I'm sitting here under the stairs (No, I'm not in the dog-house, it's just that we've converted it into our computer room at home - PCs are still not civilised enough for the living-room!) and a thought has just struck me. I'm supposed to be working on a cookbook for a Leed's Women's Fellowship group (I'm not moonlighting, this one is on the house!) and I've come to a dead stop with it.
No. The thought occurred because I was thinking about my Dad and his love of cycling in his youth. He was a member of a club in Castleford (they're probably still going - I must check) and went everywhere by bike. When he wasn't cycling in competitions, he would be loading a tent, climbing gear or his potholing tackle (or both, depending on the sort of weekend he had planned) and gadding off to the Dales.
All this was before my time and it's easy for callous youth to dismiss the achievements of one's own parents. In a way I was luckier than some. I had photographic evidence (still and cine) of these weekend jaunts. Most of my Uncles on my Mum's side were fellow members of the same club (in fact, it was on one of these outings that my Dad met my Mum!). Not only that, but I have walked for miles over the Yorkshire Dales with my Dad. He knows them like the back of his hand (he's currently in Australia and I should imagine I'll see him again in around 50 to 60 years if he attempts to learn the "Outback").
The thought I've just had was that I've never been cycling with him! Ok, he it was that got me my first "real" bike for my fourteenth birthday (a Sun Mist with four-speed gears). He was also the one who, with great patience, made me a rack and set of panniers a couple of weeks later whan I announced that I was disappearing for the weekend with a couple of mates to go camping in Skipton. He had to make them because we were a little bit hard-up at the time. No way was it possible to just nip out and buy some stuff off the shelf. Lets face it, the bike had been bought as a doer-upper, and was a four-speed because he only had to buy a rear gearset to match the existing chainwheel and chain (the derailleur he already had).
Having rediscovered cycling as a hobby only in the last few weeks, and spending a lot of time up and down bridlepaths with my girls, I have come to appreciate what me and my Dad were missing! When he gave me my bike he didn't have one of his own. By the time he did (a Philips Vox Populi), I was at University and was more interested in catching up with my old schoolmates than wasting my holidays going out for rides with my Dad!
I count myself lucky that my kids want to come out for a ride with me. At first it was a case of Mum making them accompany me (along with a pump, puncture-repair outfit, trolley-jack, mobile-phone, first-aid kit, oxygen, morphine, stretcher, etc., etc.)
There has now been a subtle shift in attitude.
Now, instead of me asking them to accompany me, they now ask me to come for a spin with them. At the moment I am out every night, alternating strength training with speed training. Josie, my elder-daughter, who is the same age as I was when I set off for that weekend camping-trip all those years ago, got the shock of her life earlier tonight when she insisted on leading the way on a "gentle" ride. Kids of today, no stamina!
It's also just sprung to mind that I did once accompany my Dad on one of his epic cycle journeys. It was only a couple of years ago in the little gym he'd built at the back of his garage. I sat and watched Featherstone Rovers get destroyed in a rugby match with him as he cycled around 30 miles without going anywhere on his "exercycle". How much more interesting it would have been to set off and ride the five miles to the match itself!
I'm currently trying very hard to balance my own "training schedule" against the need to "be a good parent".
At the risk of teaching anyone to suck eggs, I would suggest that Mums and Dads out there, who want to encourage their offspring, tone it down a little and wait for the kids to realise that maybe you do know what you're talking about (unfortunately, this may take several years!). For sure, if your child wants to go for it, then let them. If they don't, well, let them talk you into allowing them to do exactly what you want them to do. Reverse psychology is a wonderful thing!
To the kids out there, listen to your parents. They may not let on, but they have probably done it all, and more, before you were even thought of!
The above picture appears by kind courtesy of True North Picture Source