The rain continues unabated and my patience has begun to wear thin. Perhaps I can cite that as my excuse for being somewhat impatient when I set off on the 3-mile trip to Pelynt one morning. All of the journey is along single-track roads, which is not a big problem as there is very little traffic. But on this occasion I met a bicycle.
I hadn’t gone far along the valley floor when I caught up with a man on his bike. He was going my way – so he was in for a long crawl up a long hill. And he was already going very slowly. Very slowly indeed. It was an old-fashioned, upright type of bicycle. The man had a rucksack. And the bike had panniers. And something wide fastened across the back which looked to me like a tent in a bag. The rain was falling; he had no waterproof clothing and he was very wet.There was no possibility of passing him for some time but I knew there was a turning ahead – the only possible passing place for quite some distance afterwards. Since he was traveling at little more than walking speed and he had yet to reach the start of the climb, I was mightily relieved to know of this passing place. I dropped back to avoid crowding him.
We reached the turning. He just kept going. I was gobsmacked. How could he be so inconsiderate? I didn’t mean to rev the engine; I genuinely didn’t. But I did rev it: I was already in first gear behind him and now we were starting to climb. Ruby was at risk of rolling backwards I think!
I assume it was the increased engine noise that alerted my man on a bike to the fact that a woman in a car was behind him. Suddenly he stopped. He planted both feet very firmly on the ground. He removed his ear buds. I was a little worried. Was he about to give me a piece of his mind at being impatient? Was I going to get the speech where he justified his right to be on the road?
But no. He very slowly and carefully began to roll backwards down the slope. It was a little precarious, with all his baggage. He rolled back until he could slip into the turning and I could pass. And as I did so, he gave me the biggest wave and cheeriest smile and my whole day suddenly got brighter. He was so wet and so cheerful. How could I grouse and grumble in my warm and dry car as I trundled steadily up the hill having waved and smiled back?
I know such things happen everywhere and happen all the time. It was something about the precariousness of the bike and its load; the good-natured wave; the innocence and the simplicity of this little vignette that enchanted me. A bike, a tent, some rain and a hill – seemingly all that this man needed to be happy.
Time has a different quality in Cornwall. This man was definitely on Cornish time. I hope he had some Cornish chocolate stashed in his panniers to sustain him on his travels. Cornish chocolate has been a recent discovery of mine. It’s dark, rich and delicious. A little goes a very long way. I felt that my man on a bicycle deserved some seriously good chocolate.
I wonder how long it took him to make his way to the top of the climb? I wonder if he was still happy and smiling when he reached his destination? I hope he was. And I hope his tent had stayed dry.