just opposite the frontispiece of washingmachinepost croft there is a streetlight, one that has malfunctioned for some months and more recently ceased to function altogether. the normal procedure in such situations would be to adopt a mr angry of bowmore attitude and call the council to complain, but in this situation, i rather fear i have no intention whatsoever of doing any such thing. for we are nothing if not at peace with our rural domicile, and as such, total darkness in the still of night (a little hebridean humour there) is rather endearing.
i am aware that my neighbours will undoubtedly have failed to appreciate such natural darkness, and have probably already called the repair department to have the situation remedied, but until that time, i am happy to wallow in the absence of light through dark curtains.
and i have clout on my side should i wish to subsequently disparage the council for any attempt at repair. the british astronomical association have long waged a campaign for dark skies, less because their membership wishes to enjoy a silent and dark night's sleep, and more for reasons of looking at stars. but it dawned on me that, were i to learn the positions of one or two constellations i might convincingly make my own case for leaving the light in its dormant state.
i'm not holding my breath.
of course, were i to persevere with examining the night sky for reasons of astronomical data, i might better be able to navigate obscure, narrow, single-track roads after tea. you may, as do i, think of such as a laudable approach at self-sufficiency as perfectly in keeping with a rural lifestyle, but i must disavow both of us from such folly, by pointing out that i almost never ride my bicycle after the hours of darkness. and even supposing that to not be the case, i have grave doubts over my ability to guide myself using only starlight; in fact, i'm not altogether sure that i could find my way hither and thither in daylight even by way of blatantly large road signs.
that is specifically why i am the ideal customer for books such as mike wells' narration of the rhine cycle route from somewhere in switzerland to somewhere in holland. well, from lai da tuma to rotterdam, some 1378km further down the river rhine. this admirably picturesque yet challenging cycle meanders via such notable locations as basel, strasbourg, mannheim, cologne (or kolln, as 'tis correctly spelt) before arriving in rotterdam on the coast of the north sea.
mr wells, considerably more experienced at this sort of thing than i, figures that, broken into 27 stages of approximately 50km each, a fit cyclist (i assume we all have our hands in the air at this point?) could cheerfully cover two stages per day, thus covering the whole enchilada in a fortnight (two weeks). or, if your holiday entitlement extends to a lot more, and meandering is your regular state of mind, then 50km a day would be just dinky-doo.
whichever variation you choose, this guide offers a turn by turn description; or, if you preferred to cycle upstream, you could start at page 251 and work your way to page one (just kidding). wells uses the opening pages to set the scenery; alpine rhine, higher rhine, upper rhine etc. before describing the region, the wildlife, the route itself and a few very brief overviews of the countries through which the river, and thus the cycle-tourist will pass. i will spare you the minutiae contained within the first 42 pages, but suffice it to say, if it were a question and answer session, you'd be at a loss to think of any further relevant queries by this point.
not only are the latter pages lavishly illustrated, but each stage subscribes to similar luxury, augmented by clearly illustrated maps. thus, if any section of the descriptive narrative is a tad unclear, 'tis but a moment's effort to check along the route. from this point onwards, the reading is relevant only to those in the saddle, filled as it is with specific and directional information, though the opening chapters read more as a most interesting travelogue that i could (and did) read before laying my head on the pillow at night.
having not seen the rhine other than on television documentaries, there is little that i could realistically or legitimately criticise regarding mr wells' carefully crafted guide, but i do think it unnecessary on page 37, to show a fully-loaded marin mountain bike, captioned fully equipped cycle. i am firmly of the opinion that anyone about to undertake a 1300 plus kilometre ride through more than just a couple of countries, would have a pretty firm grasp on just what a fully equipped cycle looked like without the spurious aid of a caption.
as one who enjoys a natural darkness and is bereft of a single geographical bone in his body, a compact and bijou volume such as this is obviously squarely aimed at such as i. or, indeed, any of the other myriad cycling guides offered by cicerone press. some of us need hand-holding every step of the way.
page by glorious page.
wednesday 13th march 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................