Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sharing the Magic

Mmm Yummy Cycling Ham
Like any other "cycling couple," over time we have developed a slew of little rituals and traditions that punctate our rides. One of these is that, along a popular "endlessly climbing" route, we stop at the tiny village shop at the top of the hill, catch our breath, then buy a packet of cold cuts and eat them at the side of the road before continuing onward.

We have noticed the universe smiles upon this ritual. Somehow, no matter the weather and time of day, the sun always comes out just as we sit on the crumbling stone wall and peel back the plastic wrapper of our purchase. It is a low, northern sun that bathes everything in rose-tinted gold. The ham, the grass-covered castle ruins, the steep winding road we have just climbed, the tattered sectarian flags billowing in the breeze, the stained wall of the rundown pub and shop, and our bicycles leaning against it - all of these things acquire a charmed, magical sheen, making us drowsy with aesthetic overload and relaxed appreciation.

Every so often, a person enters or exits the shop, and looks at the pair of us, delirious ham-eaters, with a mixture of amusement and curiosity. Mostly they nod as they walk past. Some will strike up a conversation.

Quare day for a cycle theday.

Oh aye. It's cold getting.

And where are yees from yourselves?

On one occasion, a shopper too young for such an exchange broke free of her grandmother's grasp and ran toward us, arms outstretched, cooing and smiling giddily at the sight of our roadside meal. A moment later she was beside us, twirling around coyly and eying the slices of ham with a meaningful seriousness. "Coo?"

Out of breath and embarrassed, the grandmother caught up to her charge, uttering apologies and attempting to gently drag the toddler away. "Come away love; granny will buy you some ham in the shop!" But clearly granny could not see the unique merits of this particular ham and the girl writhed and gurgled in attempts to explain them to her. "Coo!" she whimpered plaintively, hand straining toward the wafer thin slices, glowing and transparent in the sunlight. "Coo..."

Casting a "may I?" glance at the grownup and receiving an exasperated nod of approval, we took turns reaching our visitor bits of ham. To our surprise, she did not grab, but took and ate them slowly, luxuriating, apparently, in the exchange itself more than in the eating. In grasping the ham her fingers brushed against the terrycloth palms of our cycling gloves, and this seemed to cause particular delight.

Ham!
When the packet was empty, we expected our companion to lose interest in us abruptly. But instead, she tugged at our sleeves excitedly, as if to direct us to rise. When we failed to heed these instructions, she ran off and, glancing over her shoulder at us impatiently, headed for our bicycles. She commenced immediately to tug at my front wheel, so that at once I shot up and ran toward the bike to prevent it from falling on top of her.

"Coo!" she said, smacking her lips. Then, "Coo!" pointing eagerly at the bicycles. I could only interpret this to mean "I have eaten the tasty ham. Now I am ready to cycle."

Long after the flustered grandmother had managed to wrangle the child into the shop and we had set off on our way, I continued to marvel over this exchange. That little creature, not much older than two by the looks of her, had managed to deduce that we were eating a magical food that enabled us to ride those two wheeled contraptions. But how had she formed that connection? Was it an obvious one, according to the logic of toddlers, or was our interaction guided by that strange sort of magic specific to cycling encounters? Perhaps a little bit of both.

26 comments:

  1. What a lovely story, and the images capture so much. Happy new year!

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  2. At that age the world is a place of wonders to be explored and understood, an age that is all too brief...

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  3. Tiny kids + grocery stores + bicyclists = wonderful potential for stories. Always. It's a great time for for kids and when ours were that age they could not stop racing about, testing, asking, pointing, touching, and then repeat (truthfully, they still do the same as young adults!) I've stories from the point of view as the parent and many from the other side, being the odd looking thing on the interesting machine. Bikes and those who ride them are a magnet, as are tiny kids!

    So, I'm thinking of my ride today to the store and back, which was around sunset. Here, the sun sets around 4:30 and never gets much above the horizon. Also it's cold. The kids I saw in the store were as bundled as me yet your small child seems blissfully warm in the outdoor sunset of Northern Ireland. You must live in a divine place!

