Sunday, 24 January 2010

That @£$%><.. ice just won't go away.

Not a pretty sight, I think you'll agree.

I have been looking forward to a ride on my bike for a few days, as you will all know, from my constant bleatings about my fear of ice, I have hardly ridden for the best part of 6 weeks, now. The snow has gone, there was no forecast for ice and freezing temperatures overnight, and when I got up, there was a touch of rain in the air, and no sign of ice anywhere. I thought to myself, at last.

So I togged up, got my bike, the Subway 1, out of the shed and set off for a ride down and back up the valley. It was great to be out there, the slight drop of rain passed over, and blue skies opened up, as I cycled through the village, at roughly 08.30 this fine Sunday morning. I tried to mix things up a bit, by altering my route. After passing through Glynneath itself, I cycled into Cwmgwrach, but instead of my normal U-turn, back towards Glynneath, I pedalled straight through Cwmgwrach, then went via a steep downhill lane to Unity mine and carried on past the sewerage works, along its service road, rejoining the main road behind MacDonalds.

Everything was fantastic, and I was really enjoying my time out in the fresh air, I did mention the sewerage works, didn't I ? I was now trvelling back towards Glynneath, intending to take the old road towards Neath. The footpath there is recognised as a cyclepath also, so I mounted the pavement, to follow it along the old road.

Big, Big Mistake !!

Next thing I knew, I was slammed to the ground, as my front wheel just slid away from me, down the slight camber to my right. Fortunately, this meant I was going to the left, as my Subway 1 went to the right. My left shoulder hit the ground square on, then I slid along the ground, which fortunately for me was smooth tarmac, for about 20 feet. When my bike and I had come to a stop, my first thoughts were of embarrassment, who had seen this debacle, and so on. I quickly saw that there was no one about to have witnessed the event, and then started to check for damage, my shoulder was fine, it didn't even feel stiff or sore, thank goodness for that. Getting to my feet, I soon found out why I'd ended up in such a heap, the pavement was a sheet of ice, why I don't know ?? I hadn't seen any signs of the stuff since I'd left home.

Turning next to my Subway 1, I breathed a sigh of relief, that no damage at all had been sustained. Gingerly, I took the bike from the pavement onto the road, where there was no ice at all. As a car then passed, I pretended to be looking at my gears, in the hope of not drawing attention to myself, you know I don't anyone to know that I'm some sort of hopeless cretin who tries to stay upright on a bike. The car duely passed by, and then I felt a stiffness in my left shin, looking down I saw the damage that I had sustained.

A large lump in the middle of my shin, with two nasty cuts, and blood slowly rolling down into the top of my sock. The picture above hardly does it justice, now cleaned up, it's still pretty sore.

My ride didn't stop there though, despite turning back at that point, I cycled back through Glynneath, and on to Pont Nedd Fechan, before returning home. I have to say I was constantly checking the surface of the ground I cycled over, looking for possibilities of ice, and where I was doubtful, I took it real slow. The good news is I made it home in one piece.

But I do so hate ice, more than ever now.

Kudos to all you other guys who ride it regular, I guess I'm just a wimp !

Friday, 22 January 2010

Welsh singing in a Welsh chapel.

I'm not a religious man, but the occasion can, sometimes, reduce me to tears.

Last Tuesday I attended the funeral of a man, whom I thought, I did not know, or indeed had ever met. Elizabeth, my wife, attends the same church, as his bereaved widow, and wanted to go along to pay her respects.

So we went to the Jerusalem chapel in Resolven, the next village down our valley, at the appointed time, and went in. Once in, we were met by a large crowd of mourners, already seated in the old fashioned gated pews of a typical Welsh chapel, all polished wood on two floors. In full view of the congregation, on the first floor was an organ, complete with lady organist, ready for the funeral to take place.

The coffin was brought in, followed by close family and relatives. Once they were seated, the pastor (forgive me if that isn't the correct title), said a few words about the order of the ceremony, a few words of prayer were said, and then we, the congregation were invited to sing the first hymn from the hymnsheet. It was in Welsh, my native tongue, which I'm ashamed to say, I do not speak, I only have a schoolboy smattering of the language. But I can, with that scant knowledge, read and pronounce my mother tongue, as well as any Welsh speaker, but sadly, not understand a word that I'm saying, or on this occasion was singing.

So it began, with the organ leading us in, then the first words of the hymn were sung by the chapel throng, try as I might, I had a frog in my throat, then tears, and almost immediately my eyes were streaming moisture down my cheeks. It took the first verse and chorus for me to be able to compose myself, enough to join in. Then it was wonderful.

In the first moments of that hymn, all sorts of things welled up inside me, my schoolboy Welsh, good old Sydney Jones, my Welsh language master from almost 50 years ago, my granny Curtis, who loved to read in Welsh from her bible, to her grandchildren, me and my twin sister, the Welsh singing from the glory days of Welsh rugby at the Arms Park, and much, much more. But most of all, it was the pure Welshness of it all.

To top that, the singing was marvellous, as only true Welshmen can muster in their first language, whether of their everyday use, or such as me, with only a schoolboy knowledge. Welsh truely is best heard in song, and it makes me so proud to be a Welshman.

That day, I was very proud to be a Welshman, I had brushed close to my roots, on an occasion I had not thought could trigger such emotions within me. I have to say, I feel so much richer for the experience, which came about by attending, as I thought, a stranger's funeral.

I was wrong on that count, I had met the deceased several times, exchanging a few friendly words. We were both pipe smokers, though I have long given up the fine art, I had commented and struck up a conversation, saying how much I missed my pipe. Since that time we had said hello and exchanged a smile on bumping into each other, around the village, over the last couple of years.