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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)

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