I’m not sure what it is about the change from summer to autumn.
Maybe it’s the lack of daylight, or a change in the air pressure. Or it could be the psychological effect of knowing that nature is about to curl up and bed down for a few months, leaving only we humans to continue barrelling on regardless, with no thought of reducing our pace to tune in with the natural flow of things.
The kids wake up early, the energy levels drop, the geometrically cultivated tan lines fade, and my cycling form slumps. It happens every year. In the flick of a meteorological switch I transform from super-motivated semi-serious cyclist into someone I would never have recognised three weeks ago – a person for whom exercise is now a chore. I snap out of it within three or four weeks, and the rest probably does me good, but it creeps up on me every year.
Friends have been on hand with solutions, largely suggesting I need to get a life and mix things up by finding a new way to pass the time in winter. But what do I need with a life?
“What other hobbies have you got?” they ask.
First of all…hobbies!? Cycling is nothing as trivial as a hobby. But since you ask, well, erm…I do like to eat three meals a day. I often brush my teeth both morning and evening. I’ve been known to read a book before bedtime. Do these count?
Triathlon often comes up as a serious suggestion, the logic being that if I’m tired of cycling then I can focus on swimming or running instead. It’s an option I suppose, but not one to be considered seriously. Running always seems like a huge amount of effort to get not very far. Maybe that’s a simple reflection of my ability, but so be it. It’s not for me. And swimming? Not very dignified, is it?
I’m no triathlete. Apart from anything, I’ve never been one for fancy dress.
Being a modern, cutting edge, man-of-the-times, I took the obvious solution to this gaping, hobby-shaped hole in my life. I opened my laptop, typed “unusual hobbies” into Google, and came across a seminal piece of work entitled “11 unusual hobbies.” Sure enough, there were plenty of options to go at, many far less ridiculous than triathlon.
Beetle fighting, for example.
I’m not great fan of bugs and creepy crawlies, as explained in my previous ramblings about the problems that happen when spiders mix with married life, but I began to think beetle fighting might be the sport for me. My instinct was that I could be genuinely good at this, and maybe even compete at the highest level. What better way to fill those cycling-free times of year than with some good old fashioned red-blooded combat?
“Those beetles don’t stand a chance”, I thought, digging out my sturdiest pair of thick soled shoes. Then I realised that beetle fighting involved two beetles. Fighting each other.
How about taphophilia? The passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries.
Admittedly it doesn’t provide the same initial rush of blood-lust as beetle fighting but I guess, if nothing else, it’s quite a restful way to spend your free time. Some years ago I visited the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, and stroked the gravestones of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, so I suppose I’ve already begun my alternative existence as a taphophile. Not so much a hobby, as a way of killing a couple of hours in Paris until it seems late enough to order a beer without feeling judged.
It’s as good a way as any.
Helpfully, “11 unusual hobbies” points out that taphophilia is “not to be confused with necrophilia, which is a sexual attraction to corpses.”
Which brings me to option number three – javelin catching.
What better way to combine the primal excitement of beetle fighting and the taphophile’s fascination with death than to try catching javelins?
“THIS is the sport for me”, I decided, and set to work looking for my local javelin catching club, only for my wife to scupper my plans. Apparently, javelin catching would invalidate the life insurance, and me kicking the bucket without generating a pay-out is not acceptable. So we’re back to square one.
Friends and family alike will have to put up with my moping and complaining for however long it takes me to embrace bad weather cycling for another year, get back on the road, and restore the natural order of things.
Who needs a “hobby” anyway?