The trouble with having the decorators in, here in my little teepee on the Sidlaws, is that with all my possessions piled into the centre of the room with sheets over them, I’m obliged to share a hammock with Consuela (my Tejana maid). We muddle in as well as we can, and – I have to say – keep a metaphorical unsheathed sword between us, but still at the end of the night we both feel that our limbs have been knotted and lignified. The daytime isn’t much better, as we try to choreograph our way around the central obstacles, weave our steps between those of the guys with the brushes and rollers, while they make like Picasso at the Chateau d’Antibes to the sound of Tay FM. Where the hell did we put the kettle? Ah, here it is – now where can we plug it in? Stuff like that. So yesterday, when Consuela suggested that she and I go on a bike ride, I jumped at the chance.
We each dug out our velocipedes. There wasn’t much dust on my ladies’ roadster, and the pedals rotated freely. I checked my brakes and my tyre pressures, and made sure my LED lamps were functioning, put on my hi-viz jacket and helmet, and waited for Consuela.
Consuela emerged from the teepee with her bike over her shoulder. It was a carbon-fibre model with edges so aerodynamic that you could have cut your finger on them. It appeared light enough to toss in the air and catch. Consuela herself was kitted out, very fetchingly, in skin-tight, sky-blue Lycra, and I had to catch my breath in awe at the sheer athleticism of her body. She plays hard (remember that tennis match?) and when she goes in for something she does not hold back.
“Ready?” she asked, slipping into her cleated pedals.
“Um… yeah… ready.”
We set off together, and although the pace was quite fast we cycled along side-by-side for many miles. We exchanged smiles from time to time, and I began to feel that this was going to be one of those occasional, fleeting, golden days. They are rare, these shared days of pleasure, but when they come to Consuela and me, they make life worth living, and I come close to inviting her to curl up with me on the sofa afterwards to share my evening cocoa. Ah, yesterday the sun shone un us, and although I could not see Consuela’s eyes behind her UV wrap-arounds, I knew there was merriment in them, and even something close to love.
Then there came a moment, just as we were tackling the steep approach (about 15%) to a Sidlaw summit, when something went wrong with my bike. Nothing much – a stone or a piece of dirt lodged itself for an instant between my back brake and the wheel, obliging me to back pedal and lose momentum. We were single file at that moment, and I’m certain Consuela looked back and saw I was in trouble. There is something in her character that makes her competitiveness kick in at the most inappropriate times, and this was one of them. Like a predator spotting a weakness she pounced, kicked hard, and accelerated away, leaving me gasping and rocking my shoulders, trying hard to get back onto her wheel but failing.
I caught up with her again at the top, where she had stopped with a smirk on her face. She swore blind she hadn’t seen me falter and had thought I was right there in her slipstream all the time. I knew the truth, however. I might be top bitch in the teepee, but outside it was dog-eat-dog. The magic of the golden day was ruined, and later I took my cocoa outside. I watched the sun go down, alone, choking back tears.
Oh, there was one other thing that spoiled the day. I found something nasty trickling down my hi-viz vest. Then I recalled that some wee mannie with a beard had leapt out at me from the side of the road during my ascent. Dirty bugger must have spat at me!