• andrew

Saddle Sore in 7th Heaven

Dedicated readers of the Wildbase blog will know that I’m based in Madrid and will also probably know that we’re emerging here from one of the most severe lockdowns in the world. For 7 weeks we were unable to do anything outside our homes apart from solo trips to the local shop or pharmacy, walks that felt increasingly forlorn as the weather improved but the health of the nation did not. As for exercise, forget it.

Even the communal stairs to our apartment were pretty much out of bounds.

I rapidly became the size of a combine harvester, without the productivity. And then we saw some light ... Sunday 26th April and the kids were allowed out after 6 weeks of total quarantine, where they couldn’t even traipse to the shop. The streets, which for weeks carried an apocalyptic eeriness, suddenly re-ignited into an explosion of young voices and careering scooters. It was exhilarating to hear them, but for the adults we had 6 more days to wait until our official release. From 0600 on Saturday 1st May we were allowed out for 1 hour of exercise. By 0555 I was ready.

Pumping up the tyres of my long neglected Carrera Vengeance and planning to take out the frustration of my incarceration against the off road tracks that spike out from the northern suburbs of Madrid. Upon release it was like feeding time at the zoo as bikers, walkers, runners and meanderers jostled for space around the cycle lanes and bike trails of the city. It was magnificent just to feel the breeze again and to bury myself deep into the verdant landscapes which surround us.

I watched the sun rise with new found awe and wonder. I was that kid again, on the first day of his long summer holiday. I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. I might only have been restricted for 7 weeks and with the modern benefits of Netflix and wi-fi permanently to hand, but towards the end it was feeling like a proper incarceration particularly as we saw the relative freedom being given to friends elsewhere in the world. How dare they complain about only having 1 hour to cycle ... Oh we got quite self righteous in our sense of having to make the greater sacrifice. But that was all forgotten now as I completed the first 5kms and turned to look back at the city. I could see pockets of people emerging and exploring the countryside all around me. The release of energy was tangible. We smiled at each other, whilst keeping that social distance. There was a clear sense of community spirit, of being in it together but also I hoped an acknowledgement that things should not return to the same. I certainly won’t be taking for granted again the small things that should have mattered more to me in the past, but which too often were lost in the self important whirlwind of work, family, social and the need to always be doing something. I started off again, pedalled hard, hit a few blind bumps, struggled up hills I’d have owned a few weeks ago and sat on an old railway bridge looking out across the emerging Sierra de Guadarrama. Despite the embarrassingly heavy breathing and aching legs, brought on by that enforced stint of sedentary living, I loved and lived every moment. I have rarely felt so in the present. We’re far from out of the woods, but at least I was able to enjoy visiting them again. I went back again that evening, the following morning and twice every day through the week. Last Saturday was the first day of the rest of my life. I ended it saddle sore but in 7th heaven.


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