptibly. This is probably the result of this year's Ride of Hope, the Ride of Hope 3: Dont forget your passport. (ROH3:DFYP)

It all started when  Skarra, my regular co-rider on the annual Ride of Hope informed me "I dont think I can be arsed with the Ride of Hope this year". Such lack of enthusiasm is not uncommon in the relationships between Skarra and I. As well as Riders of Hope, we are also  band members in Cheek to Cheek, a musical venture that more people have heard of than we have performed to, and few people have heard of us. In fact, since our inception, Cheek to Cheek  have recorded no music and performed once in public after three years of solid practice (and even then it was only me becasue Skarra was too nervous/busy/not bothered);  we have six songs written, three of them with words, and one where we havent figured out the chorus yet. But Skarra word were not uttered with the blithe lack of concern that usually accompanies our conversations about rehearsal, closely followed by an analysis of SBeyonce's latest track. His eyes were listless, his skin pale and wan. He spoke with a weariness that told a story of mental fatigue, physical stress and emotional turpitude. And I was familiar with some of the reasons for this through my proximity to RHB who is Skarra's colleague: it has been a hard year in academia in the UK, particulalry locally. It was clear I needed to adopt a sensitive line.

"Again" I said.

"What?" said P (his alternate acronym)

"You have to say 'I dont think I can be arsed with the Ride of Hope this year again'" I said, "Just so its clear who's fault it is. Not mine."

Such was Skarra's condition that he did not even rejoin with a comment about who's fault it was we had got lost in a bog, fully laden with panniers, just outside Newcastle that time because someone wanted to see what off-road,  fully panniered-up, mountain-biking-on-road-bikes, was like. Instead he just sighed:

"I dont think I can be arsed with the Ride of Hope again" he said, tiredly. The lack of rejoinder  on topic (or non-sequitur  rejoinder about Shakira not being as good and artist as Beyonce) was another indication that this was a situation where I needed to conduct myself with Theory of Mind fully engaged, cognisant of, and responsive to, my co-dialoguee's needs and unspoken message. Which appeared to be some sort of attempt to initiate a conversation about how he felt; matters close to the soul men dont often discuss between themselves as readers may know. Consideration was indicated in how I reacted.

"That's shit" I said "For me. I was really looking forward to a holiday this year. Specifically that holiday. It would have made me very happy. Now you've ruined everything. For me."

We went on to discuss   Beyonce,  the origins of agriculture, Game of Thrones Season Three Episode Ten (GOTS03E10)  before playing a few songs (it was a typical rehearsal),  and the topic was not re-addressed. But the seed was sown. Four weeks later we were in a travel agents booking a holiday to somewhere hot. Our party had grown  to include RHB because when I  returned home to moan to her that he had ruined my summer we engaged in discourse:

"Do you know that P doesnt want to do the Ride of Hope this year? Can you believe that guy?" I said "What am I supposed to do this summer?"

"I've talked to P. about this" she said, "I need a holiday.  So does P. Go to the travel agent and book it. The requirements are:
1. hot
2. pool
3. baggage allowance that lets me take lots of books

You can come if you want. Are you still here?"

At this juncture two issues need addressing. The first is that regular readers might object to my identification of what is clearly a holiday as a Ride of Hope because the Ride of Hope is an occasionally annual bicycle ride. In response I would argue that the rules of the Ride of Hope do not specifically declare that any riding must be by velocipede, all that is required is that either I or Skarra go somewhere for a reason. I realise that this means that a bus ride to the local shops could be nominated as a Ride of Hope, and to be honest I cant rule that out as a possibility. The second issue is that disaster or chaos features prominently in Rides of Hope. As readers will learn in forthcoming entries, this essential requirement was not omitted in this, The Ride of Hope 3: Dont forget your passport. Indeed, the opening scenes of ROH3: DFYP which find yours truly at home nursing a $300 vets bill for someone else's cat, while struggling with an urgent problem that had potentially career ending implications,  and entertaining JC on my own (not that I object to this - JC is brilliant) as a result of  RHB's not consulting a calendar,  while RHB and Skarra were jetting off to somewhere I had no means to get to and spending all our holiday money on feral cats, confirm this adherence to tradition. As did the rest of the holiday. But those tales are for the nest few episodes.

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