It turned out distressing and inconvenient the other Sunday, when marshalling in my cycling club’s ‘Little Mountain’ time trial. It’s always a great day out, good racing and a chance to catch up with old friends. This year though, when I left home it was raining with such ferocity that the gutters were flowing like miniature brooks. My wife, comfortably sheltered under the duvet, suggested that I stay at home, and was extremely scathing when I insisted that it was my sacred duty to go, and that if I wasn’t wielding my flag on my designated corner when the riders came through, there was a good chance that the less cerebral among them would end up in Bristol or beyond, instead of completing two hilly circuits of Worcestershire countryside. “It all depends on me,” I told her, in my best self important style
And so it was that a little later I stood like a prize prairie-hat for over two hours in cold rain and wind, becoming soaked to the skin, while a procession of congenital idiots pedalled past me in a masochistic search for water-logged glory. I was soaked before the first rider arrived, my trousers clinging to my thighs, my feet squelching in my shoes, and as the riders came through, becoming unpleasantly aware that I was losing the feeling in my legs and beginning to shiver. Towards the end I was forced to retire behind the hedge for an urgent comfort break and had so little feeling in my fingers that I could scarcely operate my fly and gave up altogether on re-zipping, settling for pulling my coat down to hide my embarrassment.
When the last rider had gone through, I had to sit in the car for nearly a quarter of an hour with the engine running and the heater full blast before I felt confident about driving. Sitting in the car, also, I realised that the rain had gone through my trousers and soaked my underwear. I have never been so cold in my life, and despite the heater being on I shivered all the way back home, where I spent more than half an hour under the hot shower to bring myself back from the brink of death.
I shivered on and off, for the rest of the day, but was prevented from lapsing in to a hypothermic coma by my wife’s unremitting tirade of highly creative variations on the ‘stupid old man’ theme that all us lads are so familiar with. I went to bed that night, still shivering and reflecting that, in future, being out of earshot of the Call of Duty was always, always, the right call for me.
Post Script. The postman came with a lovely surprise while I was typing this. A speeding ticket which I’d obviously picked up on my way home that day, under the influence of hypothermia. It never rains….