Walking vs Riding

I keep telling them I’m here in Oxford to work. They keep defaulting to this assumption that I’m here because I think it’ll be easier than London. These motorbike instructors. Like anyone that does the same job for ages, you risk stopping seeing the individual and assuming they’re a type. I’m the twat who’s come over from London to do an Oxford test. No amount of explaining how I’m working here for the summer can break that. I can only fix it by not being a twat. I’m good at that, thankfully. “Disguise I see thou art a wickedness”.

I arrived at the ground wearing shorts. My biking jeans are bulky and I walked two hours to arrive there at 7.45am. So I dawnwalked in shorts and carried the jeans. The instructor was brusque to the point of contempt. “Put on your trousers!” Was pretty much the first thing he said to me, expecting me to look blankly at him and say “trousers?”. I put them on, immediately, outdoors. “Would you like me to put on my helmet and gloves too?” I ask him mildly. “No. We’re going to talk first.”

It’s an uphill struggle to get this guy to stop treating me like a tourist. Kind of helpful as the test tomorrow isn’t going to be happy people dancing. It’s going to be blank humans pretending to have no personality and barking instructions. But for the morning he puts me on a pony and three of us hit the road with me leading.

The other guy is a track racer. He’s about 12. I know I’m too involved with demonstrating caution. He’s too involved with being the fastest. It’s a good dynamic for group of three. His confidence helps me know I can approach this with less tension. At lunchtime the instructor takes me off the pony and gives me something that can fly more so I’ve succeeded in not being a dick. The second half of the day is joyful as I’m not sitting on an anvil and I get to work on skills while realising what a beautiful thing a motorbike can be to ride. I’m eventually given a little puttputt to get home on and it feels vile. I couldn’t go back to 125cc now I’ve been on proper bikes. But the puttputt serves its purpose. 12 minutes by road to get home through traffic. It was 2 hours on foot in the morning. But what a walk!

I struck out into a field, with yellow arrows, nettles and nobody. It put me in mind of the first week Camino. My lower legs were prickling. I automatically but needlessly tightened my laces to prevent blisters. I sang the Ultreya song.


Eventually the path hit the Cherwell River and singing would’ve been weird but oh God the beautiful people. My first proper girlfriend rowed for Balliol. I haven’t thought of her for years. I just googled her. She’s a director for BP. Walking down that river I saw all those men and those women with their incredible physiques smashing out their practice in the early morning just to be better, to challenge themselves, to be part of a team, to try to win. I’m right with them. Fifteen miles a day. Enough with the old habits. I fucking hope I pass tomorrow but if I don’t I’ll pass before I need to somehow, come hell or high water. Ultreya. Et Suseia. Ever onwards.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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