As is my way, I spent the first week of September - the week the kids go back to school - down in Carlton Miniott, staying at Landrace Cottage so that I could have a few days at Woodland Lakes.
The cottage was as agreeable as it always is - I love that place - and I had high hopes for the week's fishing, as the weather forecast was perfect, and - as has been the case on my every previous visit over the last few years - it would be quiet now that the schools were back, right?
It seems that since my last trip down, there has been a wholesale change of policy regarding the priority given to matches over pleasure anglers. In short, matches are now the priority, meaning that even during the week, the majority of lakes (certainly the ones I'd want to fish) were reserved, and - to be blunt - pleasure anglers were left to go fuck themselves.
I had an abysmal week as a result: I got to fish a lake I wanted to be on, precisely once in the week I was down there. What was worse is that it fished its head off; it's my favourite of all the waters on the venue; and I couldn't get near it for the rest of the week.
So while I did get to christen my new, hand-built 61st-birthday-present-to-myself Mill Tackle Millstream centrepin (mine doesn't have a line-guard, but is otherwise just like this - gorgeous bit of kit):
it didn't make up for the piss-poor way that pleasure anglers are being treated now.
I've fished Woodland for - what? - thirty five years now, and I will never go near the place again.
On top of the general shittiness of the fishing experience, I was travelling - by train - in the post-mandatory-facemask era.
You'd think (well, I did) that people would still have the fecking sense to realise that masks matter - but nope, not a bit of it: on my trip down I was one of only two people in my entire First Class carriage who had the common decency to wear a mask (it wasn't an age thing either: one old girl got on wearing a mask; and once she was settled in, the dozy cow took the bloody thing off): and coming back, you'd have been forgiven for thinking that masks had never even been invented.
Selfish fucking imbeciles, the lot of them.
Of course, these events - being stuck fishing a venue that clearly didn't want me there; and being in what amounted to plague carriages to and from that venue - have really underlined the big gap in my life, namely the lack of my own transport. With my own wheels I could easily have found an alternative to Woodland (The Oaks is only five miles away from the cottage as the crow flies); and of course I'd have avoided the trains and station platforms full of arseholes entirely.
Yep, we're back to this again. It's been a while, but Lockdown made it a less pressing matter. Well, it's back with a vengeance now.
Here's the thing: I took early retirement because I had a very clear vision of what it would mean to me, revolving around the freedom to go where I wanted, and do what I wanted, when I wanted. I've got a few quid in the bank, and (Covid notwithstanding) I'm perfectly geared up to make good on this aspiration.
But as these recent events have demonstrated, public transport just ain't doing it any more (if it ever really did, I suppose...)
So now I'm back to The Voices In My HeadTM arguing about bike vs. car.
I make no apologies for this: my head is clear that I need a car. My heart is clear that I want a bike, and as of today, it's going to be a bike.
Thing is, there is a practical argument to this: getting through my driving test will take a long time and a heap of cash.
Getting onto two wheels "only" needs me to successfully complete a CBT course, at which point I'm legally able to ride one of these - a Zero DS - and God knows, I wanna:
So - Covid aside - what's stopping me?
Well, simple practicalities like not having a garage, and the effect that has on insurance prospects. But I think I've used that as an excuse, really - I have plenty of room in my garden to have a "garage" (or at any rate, a secure shed) built, and about a year ago I found out that insurers are finally waking up to the idea that a well-built, properly secured shed is at least as secure as your average garage.
So no excuses any more.
Additionally, I've worked out that - despite my patio doors opening to a width around two-and-a-bit inches less than the width of typical handlebars - there's a way to get the bike through them anyway, involving putting the front wheel on a wheel dolly like this:
turning the bars a bit (a few inches is all it will need, according to the maths) and pushing the bike over the threshold like that.
(As an aside, I have no qualms about the idea of keeping a bike in the house; and I'd even be happy to install a couple of wall anchor mounts for heavy chains if they were required by the insurance.)
So - again - no excuses.
I will have to do something about my garden gates, though: they're big, high, solid and secure: but for some reason that I can't figure, they're out of alignment with one another, and don't meet properly. Instead, they overlap by about an inch at the top.
Very weird, given that the fence posts are hugely solid, plumb-straight, five inch section steel box, concreted in so convincingly that dynamite wouldn't shift them - they haven't gone anywhere - and the timber of the gates themselves is really solid stuff which hasn't obviously warped, so it really is a bit of a mystery.
But it must be fixable, and I'll add some more to the security (not that it's needed, but I can make getting in and out easier) when I fettle them.
And I will still eventually put in a shed or metal secure bike store: I don't even need to do any groundwork, because the patio in front of the patio doors is more than big enough to accommodate an 8x4 shed or, say, an Armadillo Box - and there's a 10x10 paved area just behind the gates, if I wanted to put it there.
The final barrier (in my head) was that - because there are no Zero dealers within 100 miles of me - getting a bike wouldn't be too hard (they all deliver to the door); but what would I do if something broke that my local bike mechanic couldn't deal with?
That's it then - I've got nowhere left to hide, have I? I just need to get my CBT out of the way, buy some "L" plates, and get on with it..!
In other news: I've given up - entirely - on alcohol.
Not for any particular pressing reason on my part, but my best friend has been diagnosed with fairly serious liver damage, caused partly by his chemotherapy; but also by his fondness for a drink.
Thing is, he's not what most people would naturally think of as a "heavy drinker", yet in terms of the UK national recommendations, he is.
As, it turns out, am I: a couple of glasses of wine a night, most nights, is heavy drinking, if the experts are right.
I don't doubt that they are, so I'm now teetotal. And I'm fine with it - I was never dependent on a drink, just habituated - so stopping has actually been straightforward.
With one exception: I've had an absolutely banging, constant headache for a fortnight now, which I can only put down to alcohol withdrawal.
Funnily enough, it's identical to a long-term stotter that I had about three years ago when I tried to give up caffeine: I folded that time, and the very first caffeinated drink I had afterwards saw the headache disappear instantly and permanently.
But I'm not giving in this time. I like my liver too much.
And - seriously - from what I've read, I doubt I know anyone of my age whose liver won't be the worse for drink: it takes a lot less alcohol than you'd think, to do more harm to your liver than you'd imagine...
So I'm giving mine the chance to recover, and I suspect I'll be glad I did.