If you spend any amount of time in the company of small children you’ll realise that they have the enthusiasm of a dog chasing cars and the attention span of a goldfish. Everything is brilliant and cool and they’re able to commit themselves so completely to the latest intense but passing desire that it comes as a shock to us that their love was only a fleeting thing and the next latest gee-gaw to catch their eye is the object of their desire five minutes later.
A germane story that proves this point. While on holidays in July I had a United Nations Nuclear Inspector negotiation moment with my son in a French supermarket where he had a paralysing desire for a box of €40 lego. His desire for the lego was so intense he was having trouble breathing – the sort of way you might find yourself when in the company of your first teenage crush and you realised that she kinda liked you as well.
Incoherent and desperate.
I bought him a Pain au chocolat (about 75c) as compensation and as he sat beside me covering his face in the special oven proof chocolate paste they put in these things in France he said: This is even better than Lego.
To prove that men (this one in particular) have the same mindset as little boys but they hide it under wrinkles, stubble and sore backs I have climbed the steps of the water slide, sat onto my rubber ring and splashed into the pool of puerile enthusiasm for my latest gee-gaw: A rusty 1987 peugeot bicycle.
Before you read on I just want you to think about someone who finds a syringe and decides to buy some heroin so the syringe doesn’t go to waste.
During our holiday I got the opportunity to go running in the little gaps in the day when the 10-legged brainless monster called the family forgot what it was supposed to be doing. On one of these runs – a particularly gruelling 12 mile run on steep hills and high temperatures – the sort of run where it slowly dawns on you that wine and ice cream are not the best fuel for running. I spotted what looked like an abandoned bike lying next to a shed. The bike had a bit of paper slung around the cross bar but it had been there for so long the biro had faded. It had no pedals, the tyres were cracked and flat (and not attached to the bike) and the chain had the sort of rust rigor mortis reserved for the terminally neglected bike. To say it was in a bad way was an understatement.
On I went, not really giving it another thought – too busy concentrating on not turning into a sloppy mess from all the sweating – until later as we drove past it on one of our visit a castle for culture expeditions. I could feel the romantic fantasy of breathing new life in the old and worn out bike growing in me and before I could dampen the urge I said to my wife: I fancy buying that old bike. This was met with the usual look reserved for owning a man-child for a husband. The same look she gives the dog when he’s licking his balls.
As the holiday drew to an end I knocked on the farmhouse door to see if I could haggle a price with the owner. I was met by two 10 year old boys who told me they wanted €50 for the bike. I offered €40, they realised I was a sucker and agreed. All of this was done in my best pidgin French (in case you thought they spoke English). That was the easy bit.
Next I had to convince my wife that we had space for yet another bike on the trip home (we already had 5 bikes with us) and that I hadn’t just been conned by a bunch of schoolboys. That took an evening of being super compliant and cooperative. You know the sort of thing – being interested in your partner’s conversation and pretending to have an opinion. Asking constructive and agreeable questions like really? and what did you say? Most husbands reserve this sort of behaviour for those times when they know they’re either about to end up in the shit or are trying to climb out of it.
Through a combination of my mousy behaviour and her realisation that she was stuck with me we got through this little marriage tester and I made it back to my front door with the peugeot.
I had my syringe.
Now I just needed to sort it out for some gear.
So as I type this some German bicycle warehouse is gathering together new wheels, a new rear cassette (the cogs at the back – they call them cassettes now-a-days), brake levers, cables and housings and other odds and sods to courier to me. Decathlon in Cherbourg came up trumps with a pair of €10 pedals, some Michelin classic flesh coloured tyres, bar tape, rim tape, tubes and lights. I have a vintage Italian set of aluminium drop bars that I had in the shed at my feet that are half polished.
The only problem with all of this pimp gear is that I emptied most of a can of WD-40 onto the bike once I got home, changed the left crank arm (the old one was dethreaded), pumped the tyres and popped a €9.99 Selle Royal race saddle I had from Aldi lying around and have been cycling to work for the past 3 weeks like a pro. While everyone around me thinks I look like a bit of a dick I think I’m Sean Kelly in the Tour de France.
And that’s the most important thing: the ability to play. Without the ability to play life is pretty pointless. Some people need to dress up like a 1970’s pimp and ruin a good walk to be able to play (that’s golf) and others need to dress up in leather and hurt themselves (that’s motorbikes) and others just need a bit of imagination and an ability to let go of being an adult.
The running is going great guns by the way – On the outside I’m a sweating, panting middle aged mess but on the inside I’m wondering who I’ll shame first: Mo Farah or David Rudisha.