“One of the pleasantest things in the world is going a journey; but I like to go by myself. I can enjoy society in a room; but out of doors, nature is company enough for me. I am then never less alone than when alone…” So begins my favourite of William Hazlitt’s essays,On Going A Journey, which I re-read yet again the other day, on a rainy, blustery afternoon while sprawled in an armchair beside the Christmas tree, as you do this time of year. Just substitute the words “Bike Ride’ for ‘Journey’ and you have my sentiments exactly.
One of the many things I love about cycling through the English countryside is the breezy familiarity you acquire here with antiquity and tradition. By that I don’t mean just the big-ticket items, the ruined castles, Norman churches and picturesque 15th century pubs, all of which by the way I see all the time on my daily jaunts, but all the little, common everyday things. Take for example those classic old Royal Mail pillar boxes.
They are so ubiquitous, so much a part of the accepted scenery, that you hardly notice them, a dash of scarlet on a curbside or at a rural crossroads, hidden in plain view. But when you look more closely you discover that some of these post boxes are old enough, antique enough if you will, to be museum pieces – or at least they would be anywhere else.