To look at me you would have had no idea of the mental anguish inside. I was getting on with my day, being cheerful with my workmates, and giving every impression of a man at ease with life. To the outsider I was either a happy and balanced human being or a walking, talking, ringing endorsement of the benefits of anti-depressants.
Either way, a pleasure to be around.
But beneath the surface lurked a nagging secret.
It began, as many things in my life seem to do, with a bike ride. As I headed out for two or three hours on Easter Monday I found myself pondering the gap in information between Jesus Christ dying on the cross and a huge bunny hiding chocolate eggs.
I don’t get Easter. I don’t know when it is, I don’t know what it’s about, and I’d like to have a stern word with whoever decided we should be buying ‘Easter Cards’ for each other.
On this Monday I decided that the true meaning of Easter for me was something to do with riding my bike along eerily quiet and therefore very pleasant country roads. Presumably, much of the population was too bloated with sickly cheap chocolate to raise themselves unaided from their settee and clog up the roads with their aimless bank holiday driving.
The point is, I was happy.
Sure, a few rain showers came down, and the mixture of grit and grime on the road was being thrown fairly relentlessly up into my bike’s drive train, but life’s too short, I decided. I was riding the good bike because after four solid months the winter bike has become tedious – I’ve packed it away now until at least October.
“It’ll wash”, I thought, as I barrelled through puddles and cow trampled mud.
And so, fifty miles later, I returned home to play with my kids, have a nice lunch, and spend the afternoon stuffing chocolate into my mouth.
It wasn’t until precisely 12.07 am when I awoke with a start to find the mental anguish well underway. My bike, the one that I clean and polish and treat with due respect for its looks and it’s price tag was hanging in the garage, where I left it. Clogged up with the contents of a Lancastrian country lane.
I had (whisper it) forgotten to clean it.
In reality, not enough time had passed for true bike-neglect to set in, but in the early hours of the morning perspective can be an elusive concept. I considered getting up and heading down to the garage to give it a quick wipe down at the very least, but the bed was warm and the sheer quantity of chocolate I was still digesting had enveloped me in a kind of lethargic daze.
I spent a fitful and guilt ridden night.
Come the morning I would have to get stuck in there and get it clean before being swept up by the day’s events.
But miraculously, almost unbelievably, my two kids (aged 2 and 5) slept until 7.45 am. A solid hour and three quarters later than their usual 6am start. Which meant I slept in late, which turned the morning routine into a panicked tick list of breakfast, dressed, teeth, packed lunch, school, work.
Where I found myself, disconsolate at my desk, picturing my pride and joy on its wall hangers; dried, mud spattered, and beginning to creak with the first signs of a rusty hue on the chain.
Some may say that anguish is too strong a word, that I need to get some perspective, and that I should stop caring so much about mere possessions. Is it really so wrong to leave a bike hanging filthy in the garage?
If I want to get a proper night’s sleep any time soon then yes…yes it is.