Let me just say that as much I love riding my bike, I do not love taking care of my bike. Cleaning it is always an ordeal, one that leaves me with cuts and scrapes on my hands and black grease under my fingernails (and often on my arms and legs as well). Tonight I needed to put two new tires on, and the whole thing was an utter failure. After some struggle I pried the tires off, put new tubes in, and pried the tires back on (and banged up my knuckles in the process). That was okay. But when I tried to pump up the tubes, they wouldn’t hold air. It turns out I punctured the tubes at some point while trying to get the tires on. In one case the tube got pinched, and in another some mysterious small, sharp metal object got in between the tire and tube and ruined everything. Sigh. Poor Hobgoblin got tired of listening to my complaints and curses and finally stepped in to finish up the job for me. Poor Muttboy was so stressed by the whole scene that he couldn’t eat his milkbone. I got grease on my jeans and on my t-shirt and had to scrub my arm so hard to get the grease off that I practically made myself bleed.
I should be better at this by now, but I’m just not.
I did go on a great 75-mile ride yesterday, however, with two other women on my racing team. We are well matched in terms of strength, and we had fun riding hard and enjoying the beautiful, sunny day. I have now made a good start on my summer cycling tan: I have an inch of burnt skin on my wrist, the part that’s exposed between my arm warmers and my cycling gloves. I also have about five inches of tanned skin on the lower part of my calves and shins, the part that’s between my knee warmers and my socks. I’m working on a pretty sharp line on my arms below my shoulders as well. I’m ready for the beach, right?
As for reading, it’s been up and down. I finished Jane Gardam’s novel Old Filth and was disappointed. When I last wrote about it here, I was enjoying it a lot, but immediately after I wrote that post, I hit a section where there were a number of odd coincidences, the plot took a turn I didn’t like, and all the sudden the characters felt unfamiliar. I never quite recovered after that. I was knocked out of the world of the book, all the sudden wondering whether I was reading it properly. The story just didn’t ring true to me anymore.
That said, though, the premise of the book is very interesting, and I’m guessing not everyone will have the reaction I had above. The novel deals with the vestiges of British colonialism, telling the story of a young boy growing up in Malay and left to the “natives” for his upbringing. His mother died shortly after giving birth and his father did his best to lose himself in his work, so it was only his aunt who paid him any attention. Eventually he was sent off to England to be raised by strangers, unfortunately, as it turns out, cruel and abusive ones, and after that he went to boarding school. It’s an absolutely awful childhood, one full of neglect and abuse. It seems like a fairly common one, however, since many British children growing up in the colonies were sent back to England by their parents who hoped they could get a good education and learn how to be properly English.
The main character, Edward Feathers, grows up to become a lawyer and then a judge, working for a while in Hong Kong (hence the “FILTH” acronym: Failed in London, Try Hong Kong), and then retiring in England, which is where we meet him. The present-day action of the novel takes place during Edward’s retirement, with lengthy flashbacks to his younger years. Gradually, we discover the full extent of everything that happened to him.
I liked the back-and-forth narration (in fact, it’s when the novel paused for a lengthy period in the present day that it started to falter), the gradual revelation of Edward’s life story, and the glimpse the novel gives into colonial culture. I just wish the narrative pacing had been better and that the characters had remained convincing throughout.
Because I seemed to be having a hard time with literary fiction (Old Filth and Vertigo leaving me underwhelmed), I decided to try a mystery novel and picked up Elizabeth George’s Payment in Blood. I did much better with that one, enjoying it a lot. Then this afternoon I just finished Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which I surprised myself by totally loving. At this point, I’m hoping I’m out of the short reading slump I was in, and now I have the fun of choosing something new.