This is my response to this week’s Flashback Track Friday prompt, where we were asked:
Tell us about a time you had to run for your life
A short 500 today, should take about 3 minutes. And a big thank you, once again, to The Sicilian Storyteller, for helping to enrich Songshine.
Oooph, I’m finally done. But I’ve slowed to nothing as I crest God’s Hill. That 12% ramp onto the plateau has left me with an empty tank, as a million shades of green open before me. I coast past The Fighting Cocks.
It’s not open yet, of course. Far too early. It won’t open for hours. This is my weekend prologue, after a week of wading through London’s treacle, to claim this prize – 48 hous’ respite in my oasis – the New Forest.
It is deserted, at this hour, too. It’s not yet eight o’clock and there is little traffic. A few early birds crossing the Forest. Some camper vans. And ponies, for which the place is famed. No people, just how I like it – alone in nature. Even in my maroon lycra, I’m overdressed.
The still-luscious turf bears the dwindling remnants of last night’s frost, the haphazard result of a pallid spray can, as I leave the fringes of the village and re-enter open country. It is heathland, really, not forest, now, and flatter. But the air is pure and my surroundings breath-taking as I slip through the gears, passing the reclaimed cricket pitch and with it, leaving the human race behind.
I’m suddenly clear. I’m picking up speed again on flat tarmac. Deadman’s Hill on my right, and I can see a thousand miles ahead. Clumps of forbidding gorse, still just in flower, assault me with their lemon specks. I pass another cluster of steaming ponies. Where do they shelter, out here?
I’m riding great guns now and enjoying my solitude as I reach down to sip from my bidon. A short breather, I glance at the handlebar computer. Good time today. But I must keep the pace – I’m halfway around my “loop”. I have several I ride again and again, depending on mood, but this one is a short, sharp, forty-five-minute burst to expel the City from my lungs. I can’t feel the wind, though I know it is behind me as I pass thirty. Kilometres of course. Everyone knows, cycling has European roots. I was never more at home than in Flanders. The wind will be in my face shortly, but I’ll take what I can, and speed on. Sure enough, as I follow the road through a long, lazy right a slight breeze massages my bare calves. A car park, one or two cars. Dog walkers, at this hour. A dog’s paradise.
More ponies to my right. Grazing, mooching. One stands out. Skewbald brown, it is feisty, though I offer no more than a glance as I fly past. A magnificent creature. Little wonder people make special journeys to this place.
Was it the colour? Perhaps. Cycling kits are gaudy, and for me, the brighter, the better. I’m more visible. Anything to improve my chances against frequently-malevolent motorists. But Skewbald is spooked. First, I hear the gallop. Fast. Alarming. Only when I turn back, do I catch the venom in her eyes.
This story, while dramatised, is absolutely true. To give you a sense of “where in the world”, I have not even changed the names. The New Forest is oddly named, since it is actually a very old forest, dating to William the Conqueror (1066 and all that) and is now a national park 100mi SW of London. I have encountered wild-roaming cattle and pigs there, but the park is famed in the UK for its ponies.
And I was that cyclist, in the middle of the New Forest, being chased by an irate, 500kg pony. They can reach 25mph over short distances.
I’m just glad I could reach 26mph!
Ah, and since Nancy’s post was all about John Lennon, here is one of my favourites. Borrowed Time. If only he knew.