Friday 30 December 2011

Festive Cheer

I have been rather busy over the last few weeks, and unable to post. Therefore I offer a rather belated Festive greetings and Happy New Year.

I have several posts I want to share, but to continue with the positivity I summoned up in November, I thought I would start with how cycling has changed Christmas for me.

Since crossing the age divide, where one moves from opening up presents which are exciting toys and progress onto opening up presents which are socks, I have viewed Christmas as overblown and stressful. But the last few Christmases, I have started to enjoy the festive period again. And in doing so, I realised it wasn't the actual Christmas holiday I didn't like, but the run-up to it. I am not a happy shopper at the best of times, and having to shop for presents in a shopping centre so crowded that it probably contravenes EU rules on livestock transport was never going to improve matters. Or the fact that I used to drive everywhere, and at Christmas, this is just torture.

But some things changed my mind, and made Christmas so much better

1) Having a small child. One has to have really misplaced one's heart if unmoved by the excitement of a small child at opening presents.

2) The wonder that is Amazon (or any other online retailer). Not only can you buy presents online without having to inch your way through hoards of angry shoppers, but you can specify the presents you want. This means I get the gifts I would like, and can simply pick something off other people's wish lists so they get what they want as well. This seems a very satisfactory arrangement all round. Hell, many online shops gift wrap it as well for you. It as if they read my mind (or the mind of any other lazy, reluctant shopper).

3) I don't drive to get to the shops at Christmas. No matter what size of present or shopping I am picking up, multiple cycle trips are better than using the car.

To illustrate no. 3, I remember driving to my local Tescos, which was barely half a mile away, to pick up some shopping. I couldn't park in, or indeed get anywhere near, the supermarket car park. I couldn't park anywhere else either. The roads were gridlocked. The journey took 30 minutes simply to circle the supermarket. My wife got out and did the shopping whilst I inched my way around the vicinity. Apparently two people were having a fight in the supermarket, according to my wife. I knew how they felt.

But on a cycle things are very different. My journey takes me about as long as it always does to get to the supermarket. And if the supermarket has run out of what I need, I simply get on the cycle to the next shop. Not something easily done in a car at the best of times, and infuriating when the traffic means any journey is done at less than walking pace. Christmas Eve around Walthamstow illustrated the point wonderfully. This was my journey through the town centre.

The two pictures actually show one very long traffic jam pretty much circling the centre. I don't know how long it took these drivers to complete their journey, but none of them looked particularly full of Christmas cheer.

And to make matters worse, some had to spend their time queuing under the watchful gaze of Mrs Thatcher. I, on the other hand, was only delayed by trying to find a stand to lock the cycle against - a problem which actually made me happier since it means there were many more people deciding the cycle was the only sensible transport option that day.

It might sound slightly silly, but not having the prospect of spending an age in the car to simply get some shopping makes the Christmas chores much more bearable. The suitability of the cycle for local trips, and the stupidity of the car for the same, cannot be better illustrated than during the run up to the festive holidays.

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