The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

I set out on the bike in what looked like a perfect morning, the skies were clear the sun was out, alas so low in the skies to the point of being dangerous for cyclists, that had become invisible to motorists, ‘blinded by the light’. Manfred Mann, a cove of the Bruce Springsteen song.

For this reason, I decided to take to the back roads out of St Andrews, which turned out not to be one of my better ideas, for as I climbed up to the top of the hill, the road conditions became treacherous. Not only from snow-covered roads but water run-off from fields had frozen solid.

At the crossroads I stopped to take a picture when a fellow cyclist pulled up, he was riding an e-bike (factory-made) in the style of a mountain bike, telescopic forks, chunky tyres, and enough flashing lights, that he looked like a mobile Christmas tree.

Like me he was elderly, we blethered a while then he pushed on. After taking my pictures and packing away my camera and followed on, but never saw him again. Ships that pass in the night.

I had a dear friend Bob Johns, died in August 2017. Bob was born in America although his mother was Scottish and his father Welsh, in his latter years Bob lived in Washington DC,

In many ways Bob was like my father, he had that air of knowing who he was, comfortable in his own skin, and his language was that of a homespun philosopher. One of the books he gave me was Walden by Henry David Thoreau, maybe he thought it might give me some answers to the many questions I seemed always to be asking. Sadly, the words of an essayist, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, and historian from the 1800s was way beyond my ability to understand.

During this time of isolation, I have found that book again, and although I still find the language challenging and the philosophy even more so, I am getting there.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he had imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

and

“It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking of doing, however ancient can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true today may turn out to be a falsehood tomorrow; mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields.”

How true is that, and possibly has never been more true than in today’s world, I get it Bob, Thanks.

I once read about a sort of hermit that made a living from his bees, selling honey and mead, from the washing of the combs. The writer tells us that the old beekeeper wrote bad philosophy. I once asked Bob what “Bad philosophy” was, he told me philosophy that can not be proven. strange reading Thoreau (no way of thinking of doing, however ancient can be trusted without proof) brought Bob right back into the picture. We really do stand on the shoulders of giants – no matter how small they appear.

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