(Read time: A large glass of port, accompanied by a slab of stilton and some very tasty crackers (it’s a long one!))
Caution: Content that some may find disturbing.
As I was about to board a plane last Sunday afternoon, and while bored in the airport, I bought a copy of a cycling magazine. On its own, nothing remarkable, other than for two reasons. One, I haven’t bought a magazine for at least five or six years, and two, it cost £6.30!!! How much??? And that’s the very same price as a pint of Heineken in the very same airport on the very same day.
Proof, if it was needed that since this blog is free… it is truly brilliant value for its readers, no?
For as long as I can remember, though realistically / most likely only since university, I have compared and equated the cost and in turn the value of day to day items to the price of a pint of beer. Certainly when I was at university I had to make decisions as to whether I could afford a pint of Heineken at £1.05, and what I’d have to forego if I did indeed make this frivolent investment. Invariably, I made bold choices, and as a result ‘dinner’ was limited to a cold tin of tinned tomatoes, accompanied by several bags of pickled onion Space Raiders. Another ‘favourite’ was a tin of cheap tomato soup with cornflakes as croutons, though the ratio of cornflakes to soup was more akin to a bowl of cereal that used soup in place of milk. At the time, and given the choices I had, I thought this was a good value, balanced diet. Perhaps the very fact I survived university in any way shape or form is somewhat astonishing, and is very likely only due to the kindness of others, through food parcels from my late mother, or friends making me toast after another night of debauchery wobbling around the (far from safe) streets of Hull.
Therefore, in todays inflation embalmed economy with relative prices becoming more prevalent in everybody’s minds, the price of a pint of beer as my unit of value is becoming increasingly relevant once again. At this time (I say ‘this time’, as by the end of next week, with inflation at current rates, the particular analogy will be meaningless), one night out on the town can easily equate to the cost of a new jacket or pair of jeans (a necessity perhaps), and if you include a 4 mile taxi ride home, then you’re in for the price of a new TV (something that was once considered a luxury good). My local town rarely seems to get that busy even on a Friday or Saturday night any more, and while my memory as to how busy it used to be may actually be misplaced, I am sure that there’s some truth to this and that cost is a primary driver for the change in behaviour. In particular for the majority of those who have just legally qualified to consume alcoholic beverages in pubs, who can’t afford to buy a new TV every weekend, ‘going out’ clearly cannot be top of their list of priorities. Plus, given that Space Raiders are now half the quantity and 30p, they can no longer be considered low cost, even if they remain a nutritionally balanced food stock (I maintain their nutritional value is exceptional… they kept me alive for 3 years!).
I’m also prepared to admit that my assumption, and conclusion that this shift in behaviour being down to economics is also misplaced. Perhaps it is the availability (and for singletons’ the apparent necessity) of online dating ‘apps’ that means that no one now needs to leave their home to find the love of their life. Well, eventually you do, clearly… the idea that the love of your life gets delivered to your door in ‘Just Eat’ style after a purely virtual relationship would surely freak out even the strangest members of society. (Though, even as I am typing this, I am conscious that there are some people out there who would actually believe that this was something other than a truly terrible idea. I worry for humanity.) When I was in my 20’s it was unthinkable that I might meet a member of the opposite sex anywhere other than a bar. Though I remember my father’s positional advice, at that time that was ‘if you go to bars looking for girls, all you’ll meet is girls who like to go to bars’. To this day, I am not sure if that was a good or bad thing, or just a complete statement of fact, though it certainly made me think and then totally ignore the thought, and my Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights would be spent in Edwards, O’Neills and Flares thinking ‘the one’ was guaranteed to be there that night.
For those in their 20’s today, who are far more numerous in their search for their future far better half, I am sure apps are magnificent way to scan the population, try to connect with people that they wouldn’t dare do face to face, and save a fortune on ‘can I buy you drink?’ for someone who takes their £3 Martini and lemonade off you and are never to be seen again (True story, perhaps?!?!). Even when online daters do leave their home to go and meet the datee’s that they have connected with, they are not likely to go into town on a Friday or Saturday night and meet in a busy pub. Perhaps date two for a drink after a restaurant… but certainly not date one. Date one will be a coffee in a well known coffee chain, or perhaps a walk, and almost certainly with a dog (if you are of an age). And so, since that there will be far more date one’s than date two’s… the number of people in our pubs on a Friday or Saturday is directly impacted. QED! You follow, right?
Perhaps an unusual conclusion to reach in a cyclists blog… the economy and online dating have collectively killed the evening atmosphere in our pubs at the weekend.
However, what I do note, is weekend afternoon / early doors drinking does seem as vibrant as ever. It’s also my preferred way to imbibe… not least as you get an early night, grab a take away on the way home, and still be on the sofa in time to see Tess and Claudia presenting Strictly. Yes, I am of that age… and while I’ve not ‘given up’, I probably concede to ‘hanging on’. Just yesterday I was pointing out the rapidly advancing grey in my beard to someone, as a proof of my age… and I was informed that this is no longer considered greying – it’s a ‘peppered’ look (an implied good thing)! That’s probably a good thing about being in my 40’s in the 2020’s… we’re collectively not like a 40 year olds were in the 1980’s or even the 1990’s. Back then I am sure there were a handful of ‘weirdo’s’ who were having a ‘mid-life crisis’, who considered themselves young at heart, and 21 forever. Today, it seems like the vast majority in their 40’s and 50’s are determined to rinse life for as much as they (we) possibly can… considering life to like be a sponge, and that we have a finite (though undetermined period) to squeeze every last drop out of, before the game is up. And I love that! Yes, I am hanging on – but trying to do it with a bit of style at least. I certainly spend more on ‘beauty products’ per week, than my late father spent in his entire life. Before you imagine me leaving the house looking like bad drag act, I am not referring to lipstick and foundation (though there’s time for that yet) and I’ve got no hair to worry about… I’m merely buying moisturiser and trying to smell as good as a country dweller possibly can.
