It's fucking 2016. It doesn't feel very different to the end of 2015 if you ask me.
The streets are brown; tinged in wet, filthy hues. Sodden, rotting leaves collect where damp stone walls meet slick paving slabs. The bare trees look like they are rotting from the ground up. Puddles simply reflect the brown clouds - illuminated by half-arsed light. Sulphurous skies are jaundiced in colour, seen through jaundiced eyes.
There is no longer a single trail that isn't showing the effects of the wettest December on record. The trails are not just brown. They are steaming, churned, choked, clogged with mud. The mud is pock-holed with footsteps, hoof-prints, streaked with the arcing tyre tracks of The Man Who Tried to Ride in a Straight Line. Horseshit, dogshit, cowshit, sheepshit, foxshit, mud, grit, cement mixer-ed into a momentum and fun sapping paste. The odd trail that isn't mud is a stream. Fell and field run-off. Saturated land bleeds brown water, as it seeks the fastest way down. I search for the fastest route to ride-done.
The kitchen floor goes from clean to sporting tyre-prints and big sploshes of filth as it drips off the bike as leave a muddy smear against the kitchen side while I lean against it and wait for the kettle to boil. I swear that patch of bear leg - between sock top and bib-knicker base is staining brown, just like the tannin tide marks on her favourite mug, from which I sip the too hot tea. I watch rusty water run from a headset and down a fork leg. An hour or two later, things are clean again, or not. Maybe I'll clean properly after tomorrow's ride.
My thoughts, plans, dreams, future are carrying all the momentum of my bike on that bridleway. It traces a field edge. It is shit in the summer, but it leads to good stuff. My good stuff. A trail I forgot about, only to rediscover years later. A trail that disappeared in tree felling, but has been reborn. A trail that I never got chance to share. A trail that I now don't want to. Today though, I'm brought to a walk, using the bike as a crutch to balance as my feet threaten to skate away from me. I'm not sure if I'm moving forward anymore. I'm not sure if I'm putting in any effort. It certainly hurts like I am. I think I'm tired. I'm not sure if I can see the end of the trail, or the good stuff beyond. Muddy myopia.
I stack up possibilities, maybes, plans, dreams, work, emails, lists, chores, little things that I know I should do to simply look after myself. Every little one feels like it is harder work than the one before. Each carries fear as well as positive emotions. Meanwhile I pile the tower higher, because without the possibility of doing them, then there is no jinking singletrack to look forward to. I need to break the inertia, I need to find more energy from somewhere. I need to want it for myself.
My body is soft around the edges. I've eaten lots, drank more than I should, done less proper exercise. Old broken bones ache. Cause and effect. The solution is annoyingly simple.
It's not that I haven't had fun. It's just that it has been so hard earned. A sopping wet trail centre, chopping off-piste slither, a ride in the South and the sun, a head torch-lit trail run, floating through the trees and ignoring a bruised knee that should be better by now.
I look for positives, and find not-negatives. My house hasn't been flooded. I have wonderful friends who want me to do things with them. If I keep putting one foot in front of the other, I will eventually get to the other side. I just wish the path wasn't so shitty.