Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Portents and eyebrows

If you want to live a long and  unmolested life, choose to be a tree in the grounds of a Shinto shrine. What do you mean, "Even if there were such a thing as re-incarnation, the chances of being able to choose your next form are slim to none,"?  My, we are in a literal mood today, aren't we? It's an image, innit? Take a closer look at the forms in the tree, smart Alec.

Teaching, in one form or another, came thick and fast on a six and a half hour ride that began in watery sunshine. That lasted less than five minutes. The rain began after two hours, turning to sleet, then snow as I climbed the first of two passes.

Another cyclist was on my mind today, an old man of about eighty, lying on the road in Tadami, the first town I passed. He was covered in a blanket, bloody cloths on his chest, his eyes closed. A group of people were with him, waiting for the ambulance. Along the straight road through the town groups of people stood around, waiting.

Route 289 from Tadami to Tajima

A raven rose into the air and flew straight towards my head. It didn't see me until the last minute, and reared up in front of my face, it's wings and tail spread out and filling the air before it shot up and away.

Route 400 climbing from Tajima to Showa

The weather joined the portent party, streamers of mist taking bites out of the mountains, curtains of rain, snow, and all forms in between dropping by for a quick drink, then outstaying their welcome.

That's all it was though, weather. The people I met along the way told another story, and this isn't going to end like a Jack London tale with a frozen figure punished for presumption in the frozen north.

It started with eyebrows. It struck me, as I headed down from the top of 289 towards Tajima, my speed limited by squinting through the blinding snowflakes, that I want some big ones. I'm talking great bushy shelves of bristle, topping craggy brows over deep set eyes. I'm talking Samuel Becket. I'm talking Denis Healey. I'm talking Frida Khalo. Mmm, a projecting mono-brow, there's a thought. You see, we forget what they are for, and rail against them, plucking and bleaching, trimming and cutting. In some cases shaving them off and pencilling in expressions of surprise. But blast down a mountain road on a bike and you realise what they are actually for: keeping the weather out of your vision jellies. Banish portents: grow 'em thick, baby!

Let's ride, the weather's lovely: full gear on the last climb

Then there was the charming lady, who when unable to supply me with my request for an-donutsu from her tiny shop, and having ascertained that I was cycling 'From where?!' 'To where?!" followed me out of the shop and gave me my money back for the chocolate I  bought.

On the grind up the last climb, still cold in all my gear, a car stopped and out popped Mieko-san and her husband, two of the instructors from our local Ski centre: more shock and a rare photo of a lesser eye-browed cyclist.

And at the even smaller shop in the gathering dark, one of those shops where you wonder if it is a shop or a few bits in someone's larder shed, and it takes a while to work out they are actually selling anything at Dolops of sweet aduki bean paste surrounded by fried dough and a liberal dusting of sugar - now that will keep you going a while longer...



  1. I was surprized that you were cycling there! Probably, next time will be in the deep mountain? ha ha It was nice talking to you anyway.

  2. Yes, as soon as the snow is cleared from the small roads I will be on them. Then later I will be running on the mountains themselves. But it is surprising who you meet, even there!
    Take care...