If you’re read my blogs before, you’ll know the way I develop my ramblings, is just that… a ramble. I start off with no idea what I am going to explore, but normally have an idea of where I want to end up. Part of the enjoyment of writing this blog is going on the journey… similar to riding my bike, or any travel that I do. The journey, and its twists and turns are a really important part of the overall experience. And yet today, I have taken a route that is arguably too challenging to complete as intended. It’s as if I’ve taken the first exit at the last 3 roundabouts, and while I haven’t exactly ended up back where I started, I am precisely nowhere near where I wanted to be.
I am confident that everyone who has ridden a bicycle has had a journey / ride that didn’t go to plan (I will find a tenuous link!), whether it was the first time you sat on a bicycle without stabilisers, and fell off after a series of yawing-wobbles, once the reassuring hand holding the saddle let go. Or when you’d successfully completed 700km of riding some of the highest mountain roads in Europe, before hitting a patch of diesel on a switchback within 30km of the finish… (fortunately that ended better than it may have done, and I was glad to see Mr Wilson (my favourite reader!) bounce back onto the bike to finish the ride). I’ve been relatively lucky myself to have few ‘incidents’ on my bicycle, particularly in recent years. However, I am firm believer in ‘luck’ (ski and bike luck are similar) and that at some point it will ‘run out’, however as I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle when I was 12 years old, I remain hopeful that this was my one big one. But challenges on a bicycle ride can come in many forms… they aren’t always about chewing tarmac, wiping up blood, and polishing out scratches. Sometimes they’re very much ‘internal’.
I’ve done remarkably well dealing with calls of nature in the ten years of riding my bicycle, until recently, when to put it politely, I had a bit of a nightmare. (For reasons that will become obvious, I’m leaving out many of the ‘details’ here… to make this publishable… and I apologise in advance if you are offended) After heading out to my favourite spot, for a lovely bacon sarnie and a coffee one Saturday morning, I started my 35km return journey home when after about 10 minutes, my tummy started feeling at little ‘off’. When I say off, there was nothing major going on, it just felt funny. Within another 10 minutes a ‘bubbling’ sensation had developed… followed by cramps that were severe enough to stop me peddling periodically, and a sensation that I really needed to use some flushable facilities. Already though, I was in no mans land… far enough down the road to not want to go back to the cafe, but far enough from home that I started some rapid contingency planning for what seemed like an inevitable disaster. Having been cool when I left in the morning, I was armed with arm warmers that were stashed in my pocket and could be ‘sacrificed’ if absolutely necessary. As it’s not hard to imagine, the countryside is not blessed with many / any ‘facilities’ that really help in this scenario… yes, there are fields with hedgerows, but nothing ‘flushable’… and I started to seriously panic about my predicament. Was I going to have to bear all and sacrifice my arm warmers, or socks? Could I make it home at all without passing out? I was now sweating profusely. If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you’ll probably be familiar with these symptoms, and my brain was now fully convinced that I was in for a rough 2, 3 or 10 days… depending on what I had contracted. But crucially I knew that I had to make it home, somehow.
Making progress, I was faced with one final hurdle, my local town… full of pretty people (who don’t need dating apps) and traffic lights, my mind turned to the now disaster scenario if I (my body) couldn’t contain the situation for another 20 minutes of abject misery that I now needed in order to make it home, let alone capitulate while at the traffic lights in town. For anyone ‘people watching’, this must have been a terrific sight… pale as a ghost, slumped over the handle bars at each traffic light, trying to look as cool as a middle aged man, wearing bright lycra in a town centre at lunch time, with suspected food poisoning ever could. Indeed, not my finest moment! The traffic lights were fortunately kind, and I got my head down to travel the final 5km as fast as I could. Arriving home, bursting through the door, shedding clothing as I went, I made it to the facilities that I had been driving towards, nee dreaming of, for the last hour… and what a climax to the story it was!
As I was convinced I had food poisoning, what I wasn’t expecting was the most extraordinary flatulent event I have ever experienced, or heard of. I don’t know if a flatulent event is a term that exists, or we have ever needed – but to represent the actual event, it’s the only term that I can use! I’m not going into any further details, but will say that the danger I was worried about was not evident. The sweat was a clearly a mix of hard work and panic. And the whole situation was driven by consuming beer the night before, of a type that I know I shouldn’t – silly boy!
As a reader, you really are very lucky that I’ve shared this story with you. Feel privileged!
I wouldn’t share this with just anyone, you know… and certainly not as a conversation opener with someone who is meeting me for the first time. However, what I will be almost certainly be talking about is the price of a bloody magazine in 2022, and how I’d rather have a pint…
Call me Victor*.
(* if you’re under the age of 30 and not from the UK, this will probably make no sense at all!)