Seven Short Stories About Staying Alert

  1. During this lockdown period, I have enjoyed my bike rides sans helmet and wearing clothing that looks (to the untrained eye at least) like ordinary clothes. I do this (unironically) pour encourager les autres, because I want some of the “new” cyclists out there to see that you don’t have to dress in the Full Lycra — unless you want to, of course. I also have a prepared response to anyone who questions my lack of a helmet: in five decades of cycling, I’ve learned that motorists actually give you a wider berth if they see you haven’t got one on. Cyclists are vulnerable, cars are the main danger on the roads, and cyclists look more vulnerable without helmets. But if the bastards see you wearing a helmet, they will think nothing of passing you at extremely close quarters.
  2. And this I noticed on my trip to Tesco today: people in masks tend not to observe physical distancing. They get too close, they stand and chat, they act like everything is normal, except for some reason I am wearing this mask. So although there are lots of data to suggest that wearing a mask might protect other people from your virus-infected spit, I think, on balance, that it was safer when people weren’t wearing them. Masks are the cycling helmet of virus avoidance. Also, as we’ve previously discussed, people are disgusting, and I have no faith whatsoever that their masks are clean and sterile. It goes back to hand-washing: if you wash your hands regularly, you’re doing more to help than if you wear a mask. Furthermore, I bet we’ll all get fewer regular colds and flu infections if people keep washing their hands.
  3. Another thing I noticed on my trip to Tesco, and a phenomenon I have previously observed in France. The Olds are loving this. They love love love walking around slowly and pausing often and making people wait behind them. In France, there are lots of old men just like my French father-in-law. They’re angry, (not so) secretly racist, and they feel like the world owes them respect. They love to block an aisle and give you the side-eye if they feel you’ve contravened their Old Man Code. The Olds are also likely to ignore physical distancing laws, and mutter, “I’m sure we’re being over cautious,” as you wait to one side on a pathway to let them pass. As many people have reported, while the young have generally stuck to the rules, the struggle is to persuade the Olds to behave themselves.
  4. Fucking Tories.
  5. Out of four occasions when I’ve consciously tried to put less than £45 worth of shopping in my trolley, so I could pay using Apple Pay, I have succeeded only once. Twice, I missed the target by a couple of quid. Today, I missed it by a spectacular £30.
  6. The 60-something son of the Olds who live across the road from me has bought himself a bike from Decathlon. Good for him. It’s all kitted out as well, and looks great. Now, I know he’s had this bike for a week at most, but he still felt entitled to shout out to me yesterday that my e-bike was “cheating”. What is it with people and their puritanism about the necessity of suffering on a bicycle? Anyway, as previously noted (at length), it’s not cheating.
  7. Podcasts are nearly over, you read it here first. Spotify are signing hideous Americans to huge deals and putting what was free and open behind their paywall. This is like when failing corporations put expensive koi carp in a fountain in the lobby of an office building, or record companies pay Paul McCartney/Robbie Williams huge advances that they can never hope to recoup. Spotify has barely turned a profit and like a lot of these fly-by-night tech companies has been “prioritising growth over profit” for years. Here’s the thing. Podcasts are great, glorious, one of the best things in life, and because Apple have never tried to make money off them, they’re free and open, and anyone can make one. During this period of lockdown, a lot of podcasts have been starting Patreons or other membership schemes. Much as I love them, I can’t afford to have those eels attached to my veins. You know, what with the mortgage, and the energy bills, and the car insurance etc.. I love lots of podcasts, which ones would I support? Let’s say I pick five winners. Omnibus is asking for a minimum spend of $5 a month. Backlisted is asking a minimum £5 a month. And the Incomparable also wants a minimum of $5. So to support just five podcasts friends would cost me around £300 a year. Reader, the BBC TV licence is £157 annually. You can see the problem. Worse still, a lot of them are claiming that supporting their Patreon will keep them “ad free”. Apart, that is, from the interminable messages about joining their Patreon. Frankly, I’d rather have the ads. And the solution to this is not a walled garden that demands a subscription before you listen. You get into podcasts because they’re free and you grow to like them. If you have to pay to listen, you won’t bother.


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