Where I live I get to do something special: ride my trusty treadly around the most beautiful lake in the world. All those different landscapes. The native parklands with their old-man eucalypts. The oak groves, which for a few days in autumn light up as if on fire. There’s even a secret cork plantation. And the water: it can be mirror-flat, it can be whipped into a frenzy, but always it’s deathly cold, so they say. And the mountains, that hazy blue wall to the west. Some days I simply have to be down there, at the lake, just man and bicycle, and silence.
But last weekend, I didn’t have silence. Before I left I ripped an old CD, Reykjavik by British DJ Nick Warren. There was a period a while ago when I’d come home from a significantly extended Friday-night adventure and, with the morning sun streaming through my bedroom window, I’d peal out of my sweat-soaked party clothes, slide between the sheets, and fall asleep listening to this gorgeous electronica.
I have no idea why I wanted to hear this particular music again, because I can’t remember the last time I was in a nightclub – these days I get the wobbles if I’m out after 8pm. But it seemed that I had to do it. So, with my MP3 player loaded up and ready, I slipped into my very unsexy bike shorts and yellow safety jacket, pressed the headphones into my ears, donned my stack-hat, and off I went.
And off I went indeed.
The music. It’s everything I remember it being: fake yet beautiful, soulful even. As I reach the lake’s edge, a certain song comes on, the infamous fourth track. The insistent drums. The little keyboard notes floating slowly, like autumn leaves. Then the impossibly maudlin, effects-laden guitars over the top. And the whole lot of it builds and then builds some more.
My head starts nodding in time. One hand comes off the handlebars – I’m punching a fist into the sky! I look like an idiot but I don’t care.
I’m back there, on the dance floor, people pressed in tight, some of them are great dancers, they know the moves – all I’ve got is a bit of a left-foot, right-foot shuffle which makes me look like a robot trying to squash grapes. But I’m loving it. I don’t talk to anyone; I just want to get lost. Once in a while someone nice (or not so nice, depending on your position) comes along and they drop something into my palm and off I go even further. And I break into the wildest of grins. And then I feel warm. And then hot.
I close my eyes. My other hand comes off the handlebars. Now I’ve got two fists punching the sky. My heart-beat’s rising fast, my treadly’s going on without me. And I realise this: I’m happy. Happy being middle-aged and on my bike and riding around the lake listening to music that’s past its use-by date, remembering a time that was dangerous (if not stupid), a time that won’t happen again, happy that some things are behind me, happy that some things are still to come.
Yes, some things are still to come.
As long as I don’t career headfirst into the lake.
(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, April 26 2008)