Not a fair weathered cyclist: Bill Cunningham cycling in New York during Hurricane Irene's approach, back in 2011. Via Freak Chic.
This week after getting a puncture in my bike, I resolved to take the opportunity to walk lots instead. True, I could easily fix the puncture and once again be liberated and free to enjoy my fast journeys. The only thing is (whisper it) it's sort of..icy out there. And I'm not mad on the idea of cycling on ice. But I'm also very begrudged to be one of those fair-weather cyclists who just hops on a bus when it's snowing. So in order to justify my decision I told myself that I would do lots of walking and download some interesting podcasts to listen as I go (something I wouldn't be able to do on a bike without sabotaging my full attention).
When it snows in the UK it becomes all consuming and eventually quite tedious. (Bah humbug!) Weather reports use the word 'treacherous' so much that it starts to sound like an epidemic and Facebook is swamped with the snowy scapes of your friends back gardens with the caption 'snowing again!' in case you hadn't realised. And after a while I become just as unoriginal in the anti-snowfall trajectory, my winter delight quickly worn down to Charlie Brooker-style cynicism, irritated by the fact everyone is still talking about it and contemplating a move to Denmark. In short, a nice antidote to all of this is just to wrap up warm, leave the house and enjoy the frost for yourself with a long walk and a podcast.
These are a couple I listened to and particularly enjoyed:
On Wednesday I spent an hour of my journey to the beautiful John Rylands Library in Deansgate listening to a NPR podcast which compiled snippets from TED talks focusing on happiness. I particularly liked Barry Schwartz's talk about how too much choice ultimately leads to dissatifcation about the decisions we make and can compromise our ability to be happy. (Definitely something I experience when faced with a menu in a restaurant. Occasionally I'm so torn between dishes it leads me to have a mini and silent existential crisis about how my inability to choose reflects some sort of lapse in my understanding of myself and that clearly my friends are much more well-rounded people for announcing 'seafood soup' and snapping closed their menus without deliberation.)
When faced with the iTunes podcast directory, I asked myself 'What Would Tavi Do?' and searched out any articles on Rookie that might mention something for good listening. The women and girls at Rookie are an accurate litmus test for things I might like. Radiolab was one of those recommended and I downloaded 'The Bitter End'. Aka, 'the one about death'. I chose this one because my Granny's lovely labrador had to be put down this week and since that happened I've been reflecting on death. Not necessarily in a negative way but more in a way that recognises that death is so normal and how it is bizarre that it is an act that is over so quickly yet lingers so long for the people left behind. Over the last month my Granny and I have spoken about death a little; the friends she lost in 2012, our own family members who coming to the end of their lives, and my Granny's own feelings about medicine and the ways in which we as a society are so focused on prolonging our lives. This podcast was a really fantastic extension of this topic and featured a report on the life-saving treatments doctors would decline to have. Out of sheer coincidence, yesterdays Guardian Weekend Magazine's feature article was on this very same topic. In the podcast they mentioned one of Maurice Sendek's last interviews before he died in which he talked about looking at the trees outside of his studio through the window and being in love with the world, but also how he was ready to go, and I found that a very bittersweet but also comforting thought to be left with.
Part of my enjoyment of listening was also because I was extremely cosy, all wrapped up in my puffa with a pink nose and gloved hands nestled inside my pockets. Having said that, I have been craving a smarter coat to alternate with my puffa that is practical but also pretty. Last night I found myself borrowing my flatmate Cai's coat, which fits the practical and pretty requirement, as I headed out to watch Django Unchained. Big mistake! It is perfect, manly, navy and cashmere and now we're in love but I know I things can't go on this way. I will have to find myself a worthy replacement before I start taking liberties. On a side note, Cai is probably the best dressed of my male friends and has so many fantastic clothes. Jackets that range from allowing him to pose as aviator pilot to a 1970s football manager. See also world-class facial hair, turquoise Saucony trainers and this brilliant Kojak t-shirt. (All 'real life' friends please note this is simply an appreciative ode, not some unsubtle wishlist. I swear..)