A day of disasters

Today should have been amazing. I’ve had swine flu, and been off work for almost two weeks, going stir-crazy. So I was assuming today would be one of my usual bullet-out-of-a-gun Monday mornings, and then some. But something went wrong somewhere. It was actually one of those days.

Disaster 1: I rolled up at Lawrence’s, like the prodigal daughter, only to find the shop closed and Lawrence nowhere to be seen. So the morning was quieter, lonelier, and distinctly less caffeinated than I had planned.

Disaster 2: I did my usual premenstrual trick of misjudging a gap in the traffic, hit the edge of a lorry with my shoulder, and landed ungracefully on the road, bruising my knee (again) and shredding my bar tape (again). I’ve been doing far too much of this lately.

Disaster 3: An hour or so later, I did it again. (This time I failed to unclip in time, and slowly toppled to the ground. But I landed on my left side for once, so at least the bruising will be slightly more even.)

But things weren’t all bad. I got tired more quickly than usual, but it was lovely to be back on the road, and I ran into Greg (one of the Pink fleet) in a loading bay, and he introduced me to his flashy new bike, and we had a nice chat about how the weather had picked up since last week’s snow (which I was delighted to miss), and how it almost qualified as mild (you come to be grateful for small mercies).

But then the temperature started to drop, coinciding inconveniently with a 30-minute in between jobs, so that my fingers and toes started to get all icy. (I pinpointed the exact start of winter only a couple of weeks ago. It was the moment I realized my fingers had got so numb that texting became a chore.)

And then it started to rain. Only lightly though, and this morning’s forecast promised sun, so I knew it was unlikely to come to anything, and would probably blow over within a few minutes.

I was wrong. It got heavier. But my optimism persisted – at least it wasn’t snowing, like it did last week. And wasn’t I lucky to have missed that? After all, I cope with rain all the time, and it’s nowhere near as bad as snow or sleet, and all the water on the roads was likely to wash away the last traces of slush and ice.

And then it turned to sleet. My optimism started to flag. The sleet started to look more like snow. And, annoyingly, it was still only about 2pm. Why was the day taking so long to finish?

And then, implausibly and annoyingly, the snow started to settle. Even a soaking wet road full of rush-hour traffic couldn’t deter it. I quickly found myself riding through several inches of slush. Ice collected around my brakes, and on my saddle whenever I left the bike locked up. And my gloves and socks were quickly soaked through. Icy-cold hands and feet are so painful that you never truly remember – or even comprehend – the pain, until you experience it again. But it’s horrible – it efficiently strips away every ounce of your determination and resilience, so that you’re constantly on the verge of tears. I can be stubborn and bloody-minded and tough-as-nails in the face of almost anything else. Not cold hands and feet.

So at about 4.45 I begged Andy to let me go home, breaking my long-standing rule of never crying off because of weather or women’s troubles. And he let me go without a fight – I wasn’t the first.

And I raced (stumbled) over to Lawrence’s, and collapsed gratefully, while he fussed over me, and brushed the drifts of snow from my arms and the peak of my cap, and gave me a coffee that my hands were too stiff to hold, and cake that I got all over my face because my mouth was too numb to eat it.

And once I’d used up all his sympathy, I tottered round to Condor to abuse theirs, and to buy waterproof gloves, even though I’m reasonably sure someone will be giving me some for Christmas on Friday. Extreme cold will justify anything, it seems – and it was quite clearly ridiculous that there were unsold Sealskinz in London, and a spare £30 in my bank account, and here I was with cold hands. The equation had to be rebalanced.

So it was. And then I cycled – and walked – and cycled – and walked home. The roads were a horrendous – and treacherous – mixture of snow, ice and slush, and I kept having to get off and push. And when I was on the bike, I crawled along at 3mph, and even that was faster than the rest of the traffic. Amazingly, I didn’t fall off once, which lends a certain tinge of irony to this morning’s mishaps.

And finally I got home! And had a hot bath! And ate toast! And drank tea!

And then broke the lid of the teapot. The stars are clearly aligned against me today. I think I’d better go to bed.

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