Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Bike Brain

It's a very specific mental space, isn't it, cycling? I can't really think of another time when I do just one thing. When I am walking or on the bus I fill the time speaking to people on the phone or reading a book, and every other physical task is accompanied by Radio 4 or music. Some people like to listen to music riding, but I am clumsy and distracted enough not to want any of my senses impaired. And so I just think. The motion is quite meditative, and my mind is completely free to freewheel where it will (apart from the part that is concentrating intensely on the movements of the traffic of course). I find that it is a different type of thinking, that half distracted kind- it is as if my brain takes the opportunity to reboot, to refile things, to work out frustrations and worries. I often make long to-do lists that I have forgotten by the time I arrive, or rehearse important things I need to say to the important people in my life- most of of which never gets said. I'm not a very neurotic person- seemingly because I work it all through with Trusty. I also find cycling to be quite a creative time, and sometimes have to pull over to write down a brainwave, breakthrough or fragment of prose.

Today though, my 'bike brain' took the form of having an obscure song stuck in my head. This often happens, prompted by visual or verbal stimuli- and today I found my self singing a half-forgotten song from school; "Autumn Days". In the middle of it is a line which I must have sung hundreds of time but never recognised the incongruity of:

"Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled"


Does this happen? Ever? I've never seen it. That sounds like something that only happens in space. Or Hollywood movies involving attempts on the life of the President. And why would it only happen in Autumn? Is it something to do with the air being cool? But not full of ice?

Having pondered this all the way from Finsbury Park to Barnsbury, I cracked it. I think that the person who wrote this song was so desperate for a line to rhyme with "Autumn days when the grass is jewelled" that they were content to deceive a generation of school children about the nature of the aviation industry.

And that was my breakthrough today. Useful, eh?


  1. Tee hee that made me smile - I seem to remember it also has the line about the 'silk inside a chestnut shell' too which is rather lovely.

    I often wonder why people listen to music while cycling as I always seem to have some kind of music going around in my head as I ride! Glad it's not just me!

  2. "ever" - surely yes. I thought bombers were sometimes refuelled in mid air, to increase their range.

  3. One of the reasons I listen to audiobooks while I cycle (one ear only!) is to keep "Bohemian Rhapsody" from taking over my brain.

  4. Yesterday I was so lost in my thoughts, I don't even know where the second half of my journey to work disappeared to.

    I know half my brain was concentrating on the road, but the other was thinking about a whole load of things.

    Cycling gives me some real good time to work things out in my head that are bothering me before I get to work or home.

  5. Military planes can refuel in midair. I've never heard the song, though.

    And there seems to be something wrong with your comment-posting mechanism, at least in Firefox on Windows.