"How do I get myself into these situations ? " I ask my wife, whose opinion I value and whose comments normally , and quite annoyingly, get directly to the heart of an issue . " Because you’re an idiot" she replies with a look of exasperation , one that you might give to your pet dog after it has swallowed a whole j cloth which had some peanut butter smeared on one corner. I fear that she may be right, but I am certain that this is not the only reason I find myself in this predicament.
Our new neighbours moved in just before Christmas. Colin is about 15 years younger than me and is an Outdoor Education instructor . Unfortunately for me he now does the same commute into work that I’ve been doing for the last couple of years and what ‘s worse is he sets off on his bike at about the same time.
Last Monday I set off a bit before Colin and he overtook me half way there, we exchanged pleasantries and agreed it would be great if the rain held off until we both got into work . As he passed me, I picked up my pace a bit but struggled to keep up with him on the hill.
The following day I again set off ahead of him and was definitely peddling just that little bit faster knowing he was behind me , I was puffing and blowing a bit on the hills and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed that he passed me again , me red faced and grimacing , he chatting amiably , not out of breath , hardly having broken sweat !
|The view I should have been enjoying if I wasn't sweating blood.|
Now I’m not an overly competitive person normally , if I’m playing Trivial Pursuits I am quite happy to lose as long as we have had some fun along the way. Last Friday I again set off slightly ahead and something inside got the better of me and I went straight into racing speed , I became Sir Chris Hoy,feeling that I couldn’t face the humiliation of being overtaken for a third time that week I was out of the saddle on the hills ,muscles burning, heart thumping, the taste of blood in my mouth ( must see the doctor about that ). Of course I was doing my best to make it look like I wasn’t racing ; trying to look around at the scenery in a casual manner when really I was peddling at top speed and trying to check if I could see Colin 's front light behind me . When I reached Hawkshead I saw a light behind , thinking it was the ' silent assassin' I peddled even faster waiting for the inevitable wave as Colin passed me by.
Miraculously it didn’t happen and I made it into work without being overtaken . My pride and self worth fully in tact , I did it in record time .......and it very nearly killed me , I needed to lie down for a few hours to recover .
Any sense of relief was short lived as it dawned on me that I was going to have to do it again next Mon , next week and every week until one of us ( probably me ) dies of a stroke or gets another job.
And how did I get into this situation because I'm an idiot well yes that's certainly part of the answer, but also I feel that I may be a victim of evolution.
Competition within species is a fact of life and is particularly apparent at this time of year. During the spring, the males of many species are establishing and protecting their territories and then trying to attract a mate. Being the strongest, the fastest and the most colourful all helps. The older males each year have to prove that they have still got what it takes.
It’s about strength
|Blackbird with rowan berries|
Blackbirds and Robins are familiar birds in our gardens but fiercely territorial , Blackbirds will go to great lengths to protect a single tree laden with berries, providing food during the winter, using elaborate calls and flight patterns, to let other birds know that this their territory. Robins despite their cute and friendly image , will become particularly aggressive if they feel their patch is being intruded upon by another robin , other than a mate.
|Cute garden visitor or vicious thug ?|
If you take a walk along the side of Lake Windermere , you will almost certainly see Canada geese protecting their nesting sites on the islands with loud ‘honking’ and aggressive wing flapping.
it’s also about timing
At this time of year the procession of late winter/ spring flowers has started , the white snowdrops have given way to the daffodils and the wild garlic is pushing through to be followed by the lesser celandine , wood anemone and primrose . All these plants flower early in the spring to avoid competition with other species and to make the most of the light before the canopy closes as the trees come into leaf.
|Spring flowers Primrose ( light yellow ) Wood anemones ( white ) Lesser celendine ( deep yellow )|
If you are looking for a great place to enjoy these and other early signs of spring , why not take a walk around Tarn Hows near Coniston or along the West shore of Windermere to Wray Castle in thernext few weeks .
Keep an eye out for the sweaty red faced idiot on the bike, and show some pity , he’s just trying to prove he's still got it, he's a product/victim of the evolutionary process.