Yesterday I think I discovered one of the least enjoyable sensations in the world. I mentioned at some point that I cycle to work every day. Well, normally it is a reasonably pleasant experience. I get some fresh air and exercise, and I reach work feeling refreshed and invigorated. I have twin panniers on the back of my bike, which I use to carry a backpack and a plastic shopping bag with a set of clean clothes. I also take my mp3 player along to do some “reading”, or perhaps listen to music and think about plots and stuff.
That’s a normal morning. Some days, however, the elements conspire to make my life miserable. Usually it’s the wind. Occasionally it’s the rain. On the odd morning I can get both. On really special days I get an entire weather system hitting me straight in the face. Yesterday was one of those really special days. I donned my work clothes and a “waterproof” jacket as I listened with some trepidation to the sound of the wind and rain, and set off for work. Within a mile, I knew I was going to get very, very wet.
Firstly, I should mention my “waterproof” jacket. I use quotes here because I think the label should read “water-absorbent” jacket. I haven’t done any tests on this, but I am convinced that it actually attracts water and draws it towards my skin. Add to this the fact that the fabric traps heat, and you get a wonderful combination that basically turns the thing into a portable sauna. Within that first mile from my house, I could feel water trickling down my neck. I could not tell if this was rain or sweat.
Then there are my rain pants. I avoid wearing these like I avoid smelly cheese. They are effectively just plastic bags in the shape of legs. It can be minus thirty degrees outside, but ten minutes in those pants is enough to bring me out in a heat rash. They also have magical properties, and this is one thing I have tested. Basically, the act of me placing my legs inside the pants generates some sort of thermal up-current that stops rain from falling. If I remove the pants, the thermal current stops and the rain begins to fall again. I have had this happen three times on my way to work during one trip. Each time it started to rain I got off my bike, unpacked the pants, and climbed into them. A few minutes later the rain stopped, and so I braked, clawed my way out of the pants (they’re not easy to take off), and packed them away. A minute later, the rain started again. And then again a little later. There may be a perfectly rational explanation for this, but I suspect there are mystical forces at work.
So I set off yesterday morning wearing my portable sauna and my jeans. I figured there was no point in me bothering with the magic pants because it would just annoy me to have to keep taking them off and putting them back on again. Within about two miles I began to regret this decision. The rain came down in that sneaky way that lulls you into a sense of: “Hey, it’s not too bad”. I should have taken a hint from the fact that there were almost no other cyclists on the road. The Dutch have an intuition about the weather that I have yet to understand, let alone master.
Soon I noticed the top of my jeans getting water-logged. Then I felt it trickling down my shins. Within three miles I had cold water running down the backs of my legs and into my socks, slowly filling my shoes. I have lived in may places and travelled many miles in my day, but this has to be one of the worst sensations I have ever experienced. I have trained beyond my limits and endured extreme discomfort in the name of sport, but there is something about having cold water seep slowly into your shoes that is just plain nasty.
Add to this a section of road that was completely flooded. I spotted it too late and went in at speed. Two plumes of water sprayed out from the front wheel, up and over my shoes. Up until that point my shoes had been slowly filling with water. Now they were full. I arrived at work looking and feeling like a drowned rat. I squelched through the reception area, trying to avoid the curious looks of those waiting for the lifts. I opted for the steps and climbed the five flights to my floor. Luckily the stairs were deserted, because the squelching had turned into a “kasplow! kasplow!” that echoed up and down the stairwell. Anyone hearing that would have thought a giant squid had found its way into the building and was searching for the nearest bathroom.
Happily, I keep a towel at work for exactly such an emergency, and was able to dry off myself and my shoes. The rain continued to fall for the rest of the day but I was safely inside my office so it didn’t seem quite so bad. I sipped my coffee, happy to be warm and dry. Later on I read a news report about the flooding in Pakistan and felt a little ashamed for feeling sorry for myself. I may have found one of my own worst experiences, but I cannot begin to imagine what those poor people are going through.
Today the weather is nice again and I enjoyed my cycle in. This afternoon, Grace informed me that Alpha Redemption is done and dusted and on its way to the printers. All going well, I will soon be holding a copy of my first-ever novel in my hands, grinning like an idiot, and smelling that wonderful freshly-printed smell. I have a feeling this is going to go down as one of the better sensations in the world.
For anyone interested, the book is now available for pre-order from Splashdown Books. Even if you don’t want to buy a copy, it’s worth a visit for Zoe’s splendid cover. Although if you do buy one, you’ll get to see Grace’s back cover design, which is equally gorgeous.