You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.


Well if you have ever read this blog before, you may know that one of my current hobbies is road cycling. This in turn gives me an expanded opportunity to think and reflect upon the woes of the world, although maybe I should be concentrating more on not being sucked under by the slipstream of a passing 18 wheeler. Nonetheless I am extremely aware of the need for that current buzz word – mindfulness. I will return to this idea at some point, but for now I am focused on proverbs, of all things.

Growing up, and probably like the rest of my generation, I was introduced to this ‘genre’ by my parents at an early age. It does strike me that I have never burdened my own kids with this level of knowledge, but that’s probably because they were ‘zoned out’ on the Playstation. But for me, highlights included ‘Rome was not built in a day’ and ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’. The latter was especially hard to comprehend, given that typically the birds I saw much preferred bushes and wouldn’t be seen dead in anyone’s hand. Then my beloved granny’s favourite – ‘A job done by halves is never done right’. And finally the dreaded mixed up proverb. ‘You should never change a horse of a different colour in mid-stream’. For example.

So back to cycling, and I’ll try to rationalise this line of thought. For about a year now I had been ‘urged’ by my cycling buddies (yes, I do have some) to move to ‘clip in shoes’. I decided – finally – that I could no longer look enviously at ‘the big boys’ so I went the whole hog and got the clip in pedals and shoes. Up to then I had managed sufficiently well with the ‘cages’ for my feet, but the persistent whispering of ‘you have to get the shoes’ and ‘they’ll give you at least 10% more oomph’ became irresistible. So I heaved a deep and surrender-monkey sigh, parked my misgivings and fears, and went to my local bike shop (big shout to Wolfe Cycles in Sundrive Road) who kitted me out in style.

Of course they – like everyone else – said ‘yes, you will fall once or twice, but it’s worth it’. So, needless to say, I decided that I was going to be the cyclist that never fell. I went round and round my block, practiced taking out the (preferred) left and then the right foot. Sure, I had a few near misses, but I was definitely the exception to the rule. In my mind. Well my first long expedition went wonderfully. I went out the Grand Canal tow-path to the 12th lock, using all the ‘gates’ to practice the in and out manoeuvre. All was wonderful. Across to Newcastle, left turn and head for Saggart. Still in control. Up the hill and then coast down the long hill coming into Tallaght on the Blessington road. No problems at all.

And then, the inevitable tragedy. Or maybe tragi-comedy. Opposite the Shamrock Rovers football ground, there is a well-established bike lane and – unusually – it has a traffic island on both sides. So as I coasted to a stop at the red light I unclipped my left foot. I was thinking of the hot shower some fifteen minutes distant as my mindfulness took a comfort break. So when I somehow decided to plant my right foot on the traffic island, you can guess what happened. The momentary realisation that ‘It’s not coming out’ accompanied the slow-motion topple to my right. Then the dull pain in my elbow and the overwhelming awareness that every car driver at the junction was staring at me. And probably laughing their heads off.

Thankfully no-one raced to my rescue as I dragged myself upright, cursing gently. I think that a proffered helping hand or the words ‘Are you all right’ just possibly would have been too much to bear. So I hauled myself around the corner to see what damage I had done. And to hide, like a wounded animal (cue melodrama). I was in fact pretty much intact, apart from my pride, but the bike chain was lodged in the de-railer and took a bit of yanking (and, I admit, more cursing) to get it out. Long story short, I got home, bruised but unbowed. The bike was more or less ok. The shower eased my aches and pains. My dreams recovered their poise. And a few days later I did ‘the climb that haunts my dreams’ to the Lemass monument and on to the Sally Gap without any spills. So I AM getting there. With a few scars along the way.

So here’s the conundrum. It seems you can in fact (painfully) teach an old dog some new tricks. But it’s hard to get past the reality that pride really DOES come before a fall.



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