Into my heart an air that kills
from yon far country blows:
What are those blue-remembered hills,
what spires, what farms are those?
This is the land of lost content
I see it shining plain
the happy highways where I went
and cannot come again.
It was when I was in primary school that I learnt this poem; until this morning I had forgotten that I knew it and that rhythm that makes it easy for children to learn in the first place tum-te-tummed through my head as I cycled in the countryside with a view of Houseman’s blue-remembered hills. The combination of mist, cloud and sun gave a lavender haze to the hills over towards Bridgnorth and Wenlock Edge. The moment I saw them the poem flashed into my mind and the beat seemed to match the turn of the wheels as I cycled towards the next village.
During the summer I’ve been cycling with a group one evening each week. It’s a good group; someone leads a ride each week and there’s always someone at the back to do the ‘sweeping-up’ of the slower riders. I’m swept up each week and I feel secure knowing that there’s someone behind me. Usually it’s Peter and Gary and I hear their conversation which seems to consist of place names and road numbers and then they’re silent for a little while before one of them predicts the next lane we’ll turn into. Then they settle back into the pattern of place names and road numbers for a few moments. They’re good friends; it shows in their silences and the way in which they take turns to speak.
I like cycling in this group because I learn the roads and the lanes, I find out the places where I can cycle later when I’m on my own. Despite enjoying being in the group I don’t really want to talk while I’m cycling but I enjoy hearing the conversations around me. I hold my place at the back but from time to time different people slow down their pace and ride along next to me for a short way. I point out the chestnuts showing their spiky pom-poms early this year.
This morning I was tired and thought that I’d only cycle to the first village and then turn around for coffee and the paper but by then I’d found my legs so I aimed for the next village and by then I might as well do the whole of my favourite circuit.
I never regret going for a bike ride.