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    1. Where do you live - the sun sets at 4.30 and doesn't get much above the horizon? This must be a cold place indeed - sounds like the setting for the series 'Fortitude' in Arctic Norway.

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    2. The sun sets around 4:30 here as well. On the shortest day I think it was 3:55!

      I took the photo of the girl a few months back. But even in the dead of winter you might see a kid dressed like this, if ferried from indoor space to car to indoor space, which is not uncommon.

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    3. Goodness - here it is now summer and the sun sets at 8.40 - even in winter it will be light until around 6.00. I must say though the long evenings sound quite nice - though less cycling time ;) Yes, as far as the baby's clothing goes, it is the same here, many go from indoors to car to indoors again, so even when it is cold, are dressed 'light'.

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    4. Ah but at the height of summer it will set at nearly 11pm here, with a wonderfully drawn-out sunset.

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    5. That must lovely - Ireland is indeed a beautiful country.

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  4. Be careful feeding them, she might try and follow you home! Fun story. Makes me wonder why I've never thought to stop for cold cuts. Seems like a really delicious treat on a ride!

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    1. Inexplicably, toddlers seem to like me and indeed try to "follow me home" ...sometimes with the consent of their exhausted parents who are so relieved the child has stopped screaming and running amok whilst being pre-occupied with me, they don't want it to end! Fortunately my powers to charm children seems to wear off at around age 4.

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    1. Took me a bit to see what you meant! Those are seating areas outside the pub, which also separate its yard/ parking area from the road. I'm thinking possibly they used to be flower beds.

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    2. Of course not, in Ireland one is not allowed to eat ham in a graveyard, (cemetery). You're not suppose to cycle in them either, but we do.

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  6. Our two-and-a-half year old daughter loves to ride on our bikes, ride her own, and watch other people cycle. It is powerful and gives me so hope for when I am sure that I have brought her into a shitty world. Enjoy the interaction! People love cycling at all stages of life!

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  7. Such a little cutie - small children are a delight - lovely post and photos.

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  8. Heavenly light pours across giant sarcophagi to illuminate the head of a cherubic (but carnivorous!) infant, who is receiving sustenance from the hand of an unseen (but black-gloved!) power as the new year dawns. That's a hell of a composition!

    Walter

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    1. "cherubic (but carnivorous!) infant"

      I believe that beats my "delirious ham-eaters" !

      Photographic composition is pure luck; it was such a funny scene I grabbed my camera and snapped, hoping for the best.

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  9. delirious ham-eaters!

    is "yees" the same thing as "yous?"

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    1. It is. To my ear it sounds more like yehs/yees than yous.

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  10. You've definitely got the local patois down pat - I smiled at the reference to a "quare day".

    Do you still hear people saying "thon" in reference to something a bit of a distance away? Like "thon hill is quare steep"? It is another word I remember from growing up in rural Ulster. I think it is the same as the archaic "yon". It was viewed as countrified (culchie) speak so I was wondering if it was surviving.

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    1. Never heard "thon" used here. But it makes sense, as there are several words in Irish describing degrees of "over there"ness. I'd say in fact that much of the vocabulary and syntax in "Hiberno-English" simply comes from gaelige. Sentence structure that seems wild to a standard English-speaking ear is often a literal translation of Irish sentence structure, and many words considered slang or "cultchie" are either Irish words or invented words that try to express Irish-language concepts for which words are absent in English. It's fascinating to study Irish and notice these connections.

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    2. Guess what Michael Robinson? I finally heard "thon"! It was in relation to a person, not a location. As in "then fella there." I was so excited.

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  11. Perhaps you encountered a future cyclist. Great photos. I like the second one with the child with ham in hand and the bicycles behind. Wonderful shot. I don't think I would have thought to pick up my camera at that moment. But that may have more to do with my awkwardness in social situations. It clouds the clarity of my thoughts.

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  12. Did you use daylight or auto white balance (or...?) for these photos?

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    1. In the camera settings? AWB. No adjustments in processing; I liked the shots as they were.

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