My favourite time for cycling to work is in the spring. Everything feels new and fresh. The timing of my commute is such that in spring it coincides neatly with a frenzy of birdsong. I ride on cycle paths through little fragments of nature reserve, parks, and scruffy, forgotten bits of urban wasteland, but in spring it becomes a corridor of song. At times it feels like surfing a wave. The swelling roller of a robin’s song pushes me forward, and just as the wave breaks, it propels me into the neighbour’s territory, and a new song. And so I move through a tunnel of glorious sound, with robins, great tits, chaffinches and the jazz phrasing of blackbirds all contributing to its shimmering walls.
In the spring, I ride directly into the light. The sun is low and dazzling after the winter gloom, and the backlighting picks out beautiful details. The delicate edges of new leaves, downy buds and willow flowers bursting with pollen are all glowing and gilded by the new light. It’s hard to see where I’m riding, but after the winter, I drink the light thirstily and let the songs guide me. My route also follows the River Rea1 for much of the way. I cycle downstream on the way to work, and upstream on the way home, so the quiet chuckle of the stream is another companion on my ride. Sometimes the Rea and I are side-by-side, and sometimes we wander apart, but I always know we’ll meet up again soon.
- ‘River’ is a bit of a grand title: it’s more of a stream than a river. ↩