We all have things we would like to do, even want to do in our lives, but getting started can be the first big hurdle. You first have to learn how to do whatever it is you are trying to achieve, or at least how to go about it, to start with.
In the musical ‘Sweet Charity the girls have a dead-end job as dance hall hostesses, in the Fandango Ballroom. Charity is a lovelorn NY girl who dreams of old-fashioned romance, her friend tells her,
“No point flapping your wings girl, you are stuck on the flypaper of life”
“Not me,” said another – the girls go into the number ‘ There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.
however when Charity decided to change her life for the better and goes off to an employment agency and asked the interviewer to give her a nice job, he tells her,
“But you can’t do anything”
So we start by – reading about it – “Climbing Everest in, 10 easy steps” Once you have convinced yourself that is really what you want to do, you will either join a club or do it the hard way, learn on the job.
Joining a club this will give you all the expertise you require in one place, but beware of stories from fair-weather sailors. Once you have the rudiments, then the rest practises, practise and more practice. This is when you find that mental strength is much more important than physical strength. This is where you have to get off your bum and do the hard work.
At one point in my life, I did 100 miles a week commuting back and forward to work. Went out with the club on a Tuesday evening, and we would pull the legs off one another. Wednesday (my day off) I would captain a tandem, for a blind lad, most Wednesdays we would cover 50 miles or so. Most weekends a 200k Audax ride. However I did not decide to do all this, then simply go out and do it, this was two years in the making. I was so fit at that time, I felt like superman, everything I did was a challenge, at work and at play.
Getting started was hard, I had not been on a bike for years, once I had my bum on a motorcycle saddle, the bike was used less and less until it took pride of place in the back of a dusty shed. A change of job, and no longer having a motorcycle at the door, I used the bus to commute in the rush hour traffic too and from work, it was a misery.
“Why?” I asked myself “do I not use my old bike, to commute to work?”
The bike was dragged out services, new tires fitted and I was off, soon I was scoot in and out of the queues of stationary traffic, “shit, this is hard work”, I thought on that first day. But as the days rolled on, I found I was looking forward to my daily commute, I just loved flashing past rows and rows of stationary cars,
“Fools” I would silently cry, “get a bike”. That was the motivation to pull the bike out of the shed, each and every morning, no matter the weather, and head out into the maelstrom.
I watched the interview of Mohamed Ali, on the Parkinson show. He was asked what he might have done if he had not been a boxer? He replied
“No matter what I did, I would have been the best. If I was a bin collector, I would tip more bins than anyone else” That was the motivation, he just had to be the best.
As my fitness grew I joined a local cycle club and went out with the touring section and the CTC (cycle touring club) or to the club riders – the ‘cafe to cafe’ club, “Shit, this is hard work,” I thought on those first few club runs, for these cyclists could happily trundle along at an average 10 mph all day, or at least that is how it seemed, uphill down dale. However cycling in a group, you find is much easier than solo, for you, can shelter in behind the stronger riders, and get a bit of encouragement when you are starting to flag. But don’t expect an easy ride forever, eyes will be on you, you will be asked to take your turn at the front, when they feel you are malingering. It is this sort of motivation that makes it easier to put miles into your legs.
As the years ticked by I wanted to tour, throwing up all sorts of new challenges. Being on your own mile after mile, it is difficult to stay focused, more so on long straight stretched, with the road stretching way out before you, out of sight somewhere over the horizon. Where to stay, camping or youth hostel will determine what your carry, so what distance you will make in a day, more days spend on the road, more hostel or campsite bills you will rack up. I found I had to set goals for myself, with a reward at the end, as a prize.
I still do this today on my daily trundle. Now like most people, I love chocolate, cakes, ready salted potato crisps, but I also know that if I sat in my big chair all day reading and stuffing my face with any of the above, well, I would not be doing much cycling, or much or anything else for that matter, so I never buy them – except, to use them as motivators. I set myself little challenges.
Cycle 10 miles without letting your average speed fall below 10mph and you can have that treat, (one of the above). Strange the crisps always tasty better, however, I have stopped buying cakes and chocolate, they would take far too many miles to achieve, so no motivation there.
“Old age does not come alone” all the miles you put into your legs over the years, will help you to keep cycling on, but the muscles will start to shrink,
“Yes, I had noticed”, said the maid to the gardener
Motivations therefore become even more important, you have to find what works for you. There is an old lady, a neighbour of mine, she is now in her 90s, I see her out and about St Andrews pushing her wheeled walking frame in front of her. She is out in all weathers, head down, doggedly putting one foot in front of the other. I hope I can find that kind of motivation if I ever reach my 90s. Then again, having been born between the wars, she will have lived through the great depression and the Second World War so will be a tough old bird. Seeing her always gives me the motivation to keep going.
Motivation, for us, wrinkles an opportunity to “Go downhill slowly”.
My Historic Scotland magazine arrived today and I found in ‘Time Trip’, as the name suggests these articles are from the past, this month we had Halloween.
As we near the end of the old Celtic calendar, Halloween, originally known as the festival of Samhain, marked the end of summer when the dead were believed to return to walk amount the living.
In Scotland Halloween has its own traditions and customs, Scotland is famous for spooks history of gusing, as the shortened word for ‘disguising’. children would dress up in home-made costumes and tell a joke, recite a poem or perform songs to their neighbours in exchange for sweets, they would also make tumshie lanterns out of swedes to ward off evil spirits.
(I did read once that traditionally gushing was originally started by beggars, who would dress up and go to ‘The Big Houses’ and perform for them in exchange for food.)
I remember well those days in the 1950s, sadly it is all too commercial now, bought or hired costumes, trick or treat rather than having to perform for your apple or sweets. And for the grown-ups – well the Halloween party. So big has Halloween become in America that it is now more popular (and rewarding for the shopkeepers) than Christmas. So much for God Bless America.