Walking Godstuff

It was about time I did another long walk anyway. Having most of a week to myself to walk out allowed me to integrate some things that were buzzing around in my head. (‘Integration’ and ‘integrity’ seem to be this year’s words; I was aiming for ‘balance’, but of course there’s an element of separation to that which turns out to be not what I need…)

Quite apart from the usual OMGWTFBBQ sea! butterflies! lizards! houses! yachts! cliffs! thing (um, God revealed in creation, you know what I mean…); also, a Non-Tame Lion, and connected spontaneous thankfulness, I did manage to get some thoughts, if not nailed down, then at least with a paperweight on them for five minutes.

It mostly seemed to be about sex and the Incarnation. I got about a third of the way through Women’s Experience of Sex (Kitzinger) – it’s very eighties and occasionally made me want to punch someone, but had some good stuff in – specifically, about letting sex be about more than genitals. And I read this post about the Incarnation and the necessity (or otherwise) of the Crucifixion, which is an elegant rendering of the idea that Anne and I ran into over pasta and sardines on Maundy Thursday in Redecilla. (Incidentally, I have been catching up on La Vuelta a España, and getting very excited when I see Camino waymarkings at the roadside. I have been looking out for them specifically, but still.)

What I have been getting from this particular combination is that I need to get my sexual and spiritual aspects meshing with each other, I think. This is yet another thing about myself of which I do not have to be frightened, but it’s not that easy. That in becoming human Jesus made the physical world good, or demonstrated that it was good. That it doesn’t matter whether he was married or gay or whatever, because just by being human he made it right to be what you are. (This makes more sense in my head.) (If anyone can recommend any reading around this, preferably something that isn’t a How To Have Good Christian Sex manual, that would be extremely useful.)

That’s probably enough brackets. Anyway, it all feels like a significant spiritual gear shift, and there will probably be more to it than that. I have been feeling surprisingly positive of late (Friday evening, big brain crash, excepted), reading all the back entries of Hannah’s blog and not feeling jealous of her for having a calling. (This is something that I struggle with more than I like to admit.) And this despite the fact that I’m slightly dreading going back to work, though going back to work will allow me to sort out some of the things that have been bugging me, and usually the vocation jealousy pops up when I am feeling frustrated when work isn’t going too well…

PM says PE teachers not sadistic enough. ‘We do our best, dammit!”

is the message I am getting from this story – which is unfair both on Cameron and my PE teachers, most of whom were fairly decent sorts. However, it does seem to me that there are two competing aspirations here, both laudable, and making school sports more competitive will only work for one of them. To win more Olympic medals, and to get the nation’s children, and, indeed, the nation’s adults, more active.

Let me tell you about how I became more active.

I hated sports at school. As I have hinted above, this was not because of my teachers. It was because of me. I was unremittingly hopeless and, because I was good at pretty much everything else (Design Technology excepted) my sporting incompetence was horribly conspicuous. This held true from primary school (where I was in a year group of five) through Key Stage 3 (class of thirty, year group of ninety) to GCSE, where I was in a year group of one and managed to lose it from my timetable.

I was hopeless. I was the fat asthmatic kid with glasses (not all at the same time, I will admit – the asthma came first, then the glasses, then the fat) and, no matter how hard I tried, I was never anything other than slow and clumsy. I did try. I was a conscientious child, at least in other people’s time, and not being good at stuff frustrated me, so I tried to get better – but my classmates always improved more, and so I continued to be slow and clumsy, and increasingly disillusioned with sports as played at school, with the (apparently insufficient) emphasis on competition. I was never going to be as good as Nicky or Jack or Abby, so why was I even trying?

None of which stopped me being reasonably active. I skipped; I hit tennis balls against walls; I taught myself to ride a bike by throwing it and myself down the drive until I stopped falling off. I stayed fit despite school sports, competitive or otherwise, not because of it. (Although, now I come to think of it, I did do trampolining for a while as an after-school club; that was fun, and I wasn’t too bad.)

Then we moved to the Isle of Wight, and to a house with a much smaller garden, I moved schools three times in one year, I hit puberty (late), my parents separated, and my first bout of depression set in. None of that was much fun, and I stopped doing pretty much everything that could be even vaguely described as ‘physical activity’.

When I was eighteen I got a job at a hotel two miles away. The job was pretty grim, but the two miles was wonderful – I could walk it. Two miles of soul-cleansing cliff-top, two miles of beauty, two miles of exercise – and the first glimmerings of my independence. I started walking between my parents’ houses, four miles apart, and those four miles became mine in a way that neither house ever did. They connected my broken family, but they also gave me space away from it. And – incidentally – I was getting fit. Suddenly I had a form of physical exercise (I’m not sure one can really call it a ‘sport’) that I loved wholeheartedly. The same thing has happened this year with cycling. I’m one of the slowest things on the road – and that’s not a bad thing. It’s not a good thing. It’s just a thing, and meanwhile I keep cycling.

And so my point is this: making school sports more competitive may well give us our next generation of Olympic medallists, and I will be as pleased for them as I am for the current ones – but it will not get the nation fitter all round, because it will do nothing for those of us who don’t do exercise that way, who don’t particularly want to compare themselves to other people, who just want to find something they enjoy and to do it. I have found that I enjoy activities that get me from A to B and allow me to enjoy the scenery. Other people will enjoy other things. Trampolining! Badminton! Judo!

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s at school that’s the problem, the way that most people hate most of the books they had to read for English. I don’t know. I don’t think there is an obvious answer – and I am convinced that making school sports more competitive isn’t it.

(As for the private vs state school question – the GCSE years, where I managed to escape sports altogether, were at a hilariously terrible private school. I will tell you about my wacky adventures there some other time.)

I love my trike with an A

I love my trike with an A because it makes anywhere accessible. Additionally, it is affecting my assertiveness amazingly. I hate it with an A because argh! my arse! All that admitted – Allez! Allez! Allez!

#ilovemybike with a B because otherwise the hashtag won’t pick it up. Down with this two-wheeled exclusivity!

I love my trike with a C because it carries copious cargo on my commute.

I love my trike with a D, dashing downhill 😀

I love my trike with an E because it enhances my eccentricity. Its name is Epona and I bought it from eBay. I extol Evans. Excelsior!

I love my trike with an F because it is teaching me to swear.

I love my trike with a G for the goslings on the green and the gregarious guys who greet me on the road to Guildford.

I love my trike with an H, in spite of hailstorms, headwinds, harassment and honking.

I love my trike with an I because it gives me my independence.

I love my trike with a J because I can jog around the jams. And I don’t jump the red.

I love my trike with a K, and count in kilometres.

I love my trike with an L for liberation, looking forward to likely lungs and legs – though I’m lairy of lycra. I hate it with an L for long loud lorries – and look at my legs!

I love my trike with an M, managing the Mars Trail on Midna, making misty Monday mornings magical.

I love my trike with an N, though I bought it on the never-never so, nitpicking, it’s not mine.

I love my trike with an O; it is my obvious obsession. I hate it with an O for the obnoxious overtakers.

I love my trike with a P, because precious little else would have me parade in pink shorts. I hate it with a P because every pothole is painfully palpable. It is a Pashley.

I love my trike with a Q, because it’s quick around queues.

I love my trike with an R for the rolling English road. I hate it with an R for the rain.

I love my trike with an S for its stability swooping through Surrey, not stranded on the station waiting for South West Trains to stop being stuck at Surbiton.

I love my trike with a T for its three wheels. I hate it with a T because there is no such thing as a tailwind. It is a Tri-1. T’other is a Trailmate.

I love my trike with a U in the urban undergrowth. I hate it with a U because other users undertake me more than I ever undertake anybody, and how can this road be uphill both ways?

I love my trike with a V because I am visible. I hate it with a V for the van drivers.

I love my trike with a W when I whoosh around Woking. I hate it with a W because Walnut Tree Close is a wind tunnel, without mentioning the woeful wonder that it is the longest road in the world.

I love my trike with an X because it allows me to indulge my xenophilia and imagine exploring.

I love my trike with a Y. Its name is You Bastard.

I love my trike with a Z, zipping along with the zeitgeist, zero to zoom.

Self on Trike