I have just drunk a bottle of wine and several cocktails, and really shouldn’t be posting on my blog. And I definitely shouldn’t be cycling home from central London, which I just did.
(If you’re one of my parents you should probably stop reading now. Actually, it’s too late – you might as well carry on.)
I know, I know. You can spare me the lecture.
The curious – and comforting – thing is, I feel much safer cycling home drunk than I would walking, or taking the bus, or almost anything else. When I get on the bike I’m back in my element. After all, I spend so much time cycling, and so little time walking, that I’m more comfortable on two wheels than I am on two feet. I’m actually not all that good at walking, as a matter of fact. My feet and legs and hips are all out of alignment, and I have all sorts of aches and pains that mean I have to be very careful how I tread. If I put a foot down in the wrong way, I sometimes wobble, or stagger, or have a sharp stab of pain. Walking is something I have to concentrate on at the best of times, and when I’m drunk …well.
Imagine a fish out of water. Yes? Flailing and flapping and gasping and spluttering? Now drop it back into the fish tank. It’s suddenly a creature of grace and beauty again. And that’s what I’m like. As soon as I get on the bike I’m fine. I’m back in control.
This goes back to what I was saying about muscle memory and subconscious movement a few days ago. That assurance I’ve begun to feel when I stop thinking and let my body and the bike carry me through a difficult knot in the traffic – I feel the same thing when I swing my leg over the saddle and clip my feet into the pedals when I’m drunk. I don’t have to think any more. I know I’m safe. Even when I ride a bit more recklessly, and throw myself around the corners, my body seems to have developed enough innate balance to be able to swing me out of it, or just not to let me lose control in the first place.
I seem to be a better cyclist when I’m drunk. I tackle obstacles like traffic and narrow gateways and raised kerbs more adeptly. I even seem to get up hills more efficiently. And yes, I have asked myself whether this is really the case, or just the misperceptions of a drunken imagination. I think it’s true. You know how you’re much less likely to hurt yourself if you fall off drunk than if you fall off sober? This is because your body is more relaxed, less inhibited. It just goes with the flow. And I think it’s the same when I ride drunk. It’s taken a good few years, but I now know how the road works so well that this knowledge has sunk into my subconscious. My conscious mind doesn’t need to do anything any more. In fact, it’s better off just keeping out of it. It’s when I start to think and plan and worry that things go wrong.
(I wonder if I’ll agree with myself tomorrow morning.